What Causes a Dry, Flaky Scalp? (& How to Get Rid of It!)

What Causes a Dry, Flaky Scalp_

Are you desperate to find a way to treat a dry, flaky scalp?

Dandruff occurs when the skin cells on your scalp turn over and renew themselves a lot more quickly than normal. This encourages them to flake off from your scalp.

This can hugely embarrassing, especially if those dreaded white flakes are obvious in your hair or on your clothes.

Anti dandruff shampoos are often the first port of call when you’re looking to treat a dry, flaky scalp but they can actually make dandruff worse for some people.

This is because it can be caused by a number of different conditions that affect the scalp, including dry scalp, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.

If any of these are the root cause of your dandruff, medicated shampoos can dry out your scalp even more and cause a vicious cycle that makes the situation worse.

Treatment varies depending on the cause of your dandruff so knowing what is really behind it is really important for treating it.

A Myth About Dandruff

Dandruff isn’t caused by not washing your hair often enough. In fact, many people with dandruff actually wash their hair too often and this exaggerates it.

Dry Scalp

A lot of hair care products contain harsh chemicals, notably Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. These can dry out your scalp and irritate it.

If your dandruff is caused by particular conditions (such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis), these type of chemicals can make it worse because of the drying effect.


Psoriasis encourages skin cells to turn over very quickly and the process can take just days, rather than weeks. This causes a dry, flaky scalp that can be very red and itchy, and the build up of white or grey scales on top of this. It can also affect other parts of the body.

Treatment tends to involve topical shampoos and lotions that are designed to break down scales so they can be removed more easily. Coal tar shampoos are often prescribed and work to soften stubborn scales.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrehic dermatitis is linked to a yeast overgrowth on the scalp. This can lead to symptoms such as a red, itchy, flaky scalp.

For some people, the areas affected may also weep. Because it tends to affect oily areas, the skin that flakes off can often appear greasy.

As well as the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis can also affect oilier areas on the face such as around the nose.

Treatment is based around reducing the amount of yeast on the scalp. Specialist shampoos and creams are a common part of this and can usually be used in the long term without any adverse effects.

Natural Tips for Treating a Dry Scalp

What if you’d prefer not to use topical treatments on your scalp?

There are a few natural options you can turn to for some relief from dandruff.

  • Chemical free hair products can limit extra dryness on your scalp, especially ones that are designed with dry scalps in mind.
  • Coconut oil and olive oil can have the same effect as medicated shampoos in loosening stubborn scales.
  • Hair masques containing honey and oat can ease a dry scalp.