9 Tips to Keep Dry Scalp and Dandruff in Check

Janell M. Hickman


Although winter is around the corner, snowflakes of a different kind can threaten your beauty routine. Dandruff and dry scalp (which, by the way are not the same thing) can compromise your confidence–especially when wearing head-to-toe black. With an abundance of over-the-counter solutions it can be hard to determine the right products to treat and minimize excess flakes. Read on to discover 9 expert tips to keep your scalp looking and feeling its best.

1. Dry Scalp and Dandruff Are Very Different
“There’s actually a big difference and common misconception between the two,” explains John Masters, founder of John Masters Organics. “Dry scalp is caused by loss of moisture from the skin.” Think loose, white powdery flakes as characteristics. “Dandruff is a condition where flakes and patches of scalp skin (typically more yellowish in color) cling to the scalp,” says Dr. Francesca Fusco, Clear Scalp and Hair Dermatologist. “The over production of sebum (oil secreted by sebaceous glands) plus growth of yeast combined with an altered skin barrier results in the skin cells growing at a rapid pace. Hence, producing visible flakes and thick patches on the scalp.”

2. Beware of Chemical Treatments
“Most chemical processes debilitate the scalp by breaking down the natural oils that protect it, causing further irritation,” explains Fabian Lliguin, owner and creator of Rahua. “Natural oils help protect the scalp against dryness, which is why over-shampooing can also contribute to discomfort.” Dr. Fusco adds, “Dryness is the main effect which can lead to dull strands and even breakage. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid [chemical treatments]. With proper hair care that includes regular conditioning and even a mask once a week, you can nourish the scalp and follicles.”

MORE: The Best Shampoos For Dandruff

3. Discover The Cause of Your Flakes
“Dandruff can be caused by many things,” shares Masters. “Internally it can be due to improper nutrition such as an excess consumption of refined sugar and saturated fat and lack of rest. Externally it can be caused by product buildup, excess use of styling irons, over-processing of the hair, cold weather, stress and anxiety.” Dr. Fusco adds, “It’s difficult to pinpoint the number one cause. Dandruff can be due to a variety of conditions, ranging from a simple dry scalp to eczema or even psoriasis.”

4. Use Oils Sparingly
“Topical oils can provide relief for dry scalp if used moderately,” says Kathleen Firth at Raika Studio, a Paul Mitchell Focus Salon. “Too much of a good thing can be exactly that–too much! However, products containing ingredients like tea tree oil (try Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Lavender Mint line) can provide relief. “An apple cider vinegar rinse once a week is also helpful,” shares Masters who also suggests massaging the scalp with olive, jojoba or coconut oils pre-shampoo.

5. Daily Shampooing Doesn’t Always Help
“It’s best to shampoo hair, roughly two to three times per week to avoid removing natural oils which cause the scalp [moisture levels] to be unbalanced,” shares Lliguin. “If you go to the gym, just wet your hair, apply conditioner and rinse with water–the conditioner will remove light build up.” You can also extend the length of time in between shampoos with a scalp spray, like Rahua Voluminous Spray to help absorb excess oil and create body.

MORE: Gross Beauty Problems and How to Fix Them

6. Conditioner Does More Than Pamper Strands
“In my clinical experience, many cases are caused by or exacerbated by inadequate attention to the scalp,” says Dr. Fusco. “Conditioner is a must, and it must be applied generously to the scalp. Scalp is skin, just like the skin on our face and body–it’s an extension of it, so treat it with the same care, detail and attention.”

7. Select Your Products Wisely
“Use shampoos which contain zinc – a natural scalp regulator – and a combination of healthy, organic oils and extracts such as jojoba, sunflower, flaxseed, papaya and sage,” explains Masters, who is a fan of Spearmint & Meadowsweet Scalp Stimulating Shampoo. “Water soluble products rinse off easier and create less buildup on the scalp,” he adds.

8. Switch Up Your Routine Seasonally
“Scalps tend to be drier during winter months–it is a natural reaction to cold and dry indoor heating. Masks are the single most effective products that help minimize flakes,” shares Dr. Fusco.“They deliver an intense hydrating boost.” Try Clear Intense Hydration Deep Nourishing Treatment Mask which will nourish and hydrate your scalp and hair, preparing it for exacerbating elements.

9. Know When To Seek Professional Help
“If the issue is simply a dry scalp, a well-trained stylist can recommend the proper shampoo and condition combo to help minimize flakes,” says Lliguin. “There is no permanent cure for dandruff but it is definitely controllable when taking the proper measures,” says Masters. “However, if you use products for ‘wet’ dandruff on a dry scalp, the chemical strength will only wash away the flakes but the problem will re-occur,”  continues Lliguin. “If your scalp continues to be constantly itchy and irritated, by all means make an appointment with a dermatologist.”