Dry Hair: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

What Is Dry Hair?

Dry hair is when your scalp doesn’t make enough oil to moisturize your hair, or your hair lets the moisture escape.

Dry Hair Symptoms

You might notice that your hair is:

  • Dull
  • Brittle
  • Frizzy

Dry Hair Causes

Dry hair can result from:

  • Dry scalp. Your hair has no natural lubrication. It relies on oils made in its roots to keep it moisturized. Since the roots are under your skin, dry scalp goes along with dry hair. Dry scalp peels and sheds, leading to dandruff flakes on your shoulders.
  • Age. As you get older, your hair makes less oil. Hormone changes after menopause can also lead to dry hair.
  • Environmental conditions. These include a dry, hot climate, frequent sun and wind exposure, and frequent exposure to chlorinated or salty water.
  • Lack of protection. Each strand of healthy hair has a protective layer called the cuticle. Just as shingles shield your home from rain and sun damage, the cuticle protects your hair from heat and sun damage. In a healthy cuticle, the layers lie tightly together and keep moisture in. When a cuticle’s layers separate and peel away from hair, it can’t hold moisture and some oil escapes.
  • Home hair care. This can include:
    • Washing your hair too often
    • Using a harsh shampoo
    • Blow-drying your hair too often
    • Heat damage from straighteners or a curling iron
    • Harsh chemicals like dyes, perms, and relaxers
  • Health problems. Conditions that can lead to hair loss include:

If your dry hair occurs with fatigue, intolerance to cold, weakness, or hair loss, see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a health problem.

Dry Hair Treatments and Home Remedies

  • Wash your hair less often. You may be able to get away with washing once or twice a week instead of every day. (Many people can.) As a bonus, when you shampoo less frequently, you won't need to blow-dry and heat-style your hair as much.
  • Use a mild shampoo. Products made specifically to help dry hair will have fewer drying detergents.
  • Use a conditioner. Choose a moisturizing conditioner. It’ll keep hair cuticles lying flat so they hold in natural oils.
  • Avoid alcohol. It dries out your hair, so choose hair products without it.
  • Use natural oils. Massage hair with coconut or jojoba oil.
  • Try a professional deep conditioning. If none of the options above helps, ask your stylist about this treatment.
  • Trim split ends. They contribute to that frizzy look and feel. Removing them can make hair feel smoother.
  • Take your vitamins (and minerals). Iron, vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12, and selenium can help keep your hair healthy.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 09, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Scali-Sheahan, M. Milady's Standard Professional Barbering, Cengage Learning, 2010.

Palladino, L. Hairdressing -- the Foundations: The Official Guide to Level 2, Cengage Learning EMEA, 2006.

Capellini, S. The Complete Spa Book for Massage Therapists, Cengage Learning, 2009.

Campsie, J. Marie Claire Hair & Makeup, Sterling Publishing Company, 2006.

KidsHealth.org: "Skin, Hair, and Nails."

International Journal of Trichology: “A Comment on the Science of Hair Aging,” “Essentials of hair care often neglected: Hair cleansing.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison: “Eating Disorders.”

National Organization for Rare Disorders: “Hypoparathyroidism.”

American Thyroid Association: “Hypothyroidism (Underactive).”

Indian Journal of Dermatology: “Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know?”

Dermatology and Therapy: “The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review.”

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