How to Moisturize the Scalp

Hair care
Incorporate moisturizing the scalp into your daily haircare routine. See more pictures of personal hygiene practices.
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When you're working to keep your skin healthy and moisturized, there's one part of your body that you might be forgetting: your scalp. For most people, the scalp is hard to see because it's covered by hair, so it can be easy to forget that it needs care, too. Daily shampooing and conditioning might be enough for healthy hair, but sometimes the scalp needs a little extra treatment and moisturizing.

Your scalp could need moisturizing for a variety of reasons. For example, if you tend to have dry skin, it's likely that your scalp could be dry, too. You could also have a condition called scalp psoriasis, which consists of plaque or scales that can result in white flaking that looks like dandruff [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. On the flip side, if you have oily skin, you might be prone to a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which leaves oily, waxy patches on your scalp [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. And then there's one of the most common problems associated with the scalp: dandruff.


Dandruff can be caused by a number of different factors, including an overly oily scalp, an overly dry scalp and even skin conditions such as eczema and contact dermatitis [source: Mayo Clinic].

For more information about dandruff, read Dandruff: Fast Facts.

Regardless of the reason your scalp might need moisture, there are many things you can do to add back some protective hydration. Reducing the number of products that you use in your hair is a good first step. Using oils to treat your scalp is another. Find out more about scalp oils and how they work on the next page.


Scalp Oils

If you're looking for the right way to moisturize a dry scalp, know that the answer doesn't always lie with shampoos and conditioners. Scalp oils help to moisturize your scalp, and they can even work better than moisturizing products do in some cases. Your body keeps your skin moisturized naturally by secreting oil called sebum through glands in your skin. However, sometimes the skin doesn't produce as much sebum as it should, which leads to dryness. Special oil products help to make up for this deficit and keep the scalp lubricated so that it doesn't dry out.

Oil will stay on skin longer than a moisturizing cream or lotion will, which is why it works well as a treatment for dry scalp. One of the most common oils used to moisturize the scalp is jojoba oil. Other popular scalp oils to use include various mineral oils, cod liver oil and coconut oil.


Many of the scalp oil products on the market today have a mixture of natural oils, antioxidants and glycerin to protect your hair [source: Cosmetics and Toiletries]. These products can provide treatment for both your scalp and your hair, and you can find them at most spas or beauty supply stores.

Scalp oils might seem like a simple solution to dry scalp, but you're probably wondering how to use them without getting your hair too greasy. And, if you have oily hair, you might be concerned about adding more oil to the equation. Read on to find out how to moisturize your scalp while maintaining soft, clean hair.


Moisturizing the Scalp without Making Hair Greasy

Moisturizing your skin is a pretty simple process -- you apply a product to keep it feeling soft and smooth. Moisturizing your scalp is a bit more complex, especially if you have a lot of hair, but it can improve the health of your scalp as well as your hair. Here are a few tips on how to keep your scalp moisturized without making your hair look too greasy.

The first step is to learn how to avoid getting the oil in your hair as you apply it to the scalp. One method is to wet your hair so that it won't absorb the oil easily, and then use a cotton ball to dab the oil directly onto the scalp so that it doesn't run through the rest of your hair. After a few minutes, shampoo and rinse the oil out thoroughly.


When choosing a shampoo, look for one that includes astringents such as tea tree oil, citrus oil, rosemary or chamomile, which can help to take away oil from your hair follicles [source: Goins]. Also, try to find a clear shampoo to rinse out your oil treatment because they have fewer conditioners in them and are less likely to leave a residue.

When it's time to style your hair, try to cut back on the amount and variety of products that you use. The residue from products such as gels, volumizers, mousse and balms can build up on your scalp and weigh your hair down. If you're using oil treatments to moisturize your scalp, try to stay away from these types of products for a while in order to achieve the best results.

If your scalp is inflamed or you're dealing with a condition such as psoriasis of the scalp or seborrheic eczema, the effects can be seen in your hair. Keeping your scalp healthy can often make you and your hair look and feel better [source: Wadyka].

For more information about how to care for your scalp, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Seborrheic Dermatitis." EczemaNet. (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Types of Eczema." EczemaNet. Dec. 7, 2006 (Accessed Oct. 12, 2009)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "What is Scalp Psoriasis?" PsoriasisNet. Sept. 9, 2008. (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • "Spa Creates Line of Scalp Oils." Dec. 9, 2008 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Goins, Liesa. "Shampoo, Shampoo Everywhere -- But Which One's Right for Your Hair." Aug. 24, 2009 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dandruff." Nov. 22, 2008 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dry Skin." Nov. 26, 2008 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Ruiseco, Mario G. "Oil based scalp treatment composition." United States Patent. July 18, 1989 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Wadyka, Sally. "Treating the Scalp with Respect and Products." The New York Times. Nov.10, 2005 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Scalp Problems." July 3, 2007 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • WebMD. "What Your Hair & Scalp Say About Your Health." Dec. 18, 2008 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Wisniak, Jaime. "The chemistry and technology of jojoba oil." American Oil Chemist's Society, 1987 (Accessed Sept. 23, 2009)