By Jennifer Boeder
Itchy scalps are the pits, and the resulting flakes in your hair and on your clothes just add to the stress. But how do you actually get rid of a dry scalp?
If you're looking for natural scalp treatments, the plant kingdom has a ton of them—but first, you need to pinpoint the cause of your flaky head.
What Causes Dry, Flaky Scalps?
The most frequent culprit behind itchy scalps? Seborrheic dermatitis (a.k.a. dandruff). The Mayo Clinic lists many different factors that contribute to dandruff:
- Dryness (dehydration leads to itchiness and flakes)
- Excess oil (yep, too oily can also cause dandruff)
- A yeastlike fungus (malassezia) that feeds on oils on the scalp
- Irritation from hair care products and product buildup
Besides dandruff, psoriasis is another major cause of scalp itch. At least 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, and more than half of those experience outbreaks on the scalp. Scalp psoriasis and dermatitis do share some similar symptoms, so if you’re not sure what you have, definitely talk to a dermatologist who can properly diagnose you (we’ve got an entire post devoted to natural scalp psoriasis remedies as well).
Protective styles like braids, wigs, and weaves can also contribute an itchy scalp, as it may be hard to scratch and it's easy to have product buildup exacerbate the itch.
Other potential causes: Stress can undermine your endocannabinoid system, which helps keep your skin, hair and scalp in balance. Stress can also release stress hormones that throw your skin’s oil production out of whack and cause dryness and flaking (check out What Stress Does to Your Skin and Hair for a deeper dive on this topic). Weather changes, eczema, ringworm, or even lice can all result in a dry, itchy scalp. So think about what’s causing your dry head, because the better you can identify the root cause of your itchiness and flaking, the better you’ll be able to figure out an effective dry scalp treatment.
Six Plant-Based Dry Scalp Treatments to Soothe Your Itchy Head
Here are a few of our favorite botanical remedies for dry, itchy scalps (many of which we included in the Frigg Hair Potion, which was formulated as a treatment for dry scalps and lackluster hair).
Reminder: Before applying, always patch test a new ingredient on your skin first! Some of these dry scalp treatments (such as the essential oils) should not be applied directly to the skin—they’re ingredients you can use with a carrier oil, or seek out in your scalp and hair care products.
Baobab oil. Baobab trees have been used in African folk medicine for millennia for a variety of ailments, including chronic dryness and irritation. One study found baobab oil more beneficial to dry, irritated skin than liquid paraffin or Vaseline.)
Jojoba oil. Jojoba oil has remarkably similar properties to our skin's own sebum, which allows it to penetrate deeply below the top layer of skin for maximum hydration.
Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It’s acidic, can help adjust the pH of the scalp to optimal levels, and can gently exfoliate product buildup. (Because of its acidity, ACV can dry out hair, so if your tresses are already arid, this may not be the best dry scalp treatment for you).
Castor oil. Castor oil is not only intensely hydrating, it’s anti-fungal as well, which may be useful in terms of fighting off bacterial or fungal overgrowth on the scalp that can cause dandruff. (Fun fact: Cleopatra supposedly used it on her hair.)
Rosemary. Rosemary is one of the most documented herbs to show anti-fungal activity, but essential oils derived from peppermint, lemon, and grapefruit have also been shown in numerous studies to have strong anti-fungal properties, which may help with dermatitis caused by fungus.
- Tea tree oil. This essential oil and popular skin care ingredient has so many documented antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, it’s actually noted on the National Psoriasis Foundation website as beneficial to some scalp psoriasis sufferers.
These botanical remedies are both gentle and affordable, with few side effects—and many are now backed by science. The plant kingdom offers us many time-tested dry scalp treatments that can help restore balance and moisture—while also getting to the root of your issue.
Have you tried any of the dry scalp solutions listed above? Drop us a note in the comments, and feel free to share any other scalp solutions that have helped you!
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