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How To Moisturize Your Scalp and Strands: 4 Expert Tips

Knowing how to moisturize your scalp and hair is crucial. Here at Kiehl’s, discover four expert tips for managing a dry scalp.

Itchiness, flaking, discomfort—a dry scalp can be, quite frankly, a buzzkill. Annoying side effects notwithstanding, occasional dryness isn’t generally cause for concern, so long as you know how to moisturize your scalp. The thing is, moisturizing a dry scalp without making your roots look limp and greasy is a bit more challenging than you’d think–it’s not as easy as just slapping some conditioner on and calling it a day. And the same is true of using hair moisturizers to address dry hair.

To get some more insight on how to care for a dry scalp and strands, we tapped expert hairstylist Dhiran Mistry. Ahead, you’ll learn what can cause a dry scalp and hair and discover how to moisturize your scalp (without weighing down your hair). Read on to learn Mistry’s expert tips for nourished, healthy-feeling hair from root to tip.

What Causes a Dry Scalp?

In general, Mistry says, “there’s a huge correlation between” skin type and scalp type—which means that if you have dry skin, there’s a good chance your scalp may be prone to some dryness as well. But those with naturally dry skin aren’t the only ones who can get a dry scalp. Dryness occurs when the skin lacks enough oil, and that can be caused by any number of factors including over-washing, harsh weather, and exposure to stressors, like hair dyes or other chemicals.

Also important to note is that while a dry scalp and dandruff may share similar characteristics, they’re not the same, Mistry says. A dry scalp is, as we explained, caused by a lack of oil, while dandruff usually occurs with an excess of oil. So if your scalp is flaky and you’re not sure why, you may want to consider visiting a dermatologist to rule out dandruff as the cause.

What Causes Dry Hair?

Dry hair, like dry skin, can have a number of causes. When the hair is healthy, each strand is surrounded by a thin layer of lipids that help keep the hair’s outermost layer (the cuticle) smooth and intact. These oils, Mistry says, “come from the scalp.” If your scalp is excessively dry, he explains, “then those hairs that are coming from it aren’t going to be as moisturized as they could be.” Exposure to stressors, such as bleach, hair dye, and strong detergents, can also damage (or even strip away) your hair’s protective outer layer, leaving your hair dry and brittle.

How To Moisturize a Dry Scalp and Hair

While a lot of things can dry out your scalp and hair, the good news is that proper hair and scalp care can help keep your strands and scalp moisturized. Here, learn four expert tips for moisturizing your scalp and hair.

Tip #1:

Incorporate Scalp Treatments Into Your Regular Routine

For those prone to a dry scalp, Mistry recommends exfoliating your scalp “every so often” to help remove buildup and dead skin that can prevent moisturizing treatments from absorbing properly. We recommend Amino Acid Scalp Scrub Detox Treatment, which contains sea salt, salicylic acid, and a carefully-curated blend of 10 amino acids. The sulfate-free formula helps slough away dead skin and product buildup for a deep yet non-drying clean. It’s suitable for all hair and scalp types and can be used once weekly in place of shampoo for a fresh, balanced-feeling scalp.

Amino Acid Moisture-Restoring Dry Scalp Treatment

After exfoliating your scalp, replenish moisture with a scalp mask, like Amino Acid Moisture-Restoring Dry Scalp Treatment. Formulated with coconut oil (an oil Mistry says is “great” for the scalp) and amino acids, this creamy mask deeply moisturizes the scalp without weighing down your roots. It also helps protect your scalp and strands against the harsh effects of aggressors like heat and hard water for long-lasting comfort and moisture. We recommend using this mask at least once a week for the best results. Apply it directly to your scalp and finger-comb the rich formula through your strands. After three to five minutes, rinse the mask out thoroughly with lukewarm water and gently towel-dry your hair.

Tip #2:

Use a Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner

If your scalp is frequently dry or tight-feeling, your shampoo may be the culprit. Mistry says that harsh shampoos can “strip all the oils out” of your hair and scalp, leaving both feeling drier. Instead, he recommends using a moisturizing formula that’ll cleanse without stripping your hair. Our pick: Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil Shampoo. The creamy, olive oil-infused shampoo gently cleanses and instantly moisturizes the hair and helps restore your hair’s healthy appearance. After lathering up (and rinsing), condition your mane with the coordinating Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil Conditioner, which contains olive oil and avocado oil. The lightweight formula moisturizes and conditions dry hair, leaving it supple, shiny, and healthy-looking.

Magic Elixir

To reap the beauty benefits of oils, we suggest reaching for targeted hair and scalp products formulated with oils, such as our classic Magic Elixir. The lightweight pre-shampoo treatment softens hair and adds shine while immediately helping the scalp and hair feel more moisturized. To use it, massage several drops of the sulfate-free formula onto your dry scalp and hair before showering. Wait up to ten minutes (perhaps give yourself a relaxing scalp massage while you wait), then hop in the shower, rinse thoroughly, and proceed with your normal haircare routine.

Tip #3:

Don’t Be Afraid To Use Oils

The thought of putting oil on your hair can be intimidating—nobody wants greasy roots. But used properly, oils can be a useful tool in your hair and scalp care arsenal. Mistry notes that coconut oil, tea tree oil, and jojoba oil “are all great, beneficial oils for the scalp.”

Tip #4:

Replenish Your Strands With a Weekly Hair Mask

Olive Fruit Oil Deeply Repairative Hair Mask

Just as a scalp mask can be a useful part of your haircare routine, so can hair masks. Like conditioners, hair masks moisturize and help soften the hair, making it feel silkier and more manageable. They tend to be more intense hair moisturizers than conditioners, however. As for which hair mask is best for dry hair, we suggest Olive Fruit Oil Deeply Repairative Hair Mask. The rich treatment for dry, damaged hair provides intensive moisture and helps strengthen brittle strands. When used consistently, it also helps protect your hair from damaging external stressors. We recommend applying it to damp hair from the ends up (avoiding your scalp if you want to minimize the potential for greasy roots) and leaving it on for a minimum of three minutes for the best results. Once you’re ready, rinse thoroughly and gently towel-dry your hair for nourished, shiny-looking strands.

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