Ever found yourself scratching at your head throughout the day and wondering what on earth is going on?
You could be suffering from dry scalp - something which affects most men at point in their lives.
Some men have been plagued with dry scalp for years and for others, it comes and goes.
In either case - dry scalp is uncomfortable, frustrating and irritating.
(And it's also embarrassing - especially if you're going to get your hair cut and your worried about your barber reeling back in horror at what he sees!)
In this blog, I explain what dry scalp is, what causes it and most importantly how to eliminate it.
Dry Scalp or Dandruff?
First up, you need to determine whether you're suffering from a dry scalp or dandruff.
They're often confused because both conditions look similar - but in reality they're very different.
- Dry scalp is caused by a lack of moisture in your scalp. This causes the skin on your scalp to become irritated and flake off. If your scalp is dry, you'll probably have dry skin elsewhere on your body too.
- Dandruff is caused by too much oil in your hair. This excess oil causes skin cells to build up and shed.
Use this table to check whether you're suffering from dry scalp:
Dry Scalp: Causes & Treatments
Dry scalp has a number of causes but they all relate to the same underlying problem - your scalp lacks moisture.
In this section, I explore the factors which can cause dry scalp and I explain how you can treat them.
Dry Scalp Cause 1: Over-Shampooing Your Hair
Why? Washing your hair every day (or multiple times a day), continually strips your scalp of its natural Sebum oil - your scalp's way of keeping itself hydrated.
Solution: Wash your hair 2 to 3 times a week and give your scalp a break.
If your hair is on the oily side, use a dedicated shampoo for men with oily hair so you don't have to wash your hair so frequently.
Dry Scalp Cause 2: Using The Wrong Hair Products
Why? The ingredients in some shampoos and conditioners cause an allergic reaction in some men.
If you have noticed your scalp turning red and itching after you wash your hair, it's likely you're suffering from some kind of reaction to the products you're using.
This is known as dermatitis.
Solution: The key is identifying which product is causing your dry scalp in the first place.
Find the culprit by the process of elimination. If you shampoo and condition, change out your shampoo for a week. If this doesn't help, change out your conditioner.
The good news is that in most cases, dermatitis will disappear in 2-4 weeks, once you cut out the substance causing the problem.
You should always pay attention to what's in your shampoo and conditioner.
Synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances can irritate your scalp. Always go for natural hair care products for men.
Avoid anything which contains bleach or alcohol which can dry and irritate your scalp.
You should look for ingredients like Aloe Vera (helps heal and soothe your scalp), Kakadu Plum Extract (an ingredient native to Australia which is great at flushing out toxins and calming your skin) and Cinnamon Leaf Oil (enhances circulation and nourishes your scalp).
Dry Scalp Clause 3: Not Treating Your Scalp like Your Skin
Why? The skin on your scalp is the same as the skin on the rest of your body. You exfoliate and moisture your face, so why ignore your your scalp?
Using a hair conditioner after shampooing your hair isn't enough. Hair conditioner is - as the name suggests - designed to condition your hair and the ingredients in some hair conditioners can further irritate your scalp.
Solution: You need a scalp care routine:
Brush your hair every day - this is good for blood circulation in the scalp.
Shampoo and condition 2-3 times a week using a natural men's shampoo and conditioner.
Condition your scalp regularly using a men's scalp treatment. Massage the treatment onto the scalp well. This step is key - leave the treatment in your hair for at least 20 minutes before rinsing out.
Dry Scalp Cause 4: Dying Your Hair
Why? If you dye your hair, your scalp may be reacting to Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) - a chemical substance widely used in hair dyes.
Solution: Find a hair dye which is PPD Free. (Or get rid of your dye altogether. Grey hair is good - ask George Clooney.)
Dry Scalp Cause 5: Too Much Scratching
Why? This is a difficult one. If your scalp is itchy, you want to scratch it. But continually scratching serves only to make the problem worse. It irritates the skin and can cause flaking, cuts, and bleeding. Scratching can also increase the likelihood of getting a scalp infection.
Solution: Long term, you need to identify what's causing this problem but short term, get a cool, wet flannel and place it on your scalp for 30 minutes, a few times a day too soothe the itch.
Dry Scalp Cause 6: Weather Changes
Why? When it gets cold, the humidity in the air drops and this dries out your skin (think 'chapped lips') and your scalp. The same is true of hot weather.
Solution: There's not much you can do about the weather (any British person will tell you that) so the key is keeping your scalp moisturized.
If you're working from home, consider buying a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Dry Scalp Cause 6: Eczema
Why? Eczema is a skin condition which leaves your scalp dry, red, itchy, and cracked. All the factors mentioned in this section can cause eczema patches to form on your scalp. Stress is another factor.
Solution? Avoid products which trigger your symptoms. Speak to your doctor about using a cream to add moisture back into your scalp. Manage stress with relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing and taking 20 minutes away from your phone, TV and laptop at the end of your day. Try an a men's face mask - it forces you to lie down (otherwise it'll slide off!).
Summary - Dealing with Dry Scalp
Dry scalp has a number of causes. Don't neglect your scalp - have a regular scalp-care routine and don't over shampoo and condition your hair.
2-3 times per week is enough for most men.
Make sure you treat your scalp 1-2 times a week with a men's scalp treatment and make sure the products you use are free from artificial ingredients which could lead to even more irritation. Always look for soothing ingredients like Aloe Vera and Kakadu Plum Extract and if you don't understand an ingredient - don't take the risk. Google it.