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How to treat a very dry scalp

When the natural protective mechanism of the scalp and hair is insufficient, the scalp becomes uncomfortable. As a result, the hair becomes dry, dull, porous and fragile. It feels rough to the touch.

What are the signs of a very dry scalp?

In Europe, 34% of women report having dry hair. And only half of them associate this symptom with a scalp problem (17% of women report having a dry scalp).

The sensations of a very dry scalp are characterized by extreme discomfort (the scalp is tight and stiff) and tightness or even mild itching.

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People suffering from a dry scalp complain that their hair is "like straw."

The hair is rough to the touch, split because of its fragile mechanical properties. The hair is unmanageable because it tangles and is very difficult to style.

Unlike an oily scalp or dandruff, a dry scalp is not seen as a major problem, but mainly as an aesthetic issue and an uncomfortable inconvenience.

The causes of a dry scalp

The causes of extreme scalp and hair dryness are numerous and involve very different mechanisms.

Broadly speaking, some scalps can be considered very dry by nature due to a "constitutional" lack of physiological lubrication. Other very dry scalps, on the other hand, are the result of traumatic chemical treatments (harsh and/or ill-suited hair care) and aggressive external conditions.

We can thus distinguish two types of causes: internal or external.

The main internal causes often associated with very dry hair are:

  • a natural deficiency of sebaceous secretions by the sebaceous gland at the level of the scalp, i.e. an endocrine insufficiency
  • a small sebaceous gland size (as in the case of frizzy hair)
  • poor irrigation of the scalp
  • age: cell renewal at the root of the scalp decreases and dryness increases with time
  • heredity
  • stress
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The external causes, which are by far the most frequent, concern:

  • mechanical trauma: styling, overly hot hair dryers, aggressive brushing, etc.
  • chemical treatments: aggressive styling products, dyes, bleaching, perms, etc.
  • environmental imbalances: sun, wind, sea water, swimming pools, pollution, UV rays, etc.

Whether the causes are external or internal, it’s a significant deficit in sebum secretion that leads to the most intense cases of scalp and hair dryness.

Natural protection mechanisms against scalp undernourishment

The natural protection of the scalp’s epidermis, like that of the hair, is mainly provided by two systems: the hydrolipidic film and the intercellular cement.

The hydrolipidic film

The surface of the hair and scalp is not in direct contact with the external environment. It’s covered by a protective layer, a protective film with a slightly acidic pH called the hydrolipidic film (HLF). This is a real natural barrier that covers both the scalp and the hair shaft.

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This film consists of two phases:

  • an aqueous phase resulting from permanent perspiration from transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and occasionally from sweating;
  • a lipidic phase from sebum and lipids from the epidermis.

The HLF is responsible for the quality of the outer appearance of the scalp and hair, as it protects them in several ways.

First and foremost, it contributes to the constitution of the skin barrier that combats the penetration of foreign substances. It therefore protects the scalp from various external aggressions (UV rays, pollution, etc.).

It also regulates hydration by preventing the escape of essential moisturizing and nourishing elements. It thus enables substances with an affinity for water to be maintained in the stratum corneum cells.

The intercellular cement

The intercellular cement is naturally rich in lipids. Its integrity ensures the cohesion of the cells:

  • of the hair: in particular the keratinocytes and the melanin grains.
  • of the scalp: the corneocytes, dead cells filled with keratin which constitute the stratum corneum of the epidermis (the most superficial layer).
  • within the tissues and the hydration of the superficial layers of the epidermis.

It is therefore present in both the scalp and the hair.

The intercellular cement is composed of several classes of lipids, of which 40-50% are ceramides, which allow the control of transepidermal water loss (TEWL, the natural diffusion of water from the dermis to the surface). Their bilayer structure lowers the permeability to water and solubles. It thus protects the skin barrier and regulates hydration.

But this protection, although double, is still fragile...

If the physiological barrier is altered, transepidermal water loss accelerates, making the scalp dry or very dry.

How to treat a very dry scalp

Very dry scalps and hair need special hair care products that nourish them from the inside out and strengthen their structure over the long term.

The demand for shampoos and hair care products for dry and very dry hair is increasing. The growing use of coloring techniques, perms or straightening is damaging the hair fiber. The hair is therefore often more brittle, dull, coarse...

In the situation of a very dry scalp, it is the health of the hair that is really threatened. The scalp’s protective barrier must be reconstituted to slow down this evaporation process.

The fundamental role of lipids in the cohesion of scalp and hair cells must be called upon. Proper cell cohesion obviously reinforces the barrier effect.

An effective treatment for very dry scalps and hair will therefore have to be full of nourishing active ingredients to compensate for their lipid deficiency. It will:

  • repair the skin barrier consisting of the HLF and intercellular cement;
  • restore the ability to attract, retain and redistribute water.
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In order to alleviate this discomfort and to maintain good aesthetic qualities for a long time, very dry scalps and hair need specific and adapted hair care products. They must deeply nourish the scalp, while restructuring and strengthening the hair fiber.

For a long time, hydration was considered a passive phenomenon: water was prevented from evaporating with humectants. However, supplying water to the scalp and hair alone cannot improve their condition. As soon as it’s applied to the scalp and hair, the water alone evaporates without any long-term moisturizing effect being observed.

 Encouraging the supply of essential fatty acids can at the same time:

  • strengthen the hydrolipidic barrier of the hair and scalp on the surface with triglycerides;
  • strengthen, deep down, the intercellular cement with sterols. 

Dry scalps are waiting for a beneficial treatment that will provide them with intense nourishment.

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Among the natural active ingredients that can meet the intense needs of a dry scalp, shea butter is one of the most effective.

With its exceptional nourishing properties, it provides the scalp with all the lipids that are essential to the various components of the hair fiber and to reconstituting the hydrolipidic film. Nourishment is thus maintained without weighing down the hair.

Naturally rich in fatty acids, vitamins A and E, the thick waxes of shea butter intensely protect dry areas. They fuse within the hair to replenish and strengthen it deeply.

Cimentrio, derived from soy, is a natural complex that reproduces the action of intercellular cement. It can compensate for its deficiency and acts to restore and strengthen the cohesion of the scales. By filling in gaps and split ends, it visibly improves the appearance and quality of the hair.

The two active ingredients combined are one of the strongest allies for dry scalps and hair.

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Dry and very dry scalp: useful tips

Tip 1: do not hesitate to apply your treatment directly to the scalp.

Tip 2: on very dry hair, leave your treatment on overnight.

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