Some natural methods can help relieve a dry, itchy scalp at home, including rinsing with apple cider vinegar or applying oils and other moisturizing ingredients.
Dry scalp can have a number of different causes, though the most common is a reaction to the change in weather or a harsh ingredient in hair care products.
No matter the cause, we’ve put together some solutions for at-home treatment you can try to treat your dry scalp.
What treatment you need, and how long it takes, depends on the cause of the dry scalp. The following are possible treatments based on conditions that can cause it:
- salicylic acid
- dandruff shampoos
- prescription medications like corticosteroids, antihistamines, emollients, and biologics.
Scalp psoriasis can lead to dryness from the buildup of skin cells caused by the chronic disease.
In addition to corticosteroids, salicylic acid, and medicated shampoos, your doctor may prescribe the following:
There are different types of dandruff, and it can cause dry scalp. Typically you can help relieve it by using a dandruff shampoo, which can be sold over the counter or, if medicated, via a prescription.
Each shampoo may come with different instructions and a different amount of time it needs to remain on the scalp, so make sure to read the instructions carefully. OTC ingredients include ketoconazole and pyrithione zinc.
Depending on the type of your hair, you may need to wash it more or fewer times a week. It’s a good idea to speak to a dermatologist to understand what is the best treatment for you.
Other than these common, underlying health conditions, you could develop scalp dryness from dehydration, or from exposure to cold air, hot water, heat from artificial sources like central heating, and chemical cleaning products.
The treatment for these will depend on the severity of the dryness. If it significantly affects your day-to-day life, or if you’re having more serious symptoms like burning, see your doctor.
Less commonly, your dry scalp could also be caused by:
The following natural remedies may offer some relief if you have a dry scalp:
- Coconut oil: This oil has many skin health benefits. It can moisturize the scalp, and its antifungal and antibacterial properties can help reduce the risk of infections. Research shows it may even significantly help treat atopic dermatitis.
- Tea tree oil: This oil has strong antiseptic, antifungal, and antibiotic properties that can relieve dry scalp and its symptoms. It’s why many dandruff shampoos have tea tree oil in them.
- Aloe vera: This has a number of properties that can help with dry scalp. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce skin irritation, and it’s also an effective moisturizing agent.
- Apple cider vinegar: This is antimicrobial, which means it can eliminate the bacteria or fungi that could cause itchiness. It’s also anti-inflammatory, and it can help exfoliate your scalp.
- Witch hazel: This is often marketed in anti-itch products designed for dry and sensitive skin, and it’s historically been used in herbal medicine. You can use it to decrease inflammation that could be causing dry scalp from certain conditions. It also has powerful astringent properties that may soothe symptoms of dry scalp.
- Baking soda and olive oil: Olive oil is moisturizing, and baking soda has antifungal and antibacterial properties. This combination is a good choice if you have dandruff alongside a dry scalp, as the moisture, exfoliation, and antifungal properties combined can treat those itchy white flakes.
- Bananas: When mushed, these are very moisturizing, making them a great treatment for dry scalp and even dandruff.
- Yogurt and eggs: Yogurt is soothing on the skin and can also be exfoliating, while the fat and protein content in eggs can nourish and protect the scalp by preventing free radical damage at the cellular level.
- Jojoba oil: This can be an effective moisturizer that can relieve dry scalp quickly. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that may treat skin conditions affecting the scalp.
- Avocado: This contains monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids that can both moisturize and protect your skin. In addition to eating the avocado, you can apply it or avocado oil topically to soothe a dry scalp.
Risks and side effects
Treating dry scalp with these home remedies is generally considered safe and risk-free.
That said, If you plan to try an essential oil such as tea tree oil, make sure to mix it with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil, and then massage it into your scalp. Leave it on for 10 minutes before washing it out. In this case, using coconut or olive oil as a carrier oil could have added benefits for treating your scalp.
Before using any new product, especially essential oils, you should also do a test patch on the inside of your wrist to avoid an allergic reaction.
It’s important to remember that essential oils are not monitored for purity or quality, so you should use caution when choosing a quality brand.
Dry scalp can be bothersome, just alone for its visible effects on your hair and scalp. However, it can also lead to visible hair loss, often due to persistent scratching.
Some people will scratch enough that it causes soreness or even open wounds. If not cared for, these sores could become inflamed or infected. If you believe you have any sores or wounds, you should contact a doctor before applying any oils or home remedies, as they may irritate the wound.
Cradle cap will usually resolve on its own, but to treat it, try the following home remedies:
- Gently rub either mineral oil, baby oil, or olive oil onto the baby’s scalp before shampooing.
- Use an anti-dandruff shampoo containing pyrithione zinc or selenium sulfide that is formulated for babies. Shampoos containing salicylic acid are not recommended for infants.
- With a doctor’s approval, apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the baby’s scalp to relieve inflammation and itchiness.
If your baby’s dry scalp is caused by another skin condition like eczema, they may require specific prescription medications.
A dry scalp can be uncomfortable, but it’s highly treatable. Many cases of dry scalp respond well to a change in your hair care products or routine, and home remedies can certainly help speed up the process.
If home remedies have not started to work after 2 weeks, you can make an appointment with a doctor to make sure there is not an underlying health condition that requires prescription treatment.
If you notice that you’re experiencing hair loss along with a dry scalp, particularly with sores or blisters, it’s also a good idea to check in with a healthcare professional.