Dry Scalp In Winter: How To Soothe Your Itchy, Flakey Head

Medically reviewedby Edna Skopljak M.D.
WrittenbyLiza Schermann
Last updated

During the winter season, you might see excessive flakes on your scalp, and dandruff might be the first thing to pop into your mind. Even though they may look the same, a flaky scalp often results from the intense dryness associated with the cold, while dandruff is more about pathological conditions.

This blog will help you distinguish the two conditions: dandruff and flaky scalp so that you can have proper care for your scalp through the winter months. What's more? You can find three simple yet effective DIY oil that you can try at home to alleviate the dry scalp condition.



During winter, it's common to experience a flaky scalp due to reduced oil production and dry conditions. Flaky scalp results from dryness, while dandruff is linked to oily skin and skin conditions.

To combat flaky winter scalps, use hair products with hydrating ingredients like tea tree, mint, argan, coconut, or jojoba oils, along with oatmeal and vitamin E. Proper hair-washing methods, like using lukewarm water and finishing with a cold rinse, can help retain moisture.

Scalp massagers can exfoliate dead skin, reducing flakes. Be cautious of treatments that cause irritation.

In conclusion, maintaining a flake-free scalp during winter involves proper care and using the right products. Discontinue if irritation occurs, and seek professional guidance when needed.


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Flaky Scalp vs Dandruff

Both dandruff and a flaky scalp cause flakes and itch on the scalp. Thus, many people do not know from which condition they are suffering. However, there are still differences between them, which enable us to tell and distinguish these two conditions.

Regarding their appearance, flakes coming from the dry scalp condition are smaller and look dry (well, obviously!). Meanwhile, dandruff flakes are big and oily with a yellow or white colour.

best dry scalp treatment

Regarding the cause, dandruff occurs due to excessive oil on your scalp, leading to a buildup of dead skin cells. And then itching feeling and flakes emerge. Several reasons that induce dandruff include fungus, oily skin, hormonal imbalances, stressors, or dirty hair. Besides, dermatitis or other pathological skin conditions might also contribute to dandruff.

Contrarily, the flaky scalp has more to do with an overly dry scalp. Dryness will happen when your scalp lacks oil, resulting in itching and flaking. It is an alarm signal that your scalp needs more moisture.

Also, the dry scalp can worsen if you already suffer from dry skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or under cold weather, or when you use products that dry out your scalp.

Why Does The Flaky Condition Happen In The Wintertime?

As mentioned before, the flaky scalp condition is seen as a consequence of dry skin, resulting from different underlying ailments or physical environment-related factors.

Besides some persistent scalp diseases that may dry out the scalp and cause scaly patches, such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis, in the cold season, air humidity plays a major role in inducing a dry scalp.

We all know that dry conditions are prevalent in wintertime, resulting from the cold air outside and indoor heating. Thus, it is common to experience dryness and irritation on the body’s skin and scalp. To make things worse, in winter, the level of oil production by oil glands decreases in most body parts, including the scalp, which eventually causes flaking off.

best dry scalp treatment

But not all scalps would go through wintertime in the same way.

Studies have reported a link between the scalp’s sensitivity with its dryness. Indeed, one study found that 60% of reported dry scalp is sensitive or very sensitive.

Scalp sensitivity is quite diverse and depends broadly on scalp characteristics. It is a symptom of noticeable irritation or discomfort to the scalp without an immune response, which happens due to changes in the living environment, air pollution, your daily diet, and stress.

Read more about scalp disorders and diseases.

best dry scalp treatment

How to Avoid Flaky Scalps in Wintertime?

The best dry scalp treatment can include ingredients that hydrate, nourish, and repair the scalp issue. Besides, hair products including oil from tea trees, mints, argan, coconut, or jojoba can effectively increase the moisture on your scalp. Oatmeal and Vitamin E are also good options for soothing dry and irritated scalps.

Treatments for dry scalp typically come in the forms of shampoos and conditioners, but hair masks, scalp treatments, moisturising lotion, and serums are also beneficial. They altogether can nourish your scalp and reduce the number of white flakes. However, when experiencing any pain, redness, or increased irritation, stopping using those products is a must to prevent further issues for your hair and scalp.

One suggested way to improve the flaky scalp condition is using a proper hair-washing method to enhance the moisturisation of the scalp. Avoid hot showers as they could further dehydrate your scalp and hair. Instead, keep the water lukewarm during shampooing, and wash off the conditioner with cold water to effectively retain moisture.

Last but not least, a scalp massager can assist in exfoliating and rubbing off dead skin from your scalp. Thanks to soft silicone or synthetic bristles, the massager helps relax the scalp and buffs away dry and flaky skin, followed by a decrease in the number of flakes. Also, it provides a clean canvas to enhance the positive effects of the application of hair serums or other hair products later on.

best dry shampoo for colored hair

DIY Recipes For Quick Dry Scalp Relief

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a topical remedy for yeast, fungus, and skin-related conditions such as seborrhea, psoriasis (reduces redness and scaling), eczema (stops itching and reduces redness), and dermatitis.


  • 2 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 2 drops of Tea Tree essential oil

Mix well then apply directly to your scalp. Leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing and shampooing.

Coconut Oil with Peppermint

Mint has been recognized as an anti-itch treatment for the skin and can alleviate dermatological problems. Besides, this mixture also is the best dry scalp treatment thanks to the emollient attribute of coconut oil.


  • 2 tablespoons of Coconut oil
  • 2 drops of Peppermint essential oil

Mix well then apply directly to your scalp. Leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing and shampooing.

Avocado Paste

It is an effective moisturiser for sensitive skin. Studies indicate that avocado oil can increase collagen production, which keeps the skin moist and smooth.


  • Small ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Mash the ripe avocado until it becomes a paste and mix with the oil and honey. Apply directly to your scalp. Leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing and shampooing.

Bonus: Tea Tree Oil for Itchy Scalp

With an extra kick from the tea tree oil, this mixture will effectively soothe the itchiness while providing much-needed moisture for your scalp.


  • 1 tablespoon of Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 drops of Tea Tree essential oil

Although dandruff and dry scalp induce flakes and itch, they are two distinct matters. The prior occurs due to excessive oil; meanwhile, the latter results from a lack of oil production.

The flaky condition of the scalp is associated with dryness, resulting from skin diseases or physical-related factors, including the winter cold. During wintertime, the outside cold and indoor heating during the winter months can induce dryness and irritation on your skin and scalp. When a dry scalp happens, flakes emerge and worsen if not treated properly. Also, as your scalp becomes more sensitive thanks to changes in your living environments or daily routines, a dry scalp can happen.

To deal with a flaky scalp, you might need to use suitable treatments such as applying hair products with specific ingredients to increase scalp moisture, using a scalp massager to gently exfoliate dead skin, or following a proper washing method.


The information we provide is not intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, cure or diagnose any disease or condition. If you have any concerns about your health, please consult your doctor.



Kim, S., Shin, S., Kim, S.-N. and Na, Y. (2021) Understanding the Characteristics of the Scalp for Developing Scalp Care Products. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, 11, 204-216. https://doi.org/10.4236/jcdsa.2021.113018

Godse, K., & Zawar, V. (2012). Sensitive scalp. International journal of trichology, 4(2), 102–104. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.96905

Love, C. (2021, Jul 27). Dandruff vs. dry scalp: Differences and best treatments. BestReviews, San Francisco.

Oshima, M., et al. (2014) Improvement of Scalp Condition and Quality of Life through Proper Skin Care of Dry Scalp. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences, and Applications, 4, 284-292. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jcdsa.2014.44038

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