Here is comes. The weather will soon start to cool and that imeans the dreaded dry scalp is about to drive us nuts again—if we don’t take action now. Before you start scanning the store shelves for (EEEEEEEKKKKKK) dandruff shampoos, take a breath and read this post. There are actually lots of smart things you can do to make sure your scalp is healthy and your hair feels like it’s just had one of those life-altering blowdries.
How to Prevent a Dry Scalp From Ruining Your Hair
1. RECONSIDER YOUR STYLING PRODUCTS
We are seeing more women use styling mouse, anti-frizz polish, root lifting sprays, and other hair products while skipping shampooing all together in lieu of dry shampoo. Dry shampoo is a spray that absorbs excess oils on hair and is used when you don’t have time or want to shower.
While this isn’t a problem for most of us, if you’ve got dandruff, scalp psoriasis, or greasy scalp, not washing your hair and scalp every day can definitely worsen or even cause problems. If someone has sensitive skin or an allergy to ingredients in hair products, they can develop a reaction, too.
2. TAKE YOUR VITAMINS
We definitely see a very close relation to the health of hair and the scalp with overall health and nutrition. The appearance of scalp and hair can be one of the first indicators of overall well-being and stress.
When we are vitamin deficient, have hormonal imbalances, or are emotionally stressed it can manifest in the appearance of our scalp and hair. For example, hypothyroidism can present as dry brittle hair and hair thinning with a flaking scalp. Iron deficiency can also present with thinning hair. Hair may fall out rapidly after pregnancy and can also occur from other medications, weight loss, surgery, etc.
Treatments vary, but it is important to supplement your nutrition to provide the support for your hair and scalp to improve. Vitamins such as Viviscal and Biotin are very important supplements that work very well.
3. WASH YOUR HAIR MORE OFTEN
Product build up can definitely cause blockage of follicles on the scalp and lead to scalp folliculitis or even seborrheic dermatitis, which appear to be red bumps that can be tender and filled with pus and light pink flaking patches respectively.
Washing your scalp daily can help and alternating shampoos is another good tip to help prevent product build up. Alternating several times per week with an anti-dandruff shampoo can also help control scalp flares. If this does not help, visit with the dermatologist for prescription shampoo or topical medicines for better control.
4. SEE A DERMATOLOGIST
Scalp itch may be a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), an allergy to hair dye/shampoo/other hair product, or could even be a sign of a metabolic condition or deficiency.
I once had a patient that had a very itchy scalp and did not respond to any medicated shampoos or cortisone solutions to help stop the itching after weeks of trying, but once she restarted her iron supplementation for iron deficiency. her scalp itch resolved within 1 day. If a simple over the counter shampoo is not helping your itchy scalp, seek out a dermatology consultation for further investigation and the best recommendations.
5. EXFOLIATE YOUR SCALP
Some women may never have any need to exfoliate their scalp and do not develop buildup or dull appearance to their hair. For those that tend to have more oily hair, and have product residue, using a clarifying shampoo (such as Neutrogena) can be very helpful 1-2 times per week. Neutrogena also makes a shampoo called T-Sal, with the active ingredient salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a mild exfoliator that works well on oily pores and follicles to break up residue and dead compact skin cells to help reduce build up.
For women looking to exfoliate their scalp, lather with T-Sal shampoo, let it sit for 5 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Repeat 2-3 times per week as needed. For women being treated for seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis, this can also help the medications topically penetrate better into the scalp.
6. CONSIDER THESE SPECIAL SHAMPOOS
We know our hair well enough by now. If your hair is prone to dullness and residue, consider use of T-Sal, a salicylic acid over-the-counter shampoo to be used 2-3 times per week. If your hair is on the dry or brittle side, use shampoos that contain Argan oil or Moroccan oil. If your ends are still very dry, apply a small amount of coconut oil to the ends.
For itchy scalp, try an anti-dandruff shampoo, such as clear scalp, and try a menthol shampoo to help cool the itch, such as Head & Shoulders Refresh Menthol. For dandruff, a tea tree oil shampoo may be also used on alternate days.
Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou is a Cosmetic Dermatologist, Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology who specializes in Injectables, Lasers, Body Contouring, Surgical and Medical Dermatology.