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Can Dry Scalp Cause Hair Loss?

Dry Scalp – what pictures does it bring up in your head (pun intended) for you?

Itchy, flaky scalp, Seborrheic dermatitis aka dandruff?

You are right…but let me tell you something, there is something drastic here.

“Dry scalp can cause hair loss.”

I had recently written about “Is your Curly Hair Routine giving you an Oily scalp? Dry scalp?” If you haven’t checked it already, read it before continuing.

First, let’s address the burning question:

Is Dry Scalp the same as Dandruff?

Ok, a disclaimer:

I am not a hair or scalp expert, not a medical person, let alone a Dermatologist or Trichologist. All opinions are based on my experiences and inputs from some experts. To know more about the conditions of your scalp, seek the right people.

Most of us when we see dry, snowy flakes or pale particles when we scratch our scalp suspect it to be dandruff. But it could be dry scalp. A twist here, dry scalp and dandruff have the same symptoms, that is flakes and sometimes itchy scalp, but they are NOT the same.

Dry scalp is caused when the skin, scalp included is irritated and flakes off. These flakes may or may not be visible to the eye. Your scalp may not even feel itchy.

Dandruff on the other hand, is caused when your scalp is excessively oily, producty and/or when your scalp has buildup, read clogged pores, are your hair follicles are blocked and unable to breathe. The excess oil or products on your scalp causes dead skin cells to pile up leading to what we call as “build-up” in the curly girl parlance.

Again, since I am not an expert, let me share my experiences to help you take care of these scalp issues.

Dry skin is precursor of Dry Scalp

Yes, you read it right – if you skin is feeling very dry, please know that your scalp is crying out for some moisture too.

It is possible to dismiss this as a ‘weather thing’, but here are some causes and symptoms to help you take care of the real thing.

  • If your scalp is dry, it is possible that skin on other parts of your body, arms and legs especially can feel dry too.
  • Watch out for itchy, dry skin causes. What you may dismiss as an allergic reaction to a product, fabric or food may actually be dry skin. Warning, if you are facing rough-skin patches that are causing your skin to peel off or feel scaly, seeing cracks, cuts or some bleeding, STOP READING THINGS ON THE INTERNET, visit a Dermat immediately. Dermatitis, that is, inflammation of the skin is not something to be trifled with, don’t try home remedies or grandma remedies, only a qualified, medical professional can help you. Trust me on this, please.
  • Well, if it is the weather causing dry skin, check if your skin improves when you change locations.
  • Also, watch out for reactions to products – If it is dry scalp, what shampoo, deep conditioner, hair oil, hairspray is causing it. Avoid applying anything directly on the scalp, unless it is specifically mentioned in the product usage. If it is dry skin, notice when your skin feels the dryness. Is it after shower? During the day? Seek a Dermatologist’s help to draw up a skin routine to keep it moisturized at all times. They would also help you with the right medication, diet, fatty acids and vitamins to revive and nourish your skin.

Dealing with Dry Scalp

Now let’s jump into what happens when your scalp is dry and doesn’t have enough moisture. The dry skin on your scalp gets irritated and starts flaking. If you are someone who washes your hair and scalp regularly or does scalp massages, albeit with a few drops of oil, NOT OIL CHAMPI massages, you may not see any visible flakes. And using of natural, curly-girl approved products that contain no Silicones, no Parabens, no Phthalates and no drying alcohols can curb these problems, but may not eliminate them.

I have been having itchy, dry skin for almost a year or more and kept attributing it to allergy reactions to laundry detergent, to insect bites, to invisible allergens and foods and products. And if you know me by now, I like to get under the skin, pun again intended (hee haw, I should stop writing these things #facepalm) and tried every home remedy, detox, liver cleansing, keeping away from trigger foods, etc. for relief.

All the while, I kept dismissing hair fall, hair loss as just a “weather thing” or “hard water thing” or simply stress. These reasons may be right, but I was missing the elephant in the room – Dry Scalp!

Why I didn’t bother about Dry Scalp till date?

Dry, itchy scalp is uncomfortable, irritating and embarrassing to most people. But my scalp seldom itched. And I have been brought up with the “good ladies don’t scratch an itch” thing. Am kidding, but still I haven’t been feeling that my scalp is dry or itchy anytime. I used to observe my scalp often for flakes after washes, check for buildup, and since it felt clean I never bothered about dry scalp till date.

I have been doing the proverbial good things as prescribed by the Curly Girl Method –

  • Use only curly-girl approved products sans the toxins
  • Not be tempted to try any product that contain Dimethicone or Amodimethicone for kicks
  • Do scalp massages daily with a few drops of oil to improve scalp circulation
  • Protect hair while sleeping and traveling…

But still, not considering the obvious that if my skin is dry, my scalp is dry too. Gah, this sucks.

While I sought a Dermatologist’s advice – medication and prescriptions for addressing dry skin issues, also Vitamin B12 and D deficiencies. I did not bother that much about hair fall.

BUT, after a spate of severe hair fall and hair loss, reduced hair density and frizzy, dry hair, I decided to do a big chop so that I can take better care of my scalp and hair. Long hair is all fun until you start losing it in droves. My last wash day I lost about 650 strands, this is after 3 days of wash…and I knew something was badly-off.

I finally have come around to the truth.

My fears were confirmed when I got a hair and scalp diagnosis done by a Kérastase technician. I was able to take a few pictures and here are the findings –

Scalp & Hair Diagnosis

  • The scalp is extremely dry – the white patches confirm that. These are not visible to the naked eye.
  • The follicles are healthy – I saw some three-strand follicles, that means that my pores or follicles are not clogged and there isn’t any scalp build-up per se.
  • The density is low – the scalp is visible in some places. I know these are the less dense places near my temples and back.
  • The strands are healthy – the hair shaft and strands are smooth and there is less breakage in the hair structure.

My dry scalp could be a main cause for hair fall, besides the vitamin deficiencies.

What my technician Mohobat at Enrich advised:

To take care of scalp-related issues, especially scalp sensitivity, itchiness and dry scalp. Use masks that helps hydrate, soothe scalp and address dryness. (A Kérastase mask was proposed, but it is not CG-approved). Avoid oil deep treatments, don’t use coconut oil, but focus on scalp massages with cold-pressed oils that can moisturize and relieve dry scalp issues.

He helped cut off the dry edges and ensured that I start the new growth with enough volume. Plus, a big plus, he helped me cover the edges and areas where my thinning scalp is visible. (<sniff>, <sniff>).

How I intend to take care of dry scalp and hair loss

  • Go easy on my scalp, no over-washing – avoid the strong clarifying that I often do. I opt for Pantene Lively Clean shampoo to clarify every 3rd or 4th wash, this is going to be a big NO-NO.
  • Opt for scalp and hair masks rather than deep conditioners (DC) – DCs are meant to help the hair revive their moisture, but in my case, I need more to nourish, hydrate and soothe the scalp. I will be opting for hair masks to strengthen the hair and make my scalp healthy.
  • Choose oils best suited for dry scalp – Argan, Peppermint, Jojoba, Tea tree oil, Lemongrass oil (may be) – I am still reading up and understanding how these could help. I will be regular with my scalp massages and not do the hot oil treatments much. In my case, any excess oil would require using a harsh shampoo to remove it, which might aggravate the dry scalp issues.
  • Cut back on the number of products I use per routine – I always went by, “your hair needs what it needs”, so I believed in layering products. Perhaps this may have affected the pH balance of my scalp. But it is time, I made my wavy hair care routine simple.
  • Eat healthy and try to cut down on stress – easily said, but will try my best.

If you are facing or have observed any of the above symptoms and need to talk, do leave me a comment. Am sure our conversation will help a lot of curly, wavy and straight hair friends deal with hair fall and hair loss issues.

If you have started CGM and are facing hair thinning, do read this post and find your answers here.

I hope my experiences help you deal with dry scalp and dry skin issues. Please do not miss the woods for the trees.

Do not take dry scalp issues lightly.

Psst…I have not written much about Dandruff (Seborrheic Dermatitis), I have not faced this issue. But I know this much that this condition does not have the additional symptom of dry skin on other parts of the body.

Thank you for your time. I wish you all a wonderful, healthy, happy hair year ahead. Happy 2020 2021!

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