A dry scalp is characterized by itching and flaking. Even small white flakes can indicate a dry scalp. Research shows that scalp flaking is mainly caused by sebaceous activity (1). A dry and itchy scalp may also be a sign of pruritus (2). It can have multiple causes, including weather conditions, unbalanced sebum production, and improper hygiene. It can also be caused by medical conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
We know that coconut oil has some benefits for hair health. The oil is extracted from the flesh of mature coconuts and is rich in vitamins and fatty acids. It has rich antimicrobial properties. But can it also help prevent and treat a dry scalp? That is the question this article answers. Take a look.
Table Of Contents
What Causes A Dry Scalp
A dry scalp is primarily caused when there is insufficient sebum secretion. The sebaceous glands produce sebum, a complex oil containing triglycerides and fatty acids that break down into wax esters, squalene, cholesterol esters, and cholesterol. Less sebum secreted makes the scalp undernourished and leads to flaking. Inadequate sebum production can be caused by one or more of the following factors:
- Overuse Of Shampoos: Regular shampoos strip the hair of sebum and cause the scalp to go dry. Shampoos contain surfactants like SLS that also strip hair of its natural oils. Most shampoos have a higher pH level that could cause scalp irritation and, eventually, dry scalp.
- Fungal And Bacterial Infections: Fungal and bacterial infections can lead to itching and a dry scalp.
- Nutrient Deficiencies: Scalp that is not nourished with the right amount of vitamins, fatty acids, and other nutrients can have too little sebum produced. This also can cause it to go dry.
- Weather Conditions: Excess heat or cold temperatures can cause the scalp to dry up quickly.
- Overuse Of Styling Products: Thermal damage from styling tools like blow-dryers, flat irons, straighteners, and curlers can leave hair feeling depleted and the scalp dry.
- Hair Dyes And Colors: Excess use of chemical hair dyes and colors can cause the scalp to go dry.
- Improper Hair Care Routine: Not giving your hair proper care can cause a dry scalp. Your scalp loses its moisture if you do not opt for oil massages, deep conditioning, and hot oil treatments, or if you do not wash your hair regularly.
Though dry scalp can often feel like dandruff, both conditions have certain fundamental differences.
Dry Scalp Vs. Dandruff: What Is The Difference?
Dry scalp produces smaller white flakes, while dandruff is characterized by large yellowish oily flakes. Overproduction of sebum creates an oily scalp and causes dandruff. The underproduction of sebum causes the scalp to dry out, flake, and itch.
Dandruff is caused by a fungal infection, while a dry scalp can be caused by pre-existing skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, weather conditions, or even excessive washing. Both conditions can aggravate if not treated. They may also lead to redness or bumps on the scalp.
The best treatment for dandruff involves the use of anti-dandruff shampoos. The ideal treatment for a dry scalp is adequate moisturization with deep conditioners, oils, and hair masks.
Taking care of your hair, in a way, may also help treat dry scalp. We all know coconut oil to be beneficial to hair. But how does it work? We have discussed the same briefly in the following section.
Coconut Oil Benefits For Hair
- Is Rich In Nutrients: Coconut oil is enriched with proteins, lauric acid, capric acid, and essential nutrients like vitamins E and K.
- Deep Conditions Hair: Research shows that coconut oil can penetrate the hair shafts and the scalp and deeply condition them (3). It is a deep conditioning ingredient that will moisturize the scalp and prevent dryness.
- Has Anti-fungal Properties: Coconut oil has anti-fungal properties that prevent fungal infections like dandruff from affecting the scalp (4). A study showed that virgin coconut oil could penetrate the hair shaft to disintegrate the dandruff-causing fungi (5).
- Has Antimicrobial Properties: The oil also has antimicrobial properties that keep the scalp clean and promote healthy scalp and hair conditions (6).
- Improves Hair Health: A study conducted in Palestine showed that coconut oil prevents split ends, hair damage, hair loss, and baldness. Coconut oil may also enhance hair color pigment (7).
- Prevents Protein Loss: Coconut oil has been found to prevent protein loss in virgin and bleached hair (3).
- Offers UV Protection: Coconut oil protects the hair from UV damage. It also prevents heat damage caused by heat styling tools.
- Prevents Lice: Coconut oil protects the scalp and prevents lice and its eggs from infesting the scalp (8).
Let us now see how coconut oil could be beneficial for dry scalp.
Is Coconut Oil Good For Dry Scalp: What Does Science Say?
Coconut oil can be used to promote scalp health. It keeps dandruff off from a chronically dry scalp and keeps the scalp clean (8).
- Coconut oil is an excellent conditioner (3). It can moisturize the scalp and prevent dryness.
- It has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties that keep the scalp clean and infection-free (4), (6).
- Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent any irritation or redness and soothe the scalp (9).
- Coconut oil can protect the hair and scalp from damage, sealing moisture, and offering moisture balance (10), (11).
You can use coconut oil in certain methods to achieve maximum benefit. We have highlighted them below.
How Should You Use Coconut Oil To Treat A Dry Scalp?
- Scalp Massage And Hot Oil Treatment: Massage your scalp with some hot (not boiling) coconut oil. This stimulates better circulation and keeps the scalp well moisturized.
- Hair Masks: Add coconut oil to hair masks to get the most of its benefits. Pair the oil with eggs and honey for a deep moisturizing treatment.
- Coconut Oil Hair Products: Using shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products formulated with coconut oil may prevent the hair and scalp from being stripped dry.
- Coconut oil As A Pre-Wash: Using coconut oil as a pre-wash before any coloring or chemical treatment may protect the scalp from dryness and prevent any protein loss.
- Coconut Oil Heat Protectant: Before using any styling tools, apply a little coconut oil to protect hair from heat damage. The oil coats and seals the hair strands and keeps the hair and scalp from drying.
Coconut oil is safe when used topically but, they also have some adverse effects.
Side Effects Of Coconut Oil
The topical application of coconut oil is mostly considered safe. If your skin becomes red or irritated, please consult a doctor before applying any more coconut oil. If you have sensitive skin, you may also do a patch test initially.
Dry scalp can aggravate if not treated on time. Coconut oil, as we saw, can play a major role in this regard. Using it regularly along with the right diet, sleep patterns, and exercise can promote hair and scalp health. We believe this article has given you enough information to start using coconut oil today.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
What type of shampoos to use for a dry scalp?
You may use conditioning shampoos as they moisturize and cleanse the scalp. Conditioning shampoos contain anionic surfactants that are not as strong as regular shampoo surfactants. They clean the scalp without making it dry and irritated.
How long can I leave coconut oil on my hair?
Coconut oil is safe to be left on hair overnight too. You can opt for either overnight hair masks that keep the scalp well-nourished or regular hair masks that prevent scalp dryness. Make sure to wash your hair thoroughly, as the oil can cause scalp build-up.
- The Role of Sebaceous Gland Activity and Scalp Microfloral Metabolism in the Etiology of Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff
- A Practical Guide to Scalp Disorders
- Effects Of Mineral Oil, Sunflower Oil And Coconut Oil On Hair Damage, Journal Of Cosmetic Science, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes Of Health.
- Antimicrobial Effects Of Virgin Coconut Oil And Its Medium-chain Fatty Acids On Clostridium Difficile, Journal Of Medicinal Food, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes Of Health.
- In Vitro Antimicrobial Properties Of Coconut Oil On Candida Species In Ibadan, Nigeria, Journal Of Medicinal Food, Us National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes Of Health.
- Effect Of Addition Of Antifungal Agents On Physical And Biological Properties Of A Tissue Conditioner: An In-vitro Study, Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes Of Health.
- Ethnopharmacological Survey Of Home Remedies Used For Treatment Of Hair And Scalp And Their Methods Of Preparation In The West Bank-palestine, Bmc Complementary And Alternative Medicine. US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes Of Health.
- Medicinal benefit of coconut oil.
- Determination of Effectiveness Traditional Cosmetics of Coconut Oil and Turmeric as Anti-Dandruff, Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Social, Applied Science, and Technology in Home Economics (ICONHOMECS 2019),
- Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage,
- Effect of oil films on moisture vapor absorption on human hair,
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