Winter weather is notorious for being unkind to lips and skin — hello, extra-ashy elbows and tubes of lip balm in every purse and pocket. But as it turns out, chilly temperatures and dry, moisture-zapping air can be a real mother for your scalp, too.
"Under all that hair, the scalp is skin like the rest of your body," board-certified dermatologist Robyn Gmyrek, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology tells Refinery29. "In the winter, when we are going from the cold outside to the dry heating inside, our scalp skin can get dried out."
That said, cold weather isn't the only culprit behind a sad scalp. "Another common reason for a flaky or irritated scalp is something called seborrheic dermatitis," board certified dermatologist and LM Medical co-founder Morgan Rabach, MD, explains. "People usually don't wash their hair as much in the winter, due to the cold, and so the yeast that lives on the scalp can build up, causing irritation."
And if you guessed that all flakes aren't created equal, you're right: "While both dryness and dandruff can make your scalp itch, the flakes in dry scalp will be dry and white and the scalp will not appear red," Dr. Gmyrek says. "In seborrheic dermatitis, the flakes are bigger, can be both white or yellow, and they look oily."
If you're dealing with a textbook dry scalp, then switching to a gentle shampoo, adding a soothing scalp treatment, and eliminating any products with alcohol should be enough to get you to a healthier place. However, if you think you're experiencing seborrheic dermatitis, the derms suggest you try a medicated shampoo (twice or three times a week should do the trick) with an active ingredient like salicylic acid, ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide.
Ahead, nine shampoos and treatments that'll get you to a less flaky place long before the sun stops setting at 4 p.m.
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