For us naturally curly girls, dry scalp is pretty much a way of life. Most days it feels like no matter how much or how little we wash our hair, our scalps wind up feeling flaky. Thankfully our curls are really good at disguising these flakes (at least until they fall all over our black clothes), but there are much better ways to treat dry scalp for curly hair than just throwing it up into a bun, trying not to scratch and hoping for the best.
According to Dermatologist Dr. Shari Hicks-Graham, curly hair is more prone to dryness than straight hair for a variety of reasons — some of which we can control, others that we're unfortunately kind of stuck with. The best way to mitigate the pesky dryness problems, though, is figuring out what might be causing them and tailoring our routines to fix it. As someone who spent the last month dealing with a bout of vicious dandruff (and spent $$$ trying to get rid of it) I can attest to the fact that understanding the root of the issue is the only way to deal with it.
Here are five reasons why your scalp may be dry under natural hair, and exactly what you can do to fix it.
1. The Shape Of Your Hair Follicle
As stunningly gorgeous as curly hair is, it does present all of us curly-girls with some issues that our straight-haired friends are immune to. "Natural, curly hair does not wick oil from the scalp to the ends of the hair shaft as easily as straight hair," says Dr. Hicks-Graham. "The twists and turns of the hairs make this physically more difficult than for bone straight hairs." Sadly, there isn't much we can do about this, which is why embracing the right routine is imperative.
2. The Shape Of Your Cuticle
Curly hair is curly because of the shape of the cuticles on our heads that the follicles come out of. "The shape of curly or kinky hair tends to be more irregular with ruffled edges, making oil more difficult to track down the hair from the scalp naturally," says Dr. Hicks-Graham. "This ruffled cuticle causes curly or kinky hair to often appear less shiny." Just like with the shape of our hair follicles, there isn't much we can do about the shape of our the cuticles, either. Sighs.
3. How Much You're Washing
We all know that it's not totally necessary to wash your hair every day, but taking too many days off can actually turn your greasy scalp into a dry one. "Because people with curly hair tend to wash their hair less regularly, the oil present at the scalp may accumulate and allow the natural yeasts to proliferate," says Dr. Hicks-Graham. "This then may lead to dryness, scaling and irritation — otherwise known as seborrhea or dandruff." Finally — Something we can control! Dr. Hicks suggests routinely shampooing and conditioning with a gentle, sulfate-free product that offers moisture to the scalp and hair. Typically, this should be done on a weekly basis, depending on your physical activity level — if you're working out regularly, for example, you should be washing more often
4. Using Too-Thick Products
"If thick pomades are used to cosmetically enhance the shine of this curly hair, it can often trap this yeast and oil onto the scalp and make the problem worse," says Dr. Hicks-Graham. "Many people are moving away from the heavy pomades for this reason." Opt for a curl oil — like this one, from Bumble & Bumble — to avoid any problems
5. Skipping Exfoliation
Just like your body, your scalp has dry skin that needs to be treated, too. "Products with anti fungal and anti-inflammatory properties are useful, as are ingredients for gentle scalp exfoliation," says D.r Hicks-Graham. "The LivSo Shampoo, Conditioner and Moisturizing Scalp Lotion are helpful for these reasons." If your haircare routine is optimized and you're using the right products and your scalp still feels dry, it's time to schedule and appointment with a dermatologist.