What Are the Common Causes of a Dry Scalp with Greasy Hair?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 May 2020
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The combination of dry scalp with greasy hair is usually caused by the scalp overproducing oil to compensate for its dryness or by seborrheic dermatitis. A dry scalp is itchy and flaky and can be caused by various factors including cleansing too often, water temperature and quality, and weather. Stress, ingredients in hair care products, and use of heat when styling are other possible causes of dry scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that causes yellow to white flaky scales on the scalp and oily areas. Treatment options depend on the cause but for most this condition is chronic, requiring affected individuals to manage flareups with self-care and over-the-counter products.

A dry scalp is a common problem that often results in itchy and flaky skin. There are many possible causes, but most relate to environmental factors and personal hygiene habits. Weather conditions like hot, cold, and dry air as well as intense sunshine and wind can dry out the scalp. Using hot water in the shower or bath may feel soothing at first, but ultimately has a drying effect. Overwashing and brushing the hair and styling with high heat treatments can also irritate the scalp.

When the scalp loses moisture and dries out, the sebaceous glands may overproduce oil in an attempt to compensate. Since a dry scalp is itchy and irritated, affected individuals may be constantly touching their hair and scalp without realizing they are doing so. This constant contact exacerbates the problem and helps spread the excess oil throughout the hair. The result is often a dry scalp with greasy hair. Having greasy hair can prompt a person to wash it more frequently and vigorously, further irritating the scalp.

Another possible cause of greasy hair and dry skin on the scalp is seborrheic dermatitis. This chronic condition tends to run in families and causes itchy, red skin with yellow to white scales that flake off. It is believed to result from a combination of overproduction of oil and irritation from malessizia, a type of yeast. Other factors that influence this condition are stress, weather extremes, and obesity. Acne and oily skin appear to increase the risk of developing this problem.

For most people with dry scalp with greasy hair, no treatment strategy stops the condition permanently. Since the condition is likely chronic, most individuals establish a treatment that combines self-care and over-the-counter products specifically for dry scalp or seborrheic dermatitis. Any approach depends on a person’s skin type and the severity of his or her condition.

There are many over-the-counter shampoos for treating dry scalp and seborrheic dermatitis. Most include antifungal agents like ketoconazole or other active ingredients like selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, and coal tar. Another common ingredient is salicylic acid. It is crucial to leave these shampoos on the scalp for the full time recommended on the package label to give the active ingredient time to work. If a product loses its effectiveness over time, it is possible to alternate between two or more but if there is no change after several weeks, a prescription-strength shampoo may be required.

In addition to over-the-counter products, there is some evidence that certain home remedies help soothe both a dry scalp and greasy hair. Tea tree oil and fish oil supplements are both thought to offer relief. Another home remedy involves mixing equal parts apple cider vinegar with water, spraying the solution onto the scalp, and waiting at least 15 minutes before rinsing.

This problem of dry scalp with greasy hair does not affect an individual’s overall health and is often not the result of poor hygiene or an allergy. The most common complication is distress or embarrassment from the flaking and greasy hair. Sometimes, secondary bacterial and fungal infections can result if excessive itching causes the skin to break and bleed.

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Can having a ceiling fan on a lot of the day and being under it cause a dry scalp?

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