Reading time: 5 Minutes
We all know what to do with our skin when it is dry. Moisturize! But what should we do, when we have a dry and itchy scalp? And how can we hold apart dry scalp from dandruff? Don’t worry, all will be explained in this blog post about Scalp Treatment.
Especially in winter, our skin can get super dry. This is of course due to the individual skin type but also due to the low humidity in the air because of our heaters. Ideally, we should aim for an air humidity of 30 – 50% for our skin general health. Many room thermometers have actually a humidity sensor included. If you don’t have one, ask your family and friends to borrow one! Nevertheless, with the right scalp treatment you will get rid of the itchy and flaky scalp, once and for all!
Why does Skin itch at all?
A dry scalp can show in different signs. One of the most common ones is itchiness. But why does skin start to be itchy when its dry? Its actually quite simple. It is because the natural oils on our skin are not there anymore. They are dried up. This leaves our skin without protection and it gets irritated and starts to itch. The most common causes are the overuse of cleansing products (e.g. shampoo, scrub), too sharp products (deep cleansing products), or air humidity. Other causes can be too hot water when washing your hair (the oils dissolve) or too hot and long blow drying. Of course, a combination of all of the above is also possible.
How to tell if it’s Dandruff or Dry Scalp?
The next obvious symptom of dry scalp is a flaky scalp. Most people instantly jump to the conclusion of having dandruff when they find some flakes on their hair. But in reality, the skin is just thirsty for some moisture. So how do you tell the two apart?
In both, dandruff and dry scalp, you get an itchy skin that flakes off. But the cause is a completely different one. This is why the scalp treatment is very different, depending on the actual cause. When the skin flakes and itches because of dryness it is the lack of natural oil. This oil is protecting our skin from irritation. When it comes to dandruff the opposite happens. Dandruff is also known as “seborrheic dermatitis”, which can start because of an overproduction of skin oil (sebum) or by Malassezia. Malassezia is a fungus naturally found on our scalp. It sounds weird but it is actually totally normal to have this fungus on our skin. Only when the amount of this fungus is not balanced, it can lead to an overproduction of skin oil, which then can lead to dandruff.
A clear sign for dandruff is a red skin and the type of flakes shedding of your scalp. The skin is rather oily, red and itchy. The flakes are usually bigger than the flakes caused by dry scalp. Also, the flakes can have a yellowish colour, while the flakes caused by dry scalp are small, white or almost translucent. You will not get dandruff because of bad hygiene. But you can get flaky skin by not washing your hair on a regular basis because the sebum just sits on our scalp.
Because of the difference in the cause of scalp dryness and dandruff, it is important that you find the right scalp treatment for you. Now that you can tell the two flake-causes apart, read on to find your perfect scalp treatment!
What to do if you have Dry Scalp?
Okay, so now that you have figured out the cause of your flaky scalp to be dry skin, let’s get down to business. Reflect on your cleansing routine. How often do you wash your hair? Daily? What type of shampoo do you use? Is it a deep cleansing shampoo, or does it contain a lot of SLES (sodium laureth sulfate)? Do you apply a conditioner after washing, all the way up to your scalp? Do you do any other scalp treatments?
As my hair is very long, I use conditioner every time I wash. I wouldn’t have a chance of combing it without the nourishing treatment. But because my conditioner is especially nourishing (long hair, dry ends), I can’t apply my conditioner all the way up to my scalp. No way! I would look like a freshly bathed dog, my hair hanging straight down my face. I could blow-dry my hair as much as I wanted – the volume is gone. As this is no option for me, I have invested in a special scalp moisturizing spray from Rausch called “Wheatgerm Moisturizing Spray Conditioner”. This leave-in product is perfect to moisturize my scalp without weighing down my hair. pS: My boyfriend likes to use that one, also 😉 Of course, there are other very good products for exactly this purpose.
What to do if you have Dandruff?
If the cause of your flaky scalp is dandruff, the situation is a bit different and you need to attack the flakes with stronger weapons. Here the key is not a scalp treatment like above but a great cleansing routine. For a first try you can start to wash your hair daily, but with a mild (!) shampoo to cleanse your scalp from the excess sebum. This might already change things for you. If the situation is still the same after trying this for two weeks, you can change your shampoo to a special anti-dandruff shampoo.
What about Zinc Pyrithione?
Head and Shoulders, one of the most well known anti-dandruff shampoo, contains the active ingredient “zinc pyrithione”. This ingredient kills the fungus on your scalp. Even though you will get fast results with zinc pyrithione shampoos, the ingredient is discussed wildly because of its unclear side effects. First of all, I don’t think it is ever good to apply an anti-fungal or anti-microbial in that amount on your skin on a regular basis. You always want to have healthy skin flora and sometimes you need to take strong action to rebalance it. But as soon as it is rebalanced (no dandruff anymore) you should stop using the shampoo and change back to your normal routine. Only when the dandruff restarts, which is possible and happens sometimes, you can go back to the special shampoo.
The other aspect is the critical impact of zinc pyrithione on the environment, especially when it pollutes water. There are more natural alternatives, for example, anti-dandruff shampoos with tea tree oil as an active ingredient, which is a natural anti-microbial ingredient. Just be aware – tea tree oil is one of the typical allergens, so be sure to test it on a small patch of skin before using it on your scalp!
Do you have any issues with an itching or flaky scalp? Let us hear your story in the comments!