Nobody likes talking about it, but dry scalps can cause you serious distress. It's embarrassing, frustrating and can make you feel gross, but luckily, you don't have to suffer if you arm yourself with the right products.
Whether you're a platinum blonde honey or a brunette badass, dry scalps don't discriminate. Luckily, there are plenty of brilliant specialist products out there that get to the root of the problem straight away. That means you can finally relax, stop worrying about it and be on your way to healthier hair.
What causes a dry scalp?
Although you might think that washing your hair is doing your scalp good, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. When you wash your hair, you actually dry out the scalp, depending on how often you wash it and which products you use.
Dry air (hello, cold weather) and skin conditions can also give you a dry scalp. Just like having dry skin anywhere else on your body, a dry scalp can cause itching, flaking, and irritation. If you have dry skin, it's likely you'll suffer from a dry scalp, too.
Is dry scalp the same as dandruff?
While they are similar, having a dry scalp and dandruff are not the same. However, it is possible to have dandruff AND a dry scalp.
If your scalp feels oily, itchy, you have large yellow/white flakes and your hair looks greasy, it's more likely to be dandruff. If the flakes are small and dry and you have dry skin elsewhere on your body, it's likely to be a dry scalp.
Dandruff is thought to be caused by fungal infections of the scalp, due to excess sebum or a sensitivity to certain products. It could also be triggered by other factors such as diet and stress.
Can dry scalp cause hair loss?
Like any infection that isn't treated, symptoms may worsen over time. Dandruff can lead to hair loss if it remains untreated, although cases of this are uncommon.
Certain medical conditions that are associated with hair loss, such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, scalp psoriasis, and scalp ringworm can cause dandruff.
Furthermore, constant scratching of the scalp can damage your hair follicles, which may slow or stop hair growth over time.
The key to treating dandruff is identifying what the cause of it is. Speak to a dermatologist if you need help tackling the problem.
We spoke to Philip Kingsley's Trichologist (a scalp specialist, to you and I), Anabel Kingsley, to find out her top tips and products for keeping your scalp healthy.
Why do our scalps seem to suffer more in the winter months?
You might find that towards the end of the year, your scalp becomes unbearable. Anabel puts this down to our desire for delicious treats during the festive season.
She explains, “Heavier, wintery foods like cream and cheese, as well as celebratory drinks, like champagne, can trigger dandruff in those who are prone to it.”
Why does everything we love want to hurt us?
To get great hair, one must put the work into scalp health. Anabel notes, "Hair grows its best from a healthy scalp – so anything you do to improve the condition of your scalp will benefit your hair."
Packing your beauty cupboard full of scalp saviours should help you stave off the dreaded dandruff this year. Here are our favourites:
Check out: The best dry scalp treatments to buy online 2022
Scalp saviours to beat the itch this winter
1. Detox Dynamo Clarifying Scalp Scrub
A great way to tackle a dry scalp is to exfoliate- removing all the built-up dead skin cells on the surface and allowing new cells to form whilst moisturising the head. This Detox Scrub from Noughty is made with peppermint extract, green bamboo powder, coconut shell powder, pumice and sorrel extract. No microbeads to be found!Tried and tested by our writer Ruby Barry: "Thanks to my massive mane of thick hair, I often suffer with an itchy scalp, which can drive one a little bonkers. Therefore, I tested out the Detox Clarifying Scrub, alongside Noughty's Care Taker Scalp Relief Mask for dry scalps and their Scalp Massager. Needless to say, my scalp has never felt better. I found it to be a great routine to do once every week or two weeks, to reset my scalp. The exfoliator helped clear out any impurities and excess flakes, and then applying the mask afterwards helped return moisture to my scalp and soothe. I definetly recommend this for those who struggle to take care of their scalp under thick hair."
2. Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp Shampoo
Mild enough for daily use, this shampoo gently cleanses and refreshes the scalp, while leaving hair soft and shiny.Review: "I've suffered from dandruff for years and tried all the dandruff shampoos, expensive and cheap, nothing worked so I took the plunge and bought this shampoo. It works! Gentle shampoo, virtually no dandruff and soft hair. Hurrah! I'm still careful what conditioner or heat protection products I use as these may cause a flare up but the shampoo is wonderful. Perhaps I should try the Philip Kingsley conditioner as well....."
3. Philip Kingsley Remoisturising Conditioner
Ideal for coarse-textured, curly or unmanageable hair, this conditioner has been carefully formulated to produce gorgeous hair from root to tip while putting scalp health first.Review: "Bought this as my naturally wavy hair can frizz up in summer. I used along with the shampoo and elastizer. Effective results after two to three weeks. It's an expensive regime but you use a small amount of each product. There is an improvement in the texture of my hair."
4. Philip Kingsley Soothing Weekly Scalp Mask
Use this calming formula twice a week to keep your scalp in check. It's also great for soothing your scalp from the holiday sun.Review: "I suffer from an extremely dry scalp, which, if not corrected can easily turn into eczema. Having tried so many products without success, I was so relieved when this soothing scalp mask offered some relief, after only two treatments. I am hoping the effects are long lasting, since it will prove very expensive to use this product at every wash. That said, I am so relieved to have found a product that helps."
5. Noughty Care Taker Scalp Relief Mask
This is another beautiful product by Noughty, especially for those with sensitive scalps. Formulated with calming oatmeal extract coupled with a hit of black coffee extract, it's known as 'breakfast for your scalp'.Review: "It is a super cooling sensation that is so soothing on the scalp. Leaves my scalp feeling so refreshed, a feeling I haven't found from any other product. I will be using this every few weeks just as an extra self care step as it feels so nice."
6. OGX Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
The OGX Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo contains refreshing tea tree oils, milk proteins and micro-infused peppermint to help strengthen and moisturise while helping balance your scalp. It's a great all-rounder and smells divine.Review: "I bought this shampoo to help with painful scalp rash after suffering shingles, though I still have a bit of itch on my scalp, the dry scale has gone. It's a lovely thick shampoo and the smell is amazing, smells just like After Eight mints. I've only used it three times since buying it the other week, about to buy the conditioner too as I've long curly hair which frizzes and tangles. The shampoo has cured my frizz which is a bonus, I'll keep using and hopefully the remains of the shingle rash will vanish too."
7. arganorganics Itchy Scalp Treatment Shampoo for Scalp Psoriasis
If you have scalp psoriasis, eczema or an inflamed scalp, this conditioner contains a special blend of anti-inflammatory botanicals such as Oregon grape root, balloon vine, dandelion and Gotu kola.Review: "I have had scalp psoriasis for nearly a decade and tried many many products including steroids. I use this shampoo alongside the oil treatment and have found that after the third application (consecutive days) my scalp is almost free of the red, flaky and weeping patches. I have not used steroids with this product as I wanted to know if it really was effective. I wore black today without worrying about my shoulders.The shampoo itself does not foam much, but it still leaves my hair clean and silky. It smells so much better than any tar based shampoo so I'm not so self-conscious anymore. Although it's pricey, I will continue to purchase it because it so amazing, and a little goes a long way. You really don't need a lot of it. I will update this review if things change, but so far it's been great."
8. Nizoral Anti Dandruff Shampoo
This highly-recommended treatment not only gets rid of dandruff but prevents it from coming back and relieves the scalp of redness and itching.Review: "I bought this item several times, when I first bought it my dandruff was terrible and nothing was clearing it so tried this shampoo as came highly recommended and it works. I have been using it ever since and the dandruff is 100% cleared up now. I recommended it to my eldest son and now he's using it and is very satisfied with the results."
9. CENTRED Scalp Ritual Bundle
If your scalp needs a much needed pick-me-up, CENTRED has created the perfect little bundle. Ideal for anyone experiencing scalp issues such as Dandruff, Itchiness and Psoriasis, the two combined does wonders without you evening knowing it.Review: "The scalp oil and squidgy are a game changer for me. After 30 plus years of dyeing my hair, my scalp is serious trouble. My hair has always been my 'crowning glory' so I have been delighted to have high shine, accelerated growth and a happy scalp."
10. E45 Dry Scalp Shampoo
E45 is synonymous with solving skin issues, and their shampoo is no different. Reviewers praise it for its effectiveness as well as purse-friendly price.Review: "I bought this as over the last year I had developed really really dandruffy hair and itchy scalp. It was embarrassing and I have tried all sorts from washing less frequently, more frequently, pat drying, different shampoos etc. This was my last hope and at first I thought it wasn't going to make a difference as the dandruff/dry skin wasn't going away but now have used for 4 weeks every couple of days-ish and it has 90% cleared up. A million miles away from the number of flakes before. It took persistence but this will now be my regular shampoo. The bottle lasted 4 weeks and I have long hair so that's a positive as other reviewers said how tiny the bottle was and I was worried. And yes it's small but it's lasting longer than my old shampoo! Really pleased I persisted as I was at the end of things to try and this has made a real difference to my self confidence, now finally I don't need to be self conscious anymore. Best find of the year by far."