As for how much moisture a scalp needs, it depends on the individual. Hill says that each of our scalps has a unique ideal balance of sebum, the scalp’s natural moisture. And in fact, the sebaceous gland connected to the hair follicle is regulated by hormones. “We can’t address scalp moisture without connecting our internal health and well-being,” she says. “When this gets out of balance, it creates a breeding ground for overproduction of unwanted bacteria, inflammation, flaking, tight scalp, compromising hair follicle health.”
You may think that the level of hydration in your scalp is determined by your hair type – I am – but it depends on a number of factors: lifestyle, genetics, diet, stress, medication, etc. “Hair type plays a role in hydration levels, but rather the type of products and our styling habits depending on our hair type and texture,” says Hill. “For example, if you have the curly hair and you dry your hair regularly, blow-drying affects the moisture level, not curly hair. And vice versa if you have fine, straight hair and you shampoo several times a day. It is the impact of frequent shampooing, not fine, straight hair, that would cause unwanted dryness.”
And board-certified dermatologist and founder of Ziering Medical Craig Ziering, DO, says you need to keep in mind how you care for your specific hair type and its effect on the scalp. “Hair length and texture play a role in managing sebum production,” he says. “Those with curly hair need more time between washes than those with straight hair because the oil has to travel along the corkscrew-like strands to hydrate all the way to the ends.”
So what are the signs that your scalp is not hydrated enough? Well, you’ll probably notice a few flakes. “Dry scalps can present in many ways, but are often mildly pink, scaly, and itchy,” says Ellis. “Flakes that come from a dry scalp tend to be white and powder-like, while flakes from oily scalps tend to be larger, thicker, and sometimes slightly yellow.” You may also notice dry, brittle hair fibers, tension on the scalp, and dry-looking hair.