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Dry Scalp Causes

Dear Doctor

I noticed a dry patch on my scalp. It does not seem to be growing in size and does not itch.

dry scalp causes

Dear Patient

Itchy Dry Scalp Causes

The causes of an itchy, dry scalp include:


Dandruff, which is also known as Pityriasis simplex capilliti, is characterized by fine white or gray scales on the scalp which may be associated with itching. Though the exact cause of dandruff is not known, the following factors have been associated with an increased risk of developing dandruff:

  1. Excessive production of sebum (oil) by the scalp can cause dandruff. This type is treated by using effective shampoos.
  2. Infrequent shampooing of the hair can cause dandruff due to the buildup of skin cells on the scalp. Not brushing the hair frequently can also lead to dandruff because of the same reason. This type is treated by brushing and shampooing the hair several times each week.
  3. Infrequent scalp exfoliation (removal of dead skin cells on the scalp) can also cause dandruff. This type can be treated by exfoliating with the fingers when shampooing the hair or using exfoliating scalp masks.
  4. Overgrowth of Malassezia ovale (formerly known as Pityrosporum ovale) can also cause dandruff. This yeast is normally present on healthy scalps and the exact cause of its excessive growth is not known. However, factors like hormonal changes, stress, suppressed immune systems, increased sebum production and other illnesses like Parkinson’s disease have been associated with its overgrowth which leads to scalp irritation and dead scalp cells being shed at a very fast rate. These shed cells mix with the oil from the hair follicles and form greasy clumps. This type of dandruff can be treated with medicated shampoos.
  5. Medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, heart attacks and strokes have also been associated with an increased risk for developing dandruff. This type is treated with shampoos.


Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis, which is also known as seborrhea is characterized by yellow, greasy scales, redness and itching on the scalp and other areas like the eyebrows, behind the ears and on the chest. It is treated with medicated shampoos with ingredients like pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ciclopirox and ketoconazole. Corticosteroid creams are also used to treat seborrheic dermatitis.

dry scalp causes



Scalp psoriasis is characterized by redness and whitish scale on the scalp and other parts of the body like the elbows and knees. It is treated with corticosteroid creams, methotrexate, cyclosporine and other medications. Shampoos with tar and salicylic acid are also used to treat scalp psoriasis.

scalp psoriasis treatment


Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis can also cause dry, itchy scalps. This fungal infection of the scalp is treated with antifungals like Griseofulvin, Itraconazole and Terbinafine. Antifungal shampoos are also used.

dry scalp causes



Eczema is characterized by redness, itching and scaling which can develop on the scalp as well as other parts of the body like the elbows and behind the knees. Eczema is treated with corticosteroid creams and moisturizers.


Contact Dermatitis

Allergic reactions to ingredients in hair care products like shampoos and hair dyes can also cause dry, itchy and scaly scalps. Examples of such ingredients include paraphenylene diamine (PPD). Scalp contact dermatitis is treated by avoiding the offending products.

Nairobi fly dermatitis


Poor Diets

Diets that low in nutrients like vitamin B, D, zinc and essential fatty acids have also been linked to dry, itchy scalps. Eating a balanced diet can correct this condition.


Non-Itchy Dry Scalp Causes

Causes of dry scalps which are not itchy include:

Climatic Conditions

Climatic conditions which cause dry skin can also cause dry scalps. Examples of such climatic conditions include cold winters. Overheated rooms can also cause dry scalps and skin. Dry scalps due caused by climatic conditions can be treated by using hydrating hair conditioners and shampoos.



Since I cannot clearly see the dry patches on your scalp from this picture I cannot give you a definitive answer as to what may be causing your dry patches. I therefore suggest that you send us another picture of the dry areas.

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