The Common Causes of an Itchy & Dry Scalp

Dry scalp is a common condition - particularly during the winter months. The skin on your head needs as much care as the rest of your skin, but we rarely think about giving it any TLC. While we moisturize our faces and hands, we forget that our scalps need hydrating too.

The skin of your scalp is very much like the skin of your face or the rest of your body. The moisture of the scalp is predominately influenced by the sebaceous glands, little oil glands residing in each pore. As we know with the skin of the face, there are a variety of skin types ranging from dry to oily and this is no different for the scalp. Oil levels are influenced by genetics, hormones, for example when pregnant or going through puberty (oily) and after menopause (dry), some drugs e.g. the acne medication Isotretinoin, and the environment.

The Symptoms of a Dry Scalp

One of the main symptoms of a dry scalp is flaking of the skin. Shedding of the skin cells is normal, and everyone will shed a small amount of skin from their body, collectively known as dander, every day.

A lot of people confuse dry scalp and dandruff, and while they are not mutually exclusive, i.e. dandruff can happen on a dry scalp, many manifestations of dandruff actually occur on oily scalp types.

Simply having dry skin that is a little flaky may manifest as a few flakes of dander here and there, but when the shedding is excessive and visible, it may be a sign that there is some other underlying issue. Excess flakiness and or dryness may be caused by things such as eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis and if you have itchiness, redness, sores, broken skin or areas where there is associated hair loss, it might be time to see a dermatologist.

The Common Causes of a Dry, Flaky Scalp

When your scalp’s natural moisture levels are out of balance, the protective layer of your scalp can be compromised, leading to a dry, itchy scalp. There are a range of things that can cause this to happen. Let’s take a closer look

Environmental Factors

The weather and environment can influence on scalp dryness. The air in winter is particularly dry, as is the air from air conditioners in summer. This can lead to drying of the skin, leading to the sensitivity, itchiness, prickliness and flaking that many people experience in the winter months.

Product Buildup

Overuse of dry shampoo without regular cleansing, use of hair sprays, and hair products containing silicones can all result in scalp dryness. Dry shampoo absorbs oil. Going a little too far with it and getting too much on your scalp can soak up the oils it needs to stay hydrated. On the other hand, hair sprays and silicones can coat the scalp preventing oils from reaching it, causing dryness

Skin conditions

A dry, itchy scalp could be a sign of a deeper condition, such as dandruff, eczema, or sebum gland blockages. If you’re worried that’s it’s something more serious, it’s best to consult a dermatologist.

The standard scenario we generally refer to as dandruff tends to not have severe symptoms at all (apart from the excess skin flakes!) and is actually a complex process thought to be influenced by fungi and yeasts in the scalp. When your microbiome (the collection of good bacteria) on the scalp become imbalanced, damaging or inflammatory species can take over. These inflammatory species can cause the skin to thicken and shed excessively and in clumps, causing dandruff.

Two particularly common scalp conditions that cause flaking and itchiness are seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that creates raised, red patches on the scalp and silvery flakes. You’re more likely to develop it if someone else in the family has it.

If you are experiencing any discomfort, rawness or persistent irritation, its best to speak to physician who specialises in skin


Sometimes, a dry scalp can be caused by something as simple as not drinking enough water. Make sure you drink at least two liters a day to keep your skin hydrated and in top condition.


Lathering up on shampoo could cause problems to your scalp, stripping your scalp of its natural oils and causing a pH imbalance. Shampoos often contain sulfates such as SLS and SLES. These are extremely good at removing oil and grime, but unfortunately this removes all of the good oil too. Look for gentle sulfate free shampoos that are pH balanced at around pH 5.5

How to Prevent or Treat a Dry, Itchy Scalp

Removing harsh chemicals from your hair care routine might be a simple way to improve the health of your scalp.

Avoid hair products with sulfates that can strip your hair of natural oils, and silicones, which can suffocate the scalp. Instead, opt for hair care treatments with gentle, natural ingredients, such as Vitamin E, flaxseed, rosemary or baobab oil.

évolis® products contain a range of nourishing ingredients to promote scalp health and fortify follicles for beautiful hair growth. Flaxseed, ylang ylang, rosemary, lavender and other essential oils maintain an optimum, hydrated scalp environment, preventing dandruff and soothing inflammation.

But truly the best ingredient for your scalp health is baobab oil, harvested from what is known in Africa as the tree of life. Our range of évolis® hair care treatments contains baobab to hydrate the scalp and boost hair quality, protecting them against heat styling, and adding lustrous condition. Shop our complete range of hair products today.

About the Author


Dr Dominic Burg
PhD, Chief Scientist

Dr Dominic Burg is a biochemist and systems biologist with expertise in hair and scalp biology, particularly hair cycle signalling. An accomplished science communicator with a career spanning academic research and the private sector, Dr Burg is the Chief Scientist for pioneering hair and scalp health leaders évolis.


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