Flakes in your hair? It might be dandruff, but it could be a dry scalp. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern between dandruff and dry scalp, but the good news is there are many tips that are a good starting point for treating both conditions.
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(However, if your flakes are persistent or you are experiencing sores or scabbing, extreme itching, or dryness accompanied by pain, it’s best to check in with your doctor.)
What causes a dry scalp?
Dry and itchy scalp is caused by, you guessed it, a lack of moisture. Our hair follicles have tiny oil-producing machines called sebaceous glands that keep our scalp and hair moisturized. Several factors can contribute to a decrease in this oil production, including excessive washing, drying cold air, dehydration, lack of proper nutrition, and certain skin conditions.
How to treat and prevent a dry scalp
Fortunately, we can address dry and itchy scalp from the inside out. Here are five tips to prevent those pesky dry flakes:
1. Increase your healthy fat intake
Try to include 25-35% of your calories from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (healthy) fats. Unlike saturated or trans fats, polyunsaturated fats contain omega-3 fatty acids. Our body is unable to make omega-3 on its own, so we need it in our diet. These anti-inflammatory fatty acids provide several health benefits, including preventing dry and itchy scalp. Fish like salmon, sardines, and rainbow trout are high sources of omega-3 fatty acids with generally low mercury levels, making them a great dietary choice for healthy fat. Other food sources to include in your diet are walnuts, chia seeds, ground flax seed, avocado, and olive oil.
2. Drink plenty of water
We all know we need to drink water to stay healthy, but how do you know if you’re drinking enough? According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups of fluids for men and about 11.5 cups of fluids a day for women. About 20% of this requirement is met through food, but the rest needs to come from drinks. Your individual water intake may vary based on your activity level. If you are sweating from exercise, hot weather, or sauna use, up your intake. An appropriate goal for most people is six glasses of water daily to keep your body, including your scalp, well-hydrated.
3. Avoid excessive washing and harsh chemicals
Simply washing our hair too much can lead to a dry and itchy scalp. Basically, when we wash our hair, we are stripping our scalp of the oils it uses to keep moisturized. When we overdo the washing, our skin can become irritated. Try to space out washing your hair as long as you can stand it. Oftentimes, this will be effective in improving the condition of your scalp. Consider using shampoos, conditioners, and hair products that are free from parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and sulfates. These harsh chemicals can be irritating to the scalp, leading to irritation, dryness, itching, and flaking.
4. Use Nutrafol
Nutrafol provides personalized hair growth products that are physician-formulated and 100% drug free. Our Core Solutions are your foundation for hair wellness. They’re formulated with ingredients clinically shown to improve hair growth by addressing multiple root causes of poor hair health, including hormones, stress, nutrition, metabolism, and environmental factors. All of our core solutions contain curcumin, saw palmetto, tocotrienols, and ashwagandha.
Nutrafol is also fortified with marine collagen, which is known to promote healthy hair and diffusion of nutrients into the scalp. Additionally, Nutrafol is formulated with vitamin A, zinc, and an amino acid called methionine which all work to strengthen your sebaceous glands. Properly functioning sebaceous glands will balance the oils on your scalp.
5. Eat a well-rounded diet
A dry and itchy scalp may be due to nutritional deficiencies. Just like the rest of our body, our scalp needs the proper building blocks from our diet to function properly. For example, a deficiency in vitamin A could cause improper sebaceous gland function. High vitamin A foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, and bell peppers. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated. Choose whole foods, meaning foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Include a source of protein with every meal, eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, and add sources of healthy fats daily. Plan ahead to bring healthy snacks to avoid temptation. Limit excessive sugar, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates. Your scalp will thank you!
By Dr. Adriana Poulakos, ND