is dry hair?
Dry hair develops when your hair doesn’t
get or retain enough moisture. This reduces its sheen and can make it appear
frizzy, lifeless, and dull. Dry hair can affect men and women of any age, but
you’re more likely to develop it as you get older.
Your hair consists of three layers. If your
hair is healthy, natural oils in the outer layer help protect the inner layers.
They also reflect light, making your hair appear shiny. Sheen and luster are
two important signs of healthy hair.
When your hair is dry, the outer layer
breaks down, causing it to appear dull and unhealthy.
Causes of dry hair
A variety of factors can lead to dry hair,
including environmental conditions, hair care habits, and your physical health.
Some of the environmental conditions that can
cause dry hair include:
- living in a dry, hot
- spending a lot of time
in the sun or wind
- frequently swimming in
chlorinated or salty water
Hair care practices that often contribute
to dry hair include:
- washing your
hair too often
- using harsh
shampoos, conditioners, or styling products
- dying or
chemically treating your hair
- regularly blow-drying
- using electric
curling irons, straighteners, or curlers
In some cases, dry hair is the result of an
underlying health problem that that affects your hair’s ability to retain
moisture. Examples include:
Anorexia nervosa: This eating disorder can lead to malnutrition. It
can cause dry and brittle hair, along with more serious complications.
Hypoparathyroidism: This condition causes the parathyroid gland in
your neck to produce too little parathyroid hormone, which decreases the level
of calcium in your blood. Calcium is a key nutrient for healthy hair, as well
as bones, teeth, and other tissue.
Hypothyroidism: If you have this condition, your thyroid glands don’t produce enough
thyroid hormones. Dry and brittle hair is one of the early symptoms of this
Menkes syndrome: In this rare genetic condition, your cells don’t absorb enough
copper. Low copper absorption affects the health of your hair, causing dryness.
Diagnosing dry hair
If you have severely dry hair and it
doesn’t get better with changes to your hair care routine, make an appointment
with your doctor. They may be able to pinpoint the underlying cause. They may
also refer you to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin and hair
During your appointment, your doctor or
dermatologist may ask you questions about your symptoms, hair care routine, and
lifestyle, such as:
- How long have you had
- How often do you wash
- What type of hair
products do you use?
- What tools do you use
to style your hair?
- What does your typical
- Do you have any other
likely examine your hair and scalp. In
some cases, they may order one or more tests. For example, they may collect a
sample of your blood or urine to check for signs of certain medical conditions,
such as hypothyroidism or hypoparathyroidism.
In many cases, you can treat dry hair
through simple lifestyle changes. For example, it may help to:
- avoid shampooing your
hair every day
- condition your hair
every time you wash it
- use a shampoo and
conditioner that are meant for your hair type
- use moisturizing
- avoid chemical hair
- blow-dry your hair less
- avoid flat irons,
curling irons, and electric rollers
Daily shampooing can rob your hair of its
protective oils and lead to dryness. Try washing your hair once or twice a week
instead. You can also apply hair oils or leave-in conditioners to add luster
Protecting your hair from heat and sun
exposure is also important. If you live in a dry climate, wear a hat when you
go outdoors and avoid long-term exposure to dry or windy air. You should
protect your hair from chlorine and salt water by wearing a bathing cap when
swimming in a pool or ocean.
If an underlying medical problem is
causing your dry hair, your doctor may recommend medications or other
treatments to address it. Your hair may improve once you treat the underlying
condition. Work with your doctor to find the best course of treatment for you.
Complications from dry hair
Dry hair is a sign of hair damage. If left
untreated, your hair can become brittle, causing it to break or fray easily.
Most cases of dry hair can be effectively
treated with simple lifestyle changes. If your dry hair persists, make an
appointment with your doctor. They can help you pinpoint the cause of your dry
hair and recommend treatments.