It’s a real head scratcher: how to treat dry skin on your scalp

It’s a real head scratcher: how to treat dry skin on your scalp

Dry skin really does get everywhere – including under your hair! Your scalp is a common place to get dry skin, and with all your locks in the way, it can be a bit harder to get at. But this doesn’t mean you have to put up with the itching, tightness and flakes in your hairbrush. If dry skin on scalp treatment has got you scratching your head, don’t worry – we’re here to help you find the answers!

How do I know if I have dry skin on my scalp?


Women with dry skin condition on scalp and hairline

One sign to look out for is a fine flake which you might spot on your shoulders or when you brush your hair. But as your scalp is usually covered up, dry skin in this area is often something you can feel rather than see. This could be when you run your hands over your head and come across patches that feel rough, scaly or flaky. Or, it could be a stinging, burning or – most likely – itching sensation anywhere on your scalp.

Before you reach for the special shampoo, let’s clear up a common misconception – dandruff and dry skin on your head and scalp are two quite different things! A dry scalp is caused by a lack of moisture in the skin, whereas dandruff is the result of excess oil on your scalp. You can tell the difference because dandruff flakes tend to be bigger and look oily too. So if you’re looking for a scalp treatment for dry skin, you may need something other than a shampoo. 

What are the causes of a dry scalp and dry skin?


While there are internal factors (including age and genetics), what causes dry skin on the scalp can also be external. Which as we just discovered, is the main way it differs from dandruff.

The causes of dry skin and a dry scalp are all down to a lack of moisture – and there are a number of things that can trigger this:

  • Harsh hair products: a super-strong cleanser or toner can play havoc with the skin on your face – and the same thing can happen with your scalp. Shampoos including excessive sulphates, fragrances, chemicals or alcohol can all strip your head of its natural moisture, which could lead to very dry skin on your face and scalp.
  • Overwashing your hair: we know it’s ironic, but all that water can actually dry skin out. Too much lathering with shampoo can irritate the skin which causes it to flake off. And if you’re not rinsing your hair thoroughly, a build-up of product can cause dryness too.
  • Changes in the weather: not too hot, not too cold – to stay moisturised, your skin likes to be just right. Our scalps are much more exposed to the elements than many areas of our body, so sunburn can be a major factor – as is spending time outside in cold, dry weather then heading straight into intense indoor heat. Whether it’s wide-brimmed or woolly, wearing a hat will help avoid this trigger.
  • Skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema: if you’re familiar with either of these conditions, you’ll know there’s nowhere a flare-up won’t go! Psoriasis in particular is common on the scalp, with 50% of people who have it experiencing a flare-up there.
  • Age: as we get older, our scalp naturally produces less sebum – which can cause dryness.

How do I treat dry skin on my scalp?


Psoriasis behind someone ear and on a scalp

When it comes to how to get rid of dry skin on your scalp, there are number of different ways to approach this – whether it’s things to avoid, things to apply, or things to get prescribed.

Looking at some of the causes identified above, it’s easy to see a few things you can stay away from – starting with too much hair washing! If you’re lathering up every day, switching to every other day can be a good way to get that moisture back. And given that shampoos containing some of the ingredients mentioned above can have a big effect, it’s better to opt for gentler, fragrance-free products if you’re thinking about how to stop dry skin on your scalp.

If keeping away from the triggers isn’t doing enough, there are lots of different treatments you can try – starting with a simple head massage! This movement can help clear the build-up that causes dryness and loosen the flakes without irritating you skin.

Product-wise, a specialist shampoo is often a good place to start – such as a salicylic exfoliating shampoo, or a coal tar variety which helps with irritation, itching and dry patches.

Or for a more targeted treatment, hydrating serums or oil treatments give your scalp a real moisture injection. If none of these over-the-counter options are helping, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor or dermatologist – who may offer a more intense treatment like red light therapy.

On top of these, we also shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good moisturiser when it comes to how to treat dry skin on your scalp.

Person reaching for Epaderm Cream in the shower

If you’re planning on washing your hair in the morning, take the night before as a great opportunity to moisturise your scalp while you sleep. Epaderm Cream is a great option for this – it’s light, non-greasy and fast absorbing, so will get straight to work helping to hydrate a dry scalp.

Or for a deeper treatment, you could try overnight slugging with Epaderm Ointment. Applying a thick layer all over your scalp creates a barrier, which locks in moisture and prevents water loss to help the skin hydrate. It could make a huge difference to your dry skin and is also a good test as to whether you have dandruff or not (if it is dry, the moisturiser will get rid of the flakes by morning.)

We know how infuriating a dry scalp can be! If you’re struggling, there are so many things that can help – including a good moisturiser. Avoid the triggers, try the treatments and keep your scalp hydrated.


Dry scalp: Causes and treatment options (

Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp: What’s the Difference? (

10 Dry Scalp Treatments Dermatologists Swear By (

Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp: How to Tell the Difference and Treatment (

Dry Scalp Causes & How To Treat It, Explained By Experts | Glamour UK (

Can cold weather affect your hair? | Oxford Online Pharmacy

About coal tar - NHS (

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