Do you suffer from dry scalp in winter?
That cold, dry air can dry out not only the skin on your face, hands, and lips, but your scalp, too.
That leads, dryness, itch, and other uncomfortable symptoms. It can also make your hair look dull and dry.
Find out if you may be suffering from winter dry scalp, and what you can do to fix it.
What Is Dry Scalp in Winter?
Dry scalp in winter is just like dry skin. It’s just that we don’t often think about the skin on our heads as needing moisture.
But the scalp is just like the rest of our skin when it comes to losing moisture in the winter. The air is dryer and cooler than usual, which means it more readily draws moisture from your skin—including the skin on your head.
Keep in mind that dry scalp is different from dandruff. The symptoms are sometimes the same, but the causes are different. Whereas dandruff is often caused by excess oil and sometimes an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp, dry scalp is caused by a lack of moisture.
Symptoms of dry scalp include:
Dry, itchy scalp
Sometimes small flakes of dry skin
Dry, dull-looking hair
Hair that is weak and brittle and may fall out more easily
What Causes Dry Scalp in Winter?
You could be using the very same shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products that you did in the summer and still suffer from dry scalp in winter. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. Lack of Moisture
As mentioned above, the cold, dry air of winter is more likely to sap moisture from your skin. Though you may not be able to see the dry skin on your scalp, you may notice a general feeling of tightness under your hair, or other symptoms like itching and flaking.
2. Indoor Heat
Central heating feels great in the wintertime, but it exacerbates the flow of dry air. This can make it harder for your scalp to hold on to any moisture it has, worsening symptoms of dryness.
3. The Wrong Hats
It’s common to wear hats in the winter to stay warm. But some hats may be making your dry scalp worse. Hats made of synthetic materials can irritate your skin.
Those who are sensitive to certain fabrics like polyester, acrylics, rayon, and nylon, may notice that wearing hats made of these materials irritates a dry scalp. Wash your hats as needed and choose those made of breathable materials when you can. These include cotton, linen, silk, and hemp.
4. Bad Weather
Harsh winds paired with cold air can make your dry scalp worse. Just as a bad wind can chap your lips within the hour, it can dry your scalp just the same.
5. Hot Showers
Hot water feels delightful after you’ve come in from the cold, but it strips your skin of its natural oils, further drying it out.
6. Hot Styling Tools
Blow dryers, straighteners, curling irons, and other high-heat styling tools subject your scalp to more heat and dryness. They can also damage hair that may already be dry and weak, leading to more hair loss.
7. The Wrong Shampoo and Conditioner
Several ingredients commonly found in shampoos and conditioners may dry out your scalp. Some of the worst offenders include:
Common sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are detergents that give shampoos their foaminess. They can be harsh and drying on the scalp.
Phthalates are a type of chemical used to make plastics more flexible, but they are also used as solvents and fragrances in hair care products. They can strip away moisture and the natural oils needed for healthy hair growth. (Listed as DEP, DBP, DEHP, or DMP on the label.)
Alcohols in shampoos are also very drying. Look for cetyl and stearyl alcohol.
Silicones in shampoos and conditioners give the product a smooth texture. But they dry the scalp and also coat the hair, which prevents the natural oils from getting through. Look for dimethicone, cyclomethicone, and cyclopentasiloxane.
Synthetic fragrances make a product smell nice, but they are typically a combination of chemicals that can be too harsh for the scalp.
How Does Dry Scalp in Winter Affect My Hair?
If you notice that your hair looks dry and dull in winter—or if it feels like you’re losing more hair than usual—that could also be caused by a dry scalp.
Your hair is usually conditioned by the natural oil in your scalp. Just as the skin on your face has pores that produce sebum (skin oil), so does the skin on your head. This sebum consists of fatty acids, wax esters, and lipids that naturally condition the hair, making it soft, shiny, and resilient.
If your scalp is dry, though, your hair will soon become dry too. Without treatment, dry hair grows weak and is more likely to fall out than soft, healthy hair. And though dry scalp may not directly cause hair loss, it can make any hair loss you may already be experiencing worse.
How to Keep Your Scalp Hydrated and Healthy
To keep your scalp moisturized and your hair looking great this winter, follow these tips.
1. Change your beauty routine.
You probably already change your skin-care routine in winter. You may switch to a heavier cream moisturizer and a gentler cleanser, for example, to make sure that your skin stays moisturized.
Get in the habit of doing the same for your scalp. When the dry air comes, add a better scalp routine to your day. That may include swapping out your hair-care products and adding a moisturizing step to the scalp.
2. Choose the right hair-care products.
Avoid products with harsh sulfates, phthalates, and the other drying ingredients mentioned above. Look for fragrance-free products that include natural moisturizers like shea butter, natural oils (grapeseed, jojoba, argan), vitamin E, aloe vera, coconut oil, and pro-vitamin B5 (panthenol).
In general, you can look for moisturizing products that have ingredient lists more like your skincare lotions than your standard shampoos and conditioners.
3. Minimize heat.
Since heat exacerbates dryness, try to minimize how much heat you expose your scalp to. Use the medium rather than the high setting on your hair dryer. Avoid soaking your scalp in hot water in the shower or bath. And avoid heated styling tools as much as you can. When you do need to use them, consider adding a heat-protecting styling product to your hair first.
4. Moisturize the scalp.
This is a simple way to combat dryness in the winter, but if you’ve never done it before, it may feel a little strange at first.
What you want to do is deeply moisturize the scalp. Our Calming Moisture was formulated not only for face and neck, but for scalp too. Put some on your fingers, and then work your fingers over your scalp, gently rubbing in the lotion. It’s best to do this before you go to bed, then let the lotion work overnight. Wash your hair the next day as usual.
You can also spot treat dry patches with a cotton swab. Reapply throughout the day. Calming Moisture is lightweight, yet deeply moisturizing. It will help balance and restore skin’s barrier, reducing dryness and flakiness. It’s clinically proven to soothe calm and improve sensitive skin issues like chronic dryness, eczema or psoriasis.
5. Calm the itch.
It’s best not to scratch an itchy scalp, as that increases risk of bleeding and infections as well as hair loss. If your scalp is itching, grab your Rescue + Relief Spray and spritz some on the affected area. It will immediately cool and calm the itch, and then go on to tame any inflammation and moisturize the scalp. If you have a travel-size version, take it with you and use it anytime during the day to squelch the itch.
6. Use a humidifier.
If the air is dry where you live, consider using a humidifier in your room overnight. It pumps moisture into the air, making it less likely that it will sap that moisture from your skin.
7. Eat a healthy diet.
What you eat affects the moisture in your skin too! Make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats in your diet to replenish the skin’s moisture and keep your scalp from drying out. Good options include fatty fish, olive oil, walnuts, flax, avocados, and sunflower seeds.
How do you manage dry scalp in winter?
Featured image courtesy of Freepik.