If you have noticed white flakes throughout your hair and lying on the surface of your scalp, you could be suffering from a dry scalp. We will have a look at dry scalp causes, how to treat the problem, and even hide it if you have to...
Dry scalp diagnosis
A common mistake is to self-diagnose your flaky scalp as dandruff. Yes, dandruff manifests in white flakes of skin, just like a dry scalp, but it is actually the result of a skin infection (fungal or bacterial) such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis, and is treated differently. A key difference between the two is that, while a dry scalp usually accompanies dry hair, dandruff can be present in greasy hair due to excess sebum (which can also spread infection). In short, a dry scalp is due to your skin type, whereas dandruff is a symptom of a skin concern.
What are dry scalp causes
If you suffer from dry skin on your face and body, you may also suffer from a dry scalp. Naturally dry skin is not able to produce enough moisture to provide the top layer of skin (the epidermis) with enough oil and water. This means the cells quickly dry out and break apart (fluid keeps then supple and held together). With a dry scalp, these dead and dry cells can accumulate, forming visible groups of white flakes that are particularly evident in darker hair.
Typically, because a naturally dry skin type does not produce enough moisture to hydrate itself, a dry scalp causes the hair itself to appear dull and feel dry to the touch. This is because there are not enough natural oils to move from the root down the lengths of the hair and provide lubrication.
The balance of natural oils on the human scalp is a delicate one: too little and the hair fibre loses shine and suppleness, too many and it appears limp and greasy. A professional dermatologist will be able to diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of treatment, whether dandruff or a dry scalp.
How to prevent flakes from a dry scalp
The most visible symptoms of a dry scalp are the unwanted white flakes throughout the hair. To prevent your naturally dry scalp from developing these flakes, it's important to keep your skin's microbiome balanced with the right haircare. The microbiome is the "community" of bacteria and other organisms within your body that, when healthy, work in balance alongside one another.
When the skin's microbiome is not functioning optimally, dry patches can form on the scalp and lead to those frustrating flakes. To maintain this balance, experts recommend using haircare designed specifically for sensitive and dry scalps, such as the Sensi Balance shampoo from Serie Expert. Use once a week (or every wash for a severely dry scalp) on damp hair, then wash out and follow with a conditioner or hair mask. Source Essentielle’s delicate shampoo and hair balm duo is a natural alternative for those with a sensitive scalp. Silicone free for a natural hair feel and with 80% natural origin ingredients, the delicate shampoo gently soothes the scalp whilst removing impurities and oil build up, and the hair balm gently nourishes hair from root to tip.
Because a dry scalp causes the hair itself to look dry and fragile, opt for gentle haircare (in the shower and styling) and steer clear of "cleansing" shampoos which can strip the scalp of those precious oils and aggravate the condition. For immediate flake-free hair, try L'Oréal Professionnel's Instant Clear anti-dandruff shampoo, designed to softly remove the white flakes and other impurities, but not the skin's oils.
Tips & hairstyles to hide white flakes
Sometimes a flaky scalp, whether caused by dryness or dandruff, can catch you by surprise in the morning when you do not have time to wash your hair. Here are our top tips for getting through the day without worrying about it:
1/ Give your hair a quick blow dry with your head upside down to blast away the flakes.
2/ Think about trying the on-trend 'wet look' hairstyle, or using gel to style your hair and hide the dead skin.
3/ Volumising styling spray is another styling option that will mask flakes at the roots and give texture to the fibres so that flakes don't slide down them.
4/ Avoid running your hands through your hair as much as possible, as this risks distributing the flakes further down the hair.
5/ Wear a light-coloured top and jacket so it doesn't matter if a few snowflakes fall onto your shoulders.
If the weather allows you, wear a hat – the simplest solution to flaky roots!
Learn more about the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp.