Winter Woes: Battling Dry Scalp During the Chilly Season

A dry scalp is a common hair care woe in the winter months, as the weather zaps moisture from your hair and skin. In addition to your strands feeling dull and brittle, the cold temperatures and dry air can make your scalp feel tight, itchy, flaky and inflamed. Not only can this cause unrelenting discomfort, but a flaky scalp can also result in self-consciousness, or avoiding wearing dark colors. If your winter hair care doesn’t include scalp health, it’s time to step it up this season. We’re telling you how to prevent a dry scalp in winter, ahead. Plus, everything you need to know for healthy hair through the new year.

Understanding Dry Scalp in Winter

Dry scalp is caused by a lack of hydration. Like our skin, our scalp can become dehydrated and get flaky. Dry skin on your scalp can be the result from something as simple as skipping conditioner, over-washing, taking hot showers or using harsh ingredients. You can even experience scalp dryness and irritation from hair dye and product buildup. It’s also very common to experience a flaky scalp in winter, as your skin gets drier from the cold weather and indoor heating strips it of its natural oils. A dry scalp could also be the result of skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.

Winter scalp care 101

The Do's and Don'ts of Winter Scalp Care

Wondering how to treat dry scalp in winter? To get rid of dry scalp, you’ll need a comprehensive approach including moisturizing products and some lifestyle changes. Your goal for the season is a healthy and well-moisturized scalp. 

The Do's

Things like keeping your shower water cool, avoiding sulfates, using the right products and exfoliating all contribute to a healthy scalp. Do these things in your winter hair care routine to avoid dryness, irritation and inflammation this season. The most important Do’s to remember to avoid a dry scalp include:

Do Rinse with Lukewarm Water

When it comes to rinsing your hair, use lukewarm water instead of hot water. While hot water cleanses your hair better by dissolving dirt, grease, and residue, it also strips your scalp and strands of its natural oils, drying them out.

Do Choose Sulfate-Free Hair Products

Sulfates are foaming agents which are harsh and contribute significantly to dryness. They strip away moisture and deplete the hair and scalp of natural oils, leaving the hair dry and the scalp dry and irritated. Sulfates can also strip and dull your hair color.

Do Use Moisturizing Shampoo

If you're dealing with dryness, you'll want to switch to a sulfate-free moisturizing shampoo immediately. Moisturizing shampoos soothe and hydrate a dry scalp, treating dry strands, flakiness and irritation. These formulas leave the hair soft and well conditioned.

Do Avoid Product Build-Up

If you're experiencing dryness, you may be dealing with hair product buildup. Massage your scalp with a boar bristle brush to remove any oil, hair products, and skin cells, before washing your hair. This will help to lift away dirt and debris and distribute the natural oil from your scalp.

Don't overwash hair in winter

The Don'ts

Avoid things like washing your hair every day, showering with hot water and excessive heat styling to maintain a healthy scalp. Not doing these things in your winter hair care routine will help you evade dryness and itchy scalp winter issues. The most important Don’ts in your winter scalp care include:

Don't Over-Wash

Over-washing your hair strips the natural oils needed to keep both your hair and scalp hydrated. Nobody should be washing their hair every day, but especially not if you’re dealing with a dry scalp in the winter. Cut back your shampoo to only two times a week.

Don't Take Hot Showers

One of the most common mistakes you can make in colder months is setting shower temperature too high. Hot water strips away your hair's natural moisture and protein bonds. These keep your hair from becoming brittle. This can be damaging and exacerbate dryness.

Don't Excessively Heat Style

Frequent heat styling with blow-dryers and other tools can make a dry scalp worse. Using heat once in a while is ok, as long as you protect your hair. But excessive heat makes hair brittle and leads to hair loss and thinning when the outside air is harsh and cold. 

DIY Home Remedies for Dry Scalp

There are several home remedies, using natural ingredients like coconut oil and tea tree oil, that can help with scalp health and hydration. These are our favorite DIY remedies for treating a dry scalp this winter.

Coconut Oil Hair Treatment

Doing a hot oil treatment with coconut oil seals the hair cuticle, reducing frizz and boosting shine, while treating flaky skin and aiding hair growth. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil until melted and warm. Test a small amount on your wrist to make sure it's not too hot. Work the oil into your scalp and down to your ends. Cover your hair and leave it in for at least 30 minutes. Shampoo your hair twice and condition as usual.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil deeply moisturizes the hair and scalp, greatly reducing dryness, flakiness and itchiness. Never apply pure tea tree oil to your scalp without diluting it first. Mix it with a carrier oil, or another substance, like aloe vera or You can also try adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your moisturizing shampoo to promote scalp health.

Scalp massage in winter

Jojoba Oil Massage

Jojoba oil is another natural ingredient that can provide relief from a dry scalp. Jojoba oil is loaded with Vitamin E and B and beneficial minerals that nourish skin. Jojoba oil is also a natural antioxidant. To treat dandruff and dry scalp, massage a few drops into your scalp and allow it to soak in for 30 minutes. Then shampoo it out and condition.

Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub

Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, including scalp health. An apple cider vinegar scalp scrub can treat dry skin and strengthen hair. Mix 2 to 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 16 ounces of water. After shampooing and conditioning, pour the mixture over your hair, working into your scalp. Let it sit a few minutes and rinse it out.

Exfoliant for Dead Skin Cells

Exfoliating boosts the health of your scalp by removing product build-up and stimulating hair follicles clogged by dead skin cells, dirt, and debris. This helps alleviate dry scalp by allowing the natural oils to come through. If you have dandruff, scalp scrubs are also helpful in removing overgrowth of yeast. Regularly using an exfoliant will leave your hair looking healthy and scalp feeling refreshed.

Seeking Professional Help

Often confused for dandruff, dryness on the scalp appears with similar symptoms, but dandruff is caused by oily scalp, and a dry scalp is from a lack of moisture. While both dandruff and dry scalp can lead to itching and tightness, dandruff typically presents as white or yellowish flakes of dead skin while dry scalp produces flakes that are often smaller and drier. Scalp dryness can also be a symptom of skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that can lead to much thicker flakes that are extremely itchy and may bleed if peeled off. If you think you have scalp psoriasis, set up an appointment with your dermatologist, because you’ll likely require prescription medication to treat it. Similarly, if you think it’s eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, a dermatologist should be seen to diagnose and treat properly. In most cases medicated shampoos are the solution for chronic dry scalp. 

Final Thoughts on Dry Scalp in Winter

A dry scalp is a common winter hair care woe. The season’s cold temps and dry air zap the moisture from your strands, leaving them dull and brittle, and making your scalp feel tight, itchy, flaky and inflamed. Aside from hair that falls flat, lacks shine and is unmanageable, a dry scalp can cause unrelenting discomfort and self-consciousness. Not to mention avoiding wearing dark colors for fear of them showing off white flakes. Prioritize your scalp health during the winter months and treat dry scalp in winter before it starts. Follow our Do’s and Don’ts for healthy hair use only the highest quality moisturizing hair products like the ones from Davines. All our formulas are free of harmful toxins, use many natural ingredients, and are made with renewable energy and packaging that minimizes the environmental impact. Our hair care isn’t just good for your hair, it’s good for the planet. 

by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor

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