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Understanding Dry Scalp, Dandruff + Seborrheic Dermatitis

Understanding Dry Scalp, Dandruff + Seborrheic Dermatitis

Treating dry scalp or dandruff can be frustrating. Many people describe all scalp issues as dandruff, but this is not really accurate. Once you determine what is actually going on it is easier to target solutions. We have helped lots of people find relief for their scalp, and it all starts with identifying the issue.  Are you experiencing dry scalp, dandruff, or seborrheic dermatitis?  Learn more below: 

Dry Scalp

Dry scalp has a lot to do with dehydration + environmental issues. When you don’t drink enough water, your skin suffers, and that includes your scalp. Environmental factors like temperature canstress your scalp and result in extreme dryness + flaking.  Exacerbating factors for dry scalp are:

  • cold weather or temperature extremes (like blistering hot showers in the middle of winter, or standing too close to the wood stove which makes your scalp tingle as you warm up)
  • shampoos that are too harsh for your hair depleting your scalp’s natural barrier
  • conditioners or styling products with silicones and polymers that leave a residue which smothers and doesn’t allow the scalp to breathe

How do you know that you have dry scalp? It’s characterized by a tight, itchy feeling.

Best treatment options for Dry Scalp

  1. A Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment. Using a good quality plant oil to massage the scalp will help loosen + soften the buildup so it can be washed away. It will also balance and soothe the scalp and help restore a barrier that can retain hydration.

Try our Healthy Hair and Scalp Oil as a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment.

  1. Ditch conventional and even natural shampoos with harsh cleansers you're already familiar with such as sodium lauryl sulfate. But also be on the lookout for cocomidapropyl betaine. This ingredient was named Allergen of the Year in 2004 and has been causing reactivity in unsuspecting users for years.

Try our Shampoo + Conditioner

  1. Stop using petrochemicals like silicones that coat your hair and are impossible to wash out (originally an engine lubricant made to resist humidity) and eventually smother and break your hair. They are not letting your scalp breathe either.

Once your scalp is feeling more comfortable, make sure to keep hydrated.  To protect your scalp from the elements, wear a hat or a scarf.  Doing a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment occasionally will to help maintain the moisture balance.


While dry scalp is pretty straightforward, there are multiple types of dandruff and effective treatment depends on accurately identifying what you are experiencing.

Dandruff occurs from a combination of internal issues such as hormonal fluctuation, stress, food allergies/too much sugar/coffee, oily skin/infrequent shampooing, environmental allergies, reactivity to hair care ingredients.

There are multiple types of dandruff and effective treatment depends on accurately identifying what you are experiencing.

  • Dry Scalp Dandruff- itchy, dry scalp with little dry, white flakes due to dehydration + environmental issues
  • Sebum(Oily) Scalp Dandruff-oily, small to large white flakes due to overactive oil glands and not shampooing often and effectively
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis- oily scalp with large, white flakes + red, irritated scalp, possibly with sores
  • Fungal Dandruff-oily, large white+yellow flakes, crusting+redness

Best Treatment Options for Dandruff and Soborrheic Dermatitis:

For all types of dandruff, citric acid, when properly buffered (with baking soda or arrowroot powder), will lower the pH of your scalp and remove buildup on your hair.  Our Shampoo Booster+ Masque will refresh your scalp and hair. Some people use it by shampooing multiple days in a row, typically during a flare up related to diet or stress.  Other people use it occasionally to do a deep cleansing reset.

Some people may find that changing your shampoo, modifying your diet, or managing stress will also improve your scalp. There is growing evidence that your gut microbiome affects the microbiome of your skin. In our scalp we have a fungus called Malasseziaas well as a variety of bacteria. When things get out of balance (too much sugar, coffee, stress, etc), you may find the result is flare ups of dandruff or other skin issues like eczema or psoriasis.

For Oily Scalp Dandruff, in addition to lowering the pH with our Shampoo Booster, a salt water rinse or misting with an oil free Sea Salt Spray on your roots will help to regulate and lessen the overproduction of oil as your scalp begins to find balance again.

A word about conventional dandruff shampoos: In general, these formulations can be extremely drying in an attempt to address oil overproduction. The conventional cleansers can cause reactivity and the "active ingredient"-whether coal tar, etc may not address the type of dandruff you are experiencing.

We believe that addressing the specific issues you're experiencing and using gentle, effective products will give you the best results!

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