What is Dandruff and How to treat a dry, flakey or itchy scalp when you have Locks

Itchy scalp is a common condition and has a wide range of causes. There is so much conflicting information out there when it comes to products we should and should not use on locks that it can seem like a minefield and cause us anxiety that god forbid we should make the wrong decision and ‘ruin’ our locks! The truth is, different lotions and potions will work differently on one person to the next. That being said, i wanted to lay down for you a few treatments that you can use on your scalp if you are affected by dry, flakey or itchiness that is driving you up the wall.

According to a recent survey by the British Skin Foundation in conjunction with dandruff shampoo maker Head & Shoulders, a third of people avoid social situations due to uncontrolled dandruff! The most important thing to remember is not to panic. Easier said than done though right! In addition to this, please do not feel like your locks will not survive if you do not choose the correct treatment. Let me tell you that, like you, they are stronger and more resiliant than you think. If you are at your wits end, take a punt and try some of the following remedies before giving up on them all together.

But first, here are a few causes of the dreaded flakes!

  • Seborrheic dermatitis - A common skin disease that causes an itchy rash with flaky scales AKA Dandruff. This can be the result of stress, seasonal changes, fluctuating hormones, or an overgrowth of yeast on the skin. Dandruff can be caused by a scalp that’s too dry, oily hair, and a variety of skin conditions.

  • autoimmune disorders, such as psoriasis

  • allergic reaction to a product such as hair dye or a chemical coating on hair extensions

  • eczema

  • stress or anxiety

Delicious… So what can we do to ease, treat or prevent the symptoms of some of these conditions?

Spend More Time Shampooing

If you’re suffering from dandruff you may need to wash your locks more frequently to exfoliate the scales. In mild cases, Elemental locks Ginger shampoo can work wonders but it would need to be washed on a weekly basis. Shampooing more frequently not only helps to treat dandruff but it is also essential in preventing it. Any style that isn’t washed on a regular basis, such as extensions, braids, dreads, or wearing wigs often can cause dandruff so you may need to spend extra time on your hair hygiene process.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties! It can help reduce itching caused by dry skin as it restores your skin and hair back to a more natural PH. Try diluting apple cider vinegar in warm water and using it as a rinse after shampooing to alleviate dandruff and an itchy scalp.

Cantu Root rinse is a product I really rate for freshening up yur scalp in between washes. it is made with apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil and shea butter which all work great at keeping your scalp moisturised and healthy. It contains 0 mineral oil, sulfates, parabens, silicones, phthalates, gluten, paraffin or propylene and soothes itching and irritation.


It may not surprise you that activities which reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga or pilates, may be effective at eliminating itchy scalps caused by anxiety. Being in a negative mental space can worsen skin conditions, including those that appear on the scalp. For sure fretting about the itch can make it worse making the symptoms more visible which freaks you out even more. You could try a medidtation app or class alongside other scalp treatments to take a more hollistic approach to treating the condition.

Healthy Diet

Having a healthy diet works wonders for keeping your head and hair healthy. Reducing bad fats in your diet, particularly chocolate and dairy can help as these cause more oil production on the skin, exacerbating dandruff. A deficiency of Vit B can cause dandruff so increase your intake there, as well as foods containing good oils, such as green vegetables, protein, and grains.

Organic coconut oil

Organic coconut oil is naturally extracted from mature coconuts. It contains Lauric acid, a saturated fat that has antimicrobial properties. Lauric acid helps the skin absorb coconut oil efficiently. This makes it a soothing treatment for itchy scalp.

Coconut oil may be helpful for itchy scalps caused by eczema although it isn’t necessarily for everyone. When i tried organic coconut oil on a patch of dry skin on my face i broke out in spots which was not ideal. However, ive spoken to others who swear by it! Just use sparingly in conjunction with a regular cleansing regime.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. The Tea tree can help reduce itching associated with dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and head lice. Tea tree oil can also be irritating and drying to the skin, so it’s important to dilute it prior to use.

Try adding 10 tea tree oil to a gentle shampoo or mix it with olive oil and massage it directly into your scalp avoiding your locks.

Medicated shampoos containing ingredients like like Zinc Pyrithione and Salicylic acid

Apparently there have been studies that found people with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis have more than double the amount of histamine on their scalps than those without any itchy scalp symptoms. When they analysed the effect of shampoos containing zinc Pyrithione, participants with scalp itch who used it had a significant reduction in intensity of the itch.

There are several brands out there that contain this Zinc Pyrithione including head and shoulders which I don’t particularly endorse for use with dreads as it contains a lot of other ingredients that cause a terrible build up. It would be best to find a formula that is clear in colour as opposed to pearlescent or creamy as the creamy products tend to have more moisturising ingredients in them that may cause build up or residue in your locks!

Salicylic acid is a miracle ingredient when treating skin conditions like acne and I personally swear by my daily salicylic acid face wash, but Shampoos containing salicylic acid are just as effective at treating itchy scalp caused by psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis! Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid found in evergreen leaves and white willow tree bark so comes from a natural source. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and gently exfoliates the skin which may make it particularly effective for the scaly, itchy patches. Be aware that salicylic acid shouldn’t be used by anyone with an allergy to aspirin.

So there you have it! Flakey scalp 101. Hopefully that is enough to get you started if you have locks and are looking for a solution to a dandruff problem. If you have any other suggestions or home remedies I would love to hear about them. Maybe I can add them to the list!

If you would like to try the Elemental Locks Dread shampoo or the cantu root rinse, please visit our store, and stay tuned for more additions while we search for even more awesome locks products.

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