Why Is My Scalp Dry and Flaky?

Dry and Itchy Head
Dry and Itchy Head

Itchy and Flaky!

If you suffer from the constant irritation caused by the itch-scratch cycle you will try anything to soothe it.

A flaky scalp is associated with dandruff which is usually a fungus that causes flakes of dead skin. Those with flakes in their hair tend to buy anti-dandruff shampoos. But they may not always work, and it isn't always dandruff. Sufferers will find it embarrassing as there maybe visible white/yellowish flakes on the scalp and in the hair which other people can notice. If they fall onto your clothing it's not pleasant to see and you may avoid wearing dark colours because of it.

There may be several reasons for a flaky scalp.

Relieve the itch-scratch cycle
Relieve the itch-scratch cycle


Dandruff is caused by skin cells re-newing themselves more quickly than is normal. The skin then flakes away causing the embarrassment. Dandruff is also associated with a fungus (malassezia).

Curing dandruff may vary from person to person. There are regular anti-dandruff shampoos which may help a mild case and these are found on the shelf in chemists. But they are all different which makes it trial and error when searching for one that works for you. Some may clear up the dry flakes or sooth irritation. But if they don't work then using an anti-fungal shampoo may help instead. Persist for a few weeks with it to see results. Again, if it doesn't work for you, don't feel defeated as you may not have found the right product to suit. There are plenty of over the counter lotions to try from your chemist.

Try tea tree oil on your scalp which acts as an antiseptic. It is natural and comes in pure oil or in shampoo.


Psoriasis is a skin condition which can affect small or large areas of the body. It is non-contagious, but can be very sore and inflamed if left untreated.

Psoriasis makes skin very dry and 'clumpy'. It can be scaly and flaky as well and needs steroid ointments or photo therapy treatment (done under an ultra-violet light) if severe.

If you have psoriasis on your scalp you can try various treatments and shampoos to calm it down. It is important to keep the scalp moisturized, so a special moisturising shampoo and conditioner will help. Using coconut or caster oil will also help the condition, as will olive oil shampoo. If you are trying coconut or caster oil, massage it into the scalp at bedtime and leave overnight for an intense treatment.

You can also try coal tar shampoos which are designed for severe dandruff and psoriasis. There are many types on the market, or go to your G.P who will prescribe you one.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This has similar traits to psoriasis although appears more like 'cradle cap', which is a condition often seen in infants.

Seborrheic dermatitis, otherwise known as seborrheic eczema is inflamed skin on the scalp, although can form in other areas too. These can include the eyebrows, sides of the nose, middle of the chest or around the ears.

The flakes form on oily parts of the skin and can become clumpy, have yellowish flakes and the skin can become red.


It is thought to be bought on by a combination of an over production of skin oil and the fungus associated with dandruff, malassezia.

It can run in families or come on through stress, fatigue, changes in weather, skin disorders or infrequent shampooing.

How to Combat the Condition

Various treatments are available to help seborrheic dermatitis. Often steroid based ointments or shampoo are prescribed, such as those containing keratolytic ingredients.

Anti fungal treatments can help the condition such as anti dandruff shampoo or those containing, zinc, tea tree, salicylic acid, coal tar, selenium or resorcin.

Use them two to three times a week and alternate with a mild or moisturizing shampoo.

Ensure flakes are washed out frequently to avoid build up and use a natural brush to loosen them from the scalp.

For a milder treatment, try cradle cap shampoo for babies to soften the flakes away.

Dry Scalp

A dry scalp may be due to changes in the weather or brought on by central heating in your home. It can dry out the skin making it quite dry or itchy. Changes in hormones (especially if you have just had a baby) can alter your hair thickness and condition.

Try putting olive or baby oil on your scalp and leave overnight for a moisturizing experience which could help the problem.

Stress may be a factor. You can itch when you feel anxious which needs to be addressed. Being aware of the habit can help to try to sort out an underlying problem.

Balance your Diet
Balance your Diet


You may also need to look at your diet. Sometimes it's not what we put on our bodies which can help, but it's what we put in our bodies. Nutrition is vital for healthy skin and plays a big part in it. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables rather than refined sugary foods (like cakes and biscuits), and balance your diet. Include Omega 3 and 6 oils which are found in fish, nuts and vegetables. Being deficient in these oils will make your skin dry and red. If you struggle to eat foods which include them then take vitamin supplements.

Having too much sugar in our diet can cause a growth of Candida (yeast) in the gut which can then aggravate dandruff related problems.

Vitamins do wonderful things for us which you will get from a balanced diet. Not all oils are bad for us. 'Good' oils (from fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil) help us inside as well as out. Saturated fats, from cakes are the ones to avoid.

Drink More Water

If you have dry skin you need to hydrate yourself inside as well, so drink plenty of water. If you struggle with water, then add cordial to it. In cold weather, drink herbal teas which are caffeine free, rather than having coffee. Nettle teas and peppermint teas are great for flushing out your system.

Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about your problem. It could be identified and cleared up quicker that you realize. You could be allergic to your shampoo or have sensitive skin, or you may need to improve your diet. If it is a more serious complaint, antibiotics or specialist ointments may be the answer. Just don't suffer in silence.

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Comments 24 comments

chrisanto profile image

chrisanto 5 years ago from Philippines

Very helpful tips. Thanks!!!

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Nice information. Hair is a crown of the body. We should take good care our hair. Thanks for writing and share with us. I learn much from you. Vote up and useful!


Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 5 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

I suffer from this myself, so know what a nightmare it is. I have tried all sorts to help, and found moisturizing products are the best. It all depends on what the cause of the problem is.

MP50 5 years ago

Good hub, nutrition is the key to a healthy scalp....

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 5 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Good nutrition plays a major part in skin complaints. Sometimes it's not just the lotions and creams we put on our bodies which help, but what we put inside our bodies too.

Journey * profile image

Journey * 5 years ago from USA

This is a well written hub. Thanks for sharing your insight.

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 5 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Thanks, I am glad you found it interesting :)

LindaSmith1 profile image

LindaSmith1 5 years ago from USA

Sometimes it is dandruff, psoriasis, poor diet, even excessive stress, chemicals in hair products.

Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 5 years ago

Excellent tips. Had those problems long time ago...probably seafood helped me to get through this problem. Thanks for the helpful hub. Voted up over our heads!


Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 5 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

I do think stress is a big factor when it comes to skin complaints. This could be scalp problems, acne or other flare ups - totally agree.

whoisbid profile image

whoisbid 4 years ago

nice idea to hydrate more. As for stress, I know it does make life more difficult

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Yes, underlying problems are harder to control the situation. It's not always the lotions that help but also well being and lifestyle.

bindaasraghu profile image

bindaasraghu 4 years ago from BIDAR

very clearly said and tips mentioned are helpful. Best nutrition and drinking lots of water is necessary.

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Hi bindaasraghu, thanks for your comment. I also believe nutrition is key to healthy skin, although when I am tired I get very itchy too.

vasmenon profile image

vasmenon 4 years ago from India

Very interesting information indeed.

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Hi vasemenon - thank you for coming by. Hope you found the information useful.

John 3 years ago

That is a so nice information .Its so useful for my patients .I would like to thank you for share us a nice and impressive information.I'll keep touch to you for get more useful information .Thanks.

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 3 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Sometimes we just assume a flaky scalp is dandruff and an anti dandruff shampoo will fix it. But it isn't always the case, and sometimes we have to try out different ones.

I change my shampoo frequently and use a prescribed lotion for sebborheic dermatitis. At the moment I'm using a moisturising coconut shampoo. But it really is trial and error once you get a diagnoses.

VeronicaFarkas profile image

VeronicaFarkas 3 years ago from Ohio, USA

I've read & been advised by DO's & nutritionists that (as you touched upon) most skin irritations are caused by a lack of something in the diet (usually Omega 3's, as you also stated). Eczema, cradle cap, dandruff, etc.

Great information! :)

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 3 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Hi VeronicaFarkas - yes diet has a lot to answer for. It certainly affects the outside of our bodies as well as the inside. Some foods can make skin complaints worse and lack of certain nutrients can trigger problems too.

Thank you so much for the comment.

idigwebsites profile image

idigwebsites 3 years ago from United States

Well, the solutions to dry scalp are relatively simple enough. Mine has a dry scalp too, and if treatments for my hair and scalp still don't do it, maybe I'll try to change my diet and drink water more often. Thanks for the chockfull of information about dry scalp. Voted up and useful. :)

Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 3 years ago from Berkshire, UK Author

Thanks idigwebsites - I'm glad you found some of this information useful. I hope you try out some of these suggestions and persist. Good luck!

Sarah 2 years ago

I agree with @idigwebsites, i think drink water more often will help dry scalp, it's because many people fotgot about it, nice post Harvey and you can check more here about dry scalp : . thanks

Gaby81 profile image

Gaby81 2 years ago

Your article is great! For those who suffering with severe dandruff flakes and dry scalp, I believe that using anti-dandruff shampoos is the best. You can get latest tips and information about best dandruff shampoos and treatments here:


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