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4 Natural Remedies for Dry, Itchy, Flaky Scalp

Of all the frustrating beauty concerns that we deal with on a regular basis, an itchy scalp has to be one of the more annoying of the bunch.
20 Jul 2022
The itching, the flaking, having a tender scalp, constant patting if you’re wearing a protective style—it’s all just so irritating, literally. It’s especially a pain if you aren’t using the right natural hair products or have to maneuver beneath layers of curly hair to get to your dry, itchy scalp. Have you ever wondered, ‘why is my scalp so itchy’? The tricky part is there could be a slew of causes from skin conditions to haircare products to climate changes. But the good news is, with the right itchy scalp treatments, it’s one of the quickest and easiest hair care concerns to soothe, especially if you can get to the bottom of what’s causing the itchiness. Before reaching for a dandruff remedy right off the bat, get to the root of why your scalp is scratchy and line up the appropriate treatments to calm things down fast.

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What Causes an Itchy Scalp?

There are a few different things that could be causing your itch. The first thing to remember is that your scalp is an extension of your skin, so many of the same concerns you deal with on your face and other body parts, like dry skin, can easily happen on the scalp as well.

Cause for Itchy Scalp #1: Dryness

Before trying any remedies, make sure your itching and flaking are in fact due to dryness and not dandruff. You’ll be able to visibly tell the difference this way: A dry scalp is just that, parched skin that can itch and flake off due to things like weather changes, sensitivities to new products, eczema, over-washing, and dietary changes.

Cause for Itchy Scalp #2: Dandruff

Now, what about dandruff? Dandruff is an actual medical condition and will show up differently. You can think of it as the opposite of dry skin. It’s the result of too much oil on the scalp. The excess oil leads to a buildup of skin cells that sheds in the form of flakes. Dandruff is typically persistent through any external switches to your routine, diet, or environment. Usually, but not always, both dry scalps and dandruff come with some type of inflammation, redness on the scalp, and in more severe cases, tenderness.

Cause for Itchy Scalp #3: Improper Diet

Dietary deficiencies like not drinking enough water or missing essential nutrients found in healthier foods could cause your skin and scalp to dry out. Cleansing too often or with products that strip your skin of its natural oils and even your stress levels are also potential contributing factors.

One of the more common mistakes many naturals make when dealing with flakes is assuming that applying hair moisturizers that are meant to address the hair strand and not the scalp will heal the dryness and stop the itching. While this may help a bit, the reality is, your body’s own natural oils are produced to help coat and lubricate your scalp. So, simply eating the right things paired with the proper lineup of natural hair products—ones that won’t interfere with your body’s natural function—should help get your scalp’s moisture levels back in balance.

Cause for Itchy Scalp #4: Weather Changes

Since seasonal and climate changes affect our skin, they surely impact our scalp, too. Cold, bitter temps and dry climates mean that moisture in the air is limited and our hair and skin definitely show it. And since we can’t change the forecast outside, this cause for an itchy scalp can be one of the toughest to combat.

Cause for Itchy Scalp #5: Underlying Skin Conditions

Skin conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema can also result in a dry and/or itchy scalp. These skin conditions all affect the scalp in different ways, but they can cause redness, irritation and even flakes. If you have naturally dry skin, the likelihood of one of these conditions causing dryness in the scalp is higher. To accurately diagnose these types of skin conditions, visit your local trichologist or dermatologist.

Itchy Scalp Underlying Skin Conditions

What Are Natural Home Remedies for a Dry, Itchy Scalp?

Learn how to treat dry scalp in two parts: the itch and the flakes. The itching is often a result of inflammation, so ingredients that will help calm that flare-up can also help cut the itch. Here are three winning dry scalp treatments that incorporate ingredients and products that you may already have on hand at home:

Itchy Scalp Remedy #1: Apple Cider Vinegar

Not only does it have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, you can use apple cider vinegar (diluted with water) as a clarifying rinse to get rid of excess product buildup. The high acidity in ACV also works to keep dandruff-causing bacteria and fungus at bay. After cleansing with a sulfate-free shampoo, pour the mixture onto your scalp and massage it through for a few seconds before rinsing.

Itchy Scalp Remedy #2: Vitamin E

If your scalp’s moisture levels are out of whack, vitamin E, which you can find in the Coco Creme Creamy Conditioner, is an excellent choice for helping to balance and restore natural oil levels. Different factors like poor diets and going overboard with beauty techniques can throw things off and create either an over- or underproduction of oil.

You can get vitamin E through veggies like asparagus and broccoli or fresh fruits such as mangoes and papaya. A helping of almonds and wheat germ in your smoothies and cold cereals can also offer a healthy dose of the nutrient. If you can’t tell whether or not you’re getting enough through your food, try massaging pure vitamin E oil directly onto your scalp for three to five minutes once a week. It’ll help neutralize your scalp’s pH levels and improve overall circulation while heavily reducing dryness.

Itchy Scalp Remedy #3: Coconut Oil

Whether you have dry strands or a dry scalp, it’s no secret that coconut is one of the best home ingredients for a dry scalp, and it’s really an overall wonder treatment for natural hair. This hair oil can help restore moisture and is formulated with lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties and helps the skin absorb coconut oil efficiently. So, you’re getting the itch-soothing treatment both on the surface of the scalp and beneath the skin. If you’ve been scratching a lot, coconut oil can also help cut down on the risk of infection. Use it as a pre-shampoo or whenever you feel itchy by massaging a small amount of food-grade coconut oil, preferably organic, directly onto the scalp. You’ll also find it in a ton of products, including the Monoi Lightweight Miracle Oil.

Itchy Scalp Remedy #4: Essential Oils

There are a variety of essential oils that can combat an itchy scalp. Tea tree oil is known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Not only will it keep itchiness at bay, it helps to keep infections away, too. This oil should be used in limited amounts because of its potency. When it comes to tea tree oil, less is more.

If you’re dealing with inflammation, reach for peppermint oil. It soothes the scalp with that minty-cool feeling we all know and love. Lemongrass oil is another option for itch relief.

Itchy Scalp Underlying Skin Conditions

Can You Control an Itchy Scalp with Shampoo?

Here’s where the second part of your itchy-scalp treatment plan comes into play. The ingredients in your shampoo can not only control the itch, but they can cut out the flakes as well. Here’s a few tips for how to get rid of a dry scalp— and it all starts with choosing the best shampoo for dry, itchy scalp.

Look for gentle exfoliants

To get rid of flaking, you’ll need something to exfoliate. Much like the skin on your face, a good scalp scrub or a cleanser with a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid is effective. A product like Wash Day Delight makes for a great itchy scalp shampoo as it not only has the salicylic acid to slough away flakes, but there’s also aloe leaf juice, which helps to soothe irritation and itching.

Load up on moisturizers

Another thing to look for to reduce the itch is extra moisturizers in your shampoo. You’ll need a good middle ground shampoo that isn’t too stripping nor too rich. Too much oil on the scalp can have the opposite effect and eventually lead to even more flaking. The Coco Creme Sulfate-Free Shampoo is ideal. It’s made to quench dryness, and it also has coconut oil in its formula, which, as we now know, is a major dry scalp soother.

Skip sulfates and harsh cleansers

Sulfates are drying, so if you’re dealing with a dry scalp, there’s no reason to add to the problem. The Almond Milk Sulfate-Free Shampoo uses powerful ingredients like almond oil, aloe butter and coconut oil to avoid stripping the hair and scalp of their natural oils. You won’t find any sulfates here, which means the cleanse is gentle and won’t cause irritation.

How to Prevent an Itchy Scalp

Once you’ve gotten rid of the itch, try to focus your routine on keeping your scalp’s oil levels balanced.

How to Prevent an Itchy Scalp #1: Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Incorporate a clarifying ACV rinse into your routine once a month or so and keep your scalp greased with a lightweight oil like the Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil With Castor Oil. You can massage it in before shampooing as a pre-wash treatment or work it through at the first signs of any scalp tightness.

How to Prevent an Itchy Scalp #2: Eat hydrating foods

Keep an eye on your diet as well. If the rest of your skin feels dehydrated in any way, it may be time to up the amounts of water-heavy foods you eat. The moisture will help keep you hydrated overall—including your scalp.

How to Prevent an Itchy Scalp #3: Steer Clear of Chemicals

Though sporting a platinum blonde ‘do for the summer can be really tempting, using chemically-rich hair products like hair dyes and chemical treatments (perms, relaxers, etc) can cause irritation and itch to the scalp. If possible, avoid these and opt for gentle formulas or temporary solutions like hair color waxes to change your hue or roller sets for straight locks.

If you’re still unsure about which oils are best for your specific hair type, here’s Your Guide to Hair Oils for Natural & Coily Hair.

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