5 Tips From Dermatologists To Treat Your Scratchy Scalp
Dry winter weather can wreak havoc on you skin, especially on your head. Combat this common problem by locking the moisture in your hair (and keeping it there) with these expert solutions for a scratchy, flaking scalp.
Use conditioner to moisturize your dry scalp
There’s hardly a woman out there who doesn’t condition her hair regularly, but guys, well, we’re not as dedicated to that routine. But no matter your gender or hair length (even bald guys can suffer from a dry scalp), using conditioner after shampooing your hair is necessary to keep it moisturized and protected from the elements.
“Winter months can mean cold, dry, windy outside air that strips natural protective oils, as well as forced heat indoors, which sucks out any remaining moisture from your scalp and hair,” explains Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. “To treat a dry scalp, rub your hair conditioner into your scalp in order to moisturize it.”
In addition – and as a measure of prevention – she recommends applying a moisturizing scalp and hair mask once a week to hydrate and protect the scalp skin barrier. You can find these at local beauty supply stores or at more mainstream retailers like Target and Walmart. Pick up your BSG HCO1 Conditioner here
Determine which product(s) you use that may be irritating your scalp
Hair care products with alcohols, fragrances, acrylates, and sulfates can irritate the scalp and damage the protective barrier, leaving your scalp itchy and tight and even red or peeling. You may have go through several series of self-tests at home to find out which product(s) – if any – are responsible for the irritation, but it’s worth the trouble if you’re always scratching your head or in pain.
“Pinpoint the culprit product or ingredient by using the same product for a week at a time, instead of combining many at the same time,” Dr. Shainhouse suggests. “Choose gentle and sensitive skin formulations while your scalp heals. Consider a topical hydrocortisone cream as needed for the itch.”
BSG’s Trichoanagenic Factor is formulated to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss without any damaging substances.
Switch to organic or natural shampoos and conditioners
Many of the ingredients in everyday shampoos and conditioners have been scientifically proven to increase scalp irritation, and some even cause contact dermatitis after just one use. These ingredients include sulfates, cocamidopropyl betaine, parabens, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, behentrimonium chloride, oxybenzone, sodium benzoate, and silicones – just to name a few. Sulfates, for example, are strong detergents, which can cause and exacerbate dry scalp conditions by stripping your scalp and follicles of beneficial oils and minerals.
“One of the best things you can do to regain a healthy scalp is to switch to a sulfate free, all-natural, and preferably organic shampoo and conditioner which are made with scalp nourishing oils, like coconut, avocado, jojoba, and argan oil; herbs, like nettles, burdock, neem, and rosemary; and vitamins, like biotin, vitamin B5, and vitamin E,” says Diane Elizabeth, skin care expert and founder of the skin care blog Skin Care Ox.
“My husband suffered from extreme dry scalp – to the point of painful irritation,” she continues. “After my research, we checked his hair care products and, sure enough, they were packed with clinically proven irritants and harsh detergents. Within two weeks of switching to an all-natural routine, his dandruff was almost completely eliminated and his scalp was noticeably less dry.”
Eradicate stubborn dandruff with more intensive treatments
Using a medicated dandruff shampoo and a good scalp scrubber is often enough to tackle the flakes, but if that doesn’t work try more intensive hair therapies like deep oil treatments and leave-on medicated products.
Dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, MD, founder of DrBaileySkinCare.com details a few alternative solutions:
Topical Leave-on Medicated Products for Scalp Dandruff
For stubborn dandruff and faster relief than using medicated shampoos alone, she says, you can apply leave on-products to the affected areas.
“Non-prescription medicated options include hydrocortisone and salicylic acid liquids. Typically, these products will instruct you to use the product twice a day until your scalp clears. Remember to follow the directions on the product labels.”
Product options include: Scalpicin Maximum Strength with 1% Hydrocortisone; Scalpicin with 3% Salicylic Acid
Your doctor can prescribe stronger cortisone products if your scalp seborrhea (the medical term for dandruff) won’t clear with these non-prescription options.
Intensive Scalp Treatments to Remove Thick Scale and Stubborn Dandruff
If you have stubborn plaques of really thick scale, you can loosen them with oil treatments or P&S liquid (which you’ll find on Amazon or Walmart.com).
“Slightly warm mineral oil or coconut oil in the microwave,” Dr. Bailey says. “I prefer extra virgin coconut oil because it has natural antimicrobial properties and it seems more effective. Apply the warmed oil to the scalp plaques for 30 minutes under a towel. Comb the plaque to loosen the scale then shampoo your scalp to remove the oil. Use your medicated shampoo as your last lather as directed above.”
Apply the liquid to the scalp plaques and cover with a shower cap for eight hours then shampoo your scalp as described above.
Dr. Bailey recommends repeating your scalp treatment daily until the dryness and flaking is controlled. “You can apply one of the leave-on treatments above after shampooing for maximal therapy,” she says.
Make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist if the problem persists
If you’ve tried the home remedies and your dry, itchy scalp hasn’t improved, it’s time to make an appointment with a dermatologist. You may have a persistent skin condition called psoriasis.
“This is an autoimmune, inflammatory, crazy itchy skin condition, in which skin cells divide too quickly, causing them to build up on the scalp and skin in thick white scaly plaques with underlying skin redness,” Dr. Shainhouse explains. “It can be confused with dandruff, but does not resolve with dandruff shampoos. If you think you might have this, see your dermatologist for prescription treatment.”