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The cold winter air often wreaks havoc on our skin, and your scalp is no exception. Regardless of your hair type, you may find that your scalp becomes dry, itchy, and flaky as the seasons change. Over time, dry scalp can lead to soreness and even hair loss.

Dry scalp is different from dandruff and other scalp conditions. Dry scalp is caused by a loss of moisture, and it’s characterized by white, loose, powdery flakes. Dandruff, on the other hand, results in more yellowish flakes that cling to the scalp.

Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves with dry scalp in the winter, when the air strips our skin of moisture every time we step outside. That’s OK – you just need to switch up your hair routine with the seasons.

Here’s how to bring back the healthy scalp you know and love.

1. Wash your hair less often. Shampooing your hair strips it of its natural oils, especially if you use a shampoo with sulfates. If you need to wash your hair daily, switch to a sulfate-free shampoo, a co-wash, or gentle cleanser. If possible, it’s great to wash your hair 2-3 times a week rather than daily. This allows your scalp to produce a balanced amount of oil.

2. Regular hair masks. Masks aren’t just for your face! Hair masks are excellent for minimizing flakes and dryness. Look for a mask that delivers intense hydration, and make sure to massage it into your scalp as well as your hair. You can also apply heat for more penetrating moisture.

3. Drink more water. Moisturize your skin from the inside out by drinking more water. The more hydrated that you are, the more hydrated that your skin will be, which is especially important in winter.

4. Condition properly. Always condition your hair after you shampoo – no exceptions! Also, don’t skimp on the conditioner. Your scalp needs conditioner, too, not just your hair. Massage the conditioner generously into your skin before rinsing.

5. Use oils wisely. Oil treatments can do wonders for a dry scalp, but over-using oils will do more harm than good. Try massaging olive oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil into your scalp before you shampoo. This prevents the shampoo from totally stripping your scalp of moisture, while also not leaving too much oil on the skin.

6. Relieve itchiness. When you’re experiencing extreme dryness, it’s hard to resist the urge to scratch. Reduce itchiness and inflammation with natural ingredients like tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, chamomile, and peppermint. Apple cider vinegar is another excellent option – it removes build-up and relieves itchiness while balancing your scalp’s pH and moisture level.

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