What Causes a Flaky Scalp?

A flaky scalp can not only be inconvenient and embarrassing, but it can also be accompanied by discomfort such as tightness, itching and stinging. Find out what causes a dry flaky scalp and how you can help reduce the symptoms and even prevent the condition from coming back. 


Humans and animals both shed (skin, hair, fur, feathers) in a natural process known as "dander", which is possibly where dandruff gets its name. While everybody naturally sheds skin, usually these tiny cells remain invisible and are whisked off into the air to become dust. Dandruff, however, is when these dead skin cells build up on the surface of the skin and cluster in large, visible white flakes. They then break off from the skin and settle along the hair fibre and on your shoulders.

Dandruff is not necessarily due to your skin type, and usually looks different to the small white flakes that are caused by a naturally dry flaky scalp. While dry skin accompanies dry-looking hair, dandruff isn't related to your skin type – so you can have both greasy hair and a flaky scalp. This is an important distinction, because dandruff is not treated in the same way as a dry flaky scalp.

How to manage dandruff: To remove flakes of dandruff without irritating the skin, use a gentle clarifying product like the Serie Expert Instant Clear Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. It contains zinc pyrithione which clarifies and purifies the scalp and all down the hair lengths. Regular use will help balance the skin's moisture levels and help prevent visible flakes from forming.


Just as we are born with a certain eye or hair colour, genetics also determine our natural skin type.

These skin types are usually divided into oily, sensitive, combination, normal and dry. The latter, dry skin, is caused by the skin's incapacity to produce enough sebum and natural oils to keep itself moisturised. As a result, the top layer of the skin dries out, cracks and sheds as fine flakes, which could be the reason why you notice small white flakes of skin on your scalp and in the hair.

How to treat a dry flaky scalp: Treat your dry scalp just as you would a dry complexion – through moisturising (but with haircare, not a face cream). The Nutrifier haircare collection from Serie Expert contains glycerol and coconut oil: the range is ideal for moisturising both the skin and hair fibre itself. The Nutrifier Masque is a particular favourite for replenishing damaged hair and soothing a dry scalp.


Seborrhoeic dermatitis occurs on areas of the body that produces a lot of oil, which is why it is common on the scalp, upper back and nose. In infants it is known as "cradle cap", and it can be triggered by stress, hormones, irritants (harsh detergents, chemicals, solvents etc.), cold dry weather and certain medications. The most common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include redness, excess oil, white/yellowish flaky scalp, pink inflamed patches and a burning or itchy scalp. If you have these signs you might want to consult your doctor and a recommended plan to combat this condition.

How to treat an itchy scalp: If your itchy scalp is due to sensitivity, it is important to soothe the scalp while also removing the excess flakes. Try Source Essentielle Delicate Shampoo or Serie Expert Sensi Balance shampoo both specifically formulated for sensitive skin, prone to dandruff.




Another cause of an itchy scalp could be psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disease caused by skin cells multiplying far faster than the normal rate. As a result, dead cells build up into red, cracked and often painful scales. On the scalp, this can prevent new hair from growing, so hair thinning is often noticed around the inflamed area. Psoriasis can occur in flare-ups throughout life and, while it is not yet fully known exactly what is the cause behind it, psoriasis is believed to be related to genetics, and is not infectious.

How to manage psoriasis: Treatments for an itchy scalp due to psoriasis can include prescribed oral medication and topical application of ointments designed to soothe the inflammation. If you recognise the symptoms of psoriasis or any serious skin condition, it's highly recommended to see a dermatologist.

In addition to an expert advice, you can also adopt a sensitive cleansing haircare routine to help care for your sensitive scalp.


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Source Essentielle by L'Oréal Professionnel
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