Between the itching and the flaking, having a dry scalp can be a seriously annoying issue — especially because it makes it really difficult to wear black clothes. But as frustrating it is to deal with, a severely dry scalp may be an indicator of a more serious skin problem. So how can you tell if your dry scalp is something worth worrying about?
"Dry scalp could be a sign of other conditions like eczema or psoriasis," says dermatologist Dr. Shari Hicks-Graham. "Contact dermatitis is also notorious for causing a scalp rash." When these conditions are present, typically the dryness is much worse, leaving thick scales that often bleed (like with psoriasis), or are severely itchy (likw eczema/contact dermatitis). There are also other inflammatory disorders that can cause scalp dryness, including lupus.
So how to doctors diagnose these issue? "We typically take our cues from the individual's history, considering how the rash began, how it appears, and what other skin areas are involved," says Dr. Hicks Graham. It's also nice to know what helps or doesn't help to relieve the condition, or what prompted the flare, [for example] hair dye in the case of contact dermatitis."
LivSo Moisturizing Pack, $49.50, Livso.com
To fix regular old dry scalp issues, Dr. Graham-Hicks suggests trying products with gentle cleansers, moisturizers, salicylic acid, lightweight oils, and anti fungal agents.
Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, $4.49, amazon.com
Other helpful ingredients include zinc, selenium sulfide, and ketoconazole, and occasionally a topical steroid product like hydrocortisone can be used for a short period of time to help relieve inflammation.
If the problem persists or continues to get worse even after changing your hair care routine to include one of these products, it's important to see a dermatologist STAT to figure out what's going on.