Q&A: Advice for dealing with a dry, itchy, flaky scalp

Q&A: Advice for dealing with a dry, itchy, flaky scalpQ: I have a dry, flaky scalp which is starting to really itch and look unsightly. Can you offer any advice?

A: Few of us haven't suffered with dandruff at some stage or another. When it is persistent however and especially if the scalp is itchy, sore and flaky, it can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. There can be various reasons for this occurring, the key is to identify the combination of causes most likely to be creating the problem in your own individual situation:

  • Washing hair too often removes the natural balance of oils from the hair shaft and the scalp.

  • Insufficient rinsing of the hair following shampooing can irritate and inflame the scalp.

  • Using harsh, synthetic chemicals, that are found in most shampoos – can create the problem or make it worse. Our SLS Free Shampoo avoids SLS (the harsh foaming agent) and has no synthetic fragrances, colours, salicylic acid or petrochemical derivatives.

  • Using hair styling products laden with chemicals can also cause reactions and inflammation.

  • Lack of regular brushing with a natural bristle brush can exacerbate the problem. This stimulates healthy blood flow to the scalp and helps spread the natural oils around the scalp and along the hair shaft.

  • Poor diet. A diet that is low in nutrients, especially essential fatty acids, minerals and B vitamins, can cause a number of symptoms, including dandruff. This is particularly likely if the deficiencies are accompanied by a diet rich in sugar, excess dairy produce, refined carbohydrates, fats and synthetic additives (i.e. junk foods).

  • Stress and anxiety can cause or exacerbate the problem for some.

  • Candida. Following antibiotics, high caffeine, poor diet high in sugar – candida albicans can proliferate in the gut causing a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, bloating, wind, thrush, weight gain and nausea. A high dose pro-biotic may help, plus a change in diet.

Some natural solutions:


Vinegar is acidic and can help restore the moisture level of the scalp by reducing the proliferation of scalp yeast. Yeast feeds off the skin's natural oil, sebum, maintaining moist but non-oily skin. However, if the yeast proliferates it can rob the scalp of sebum, leading to dry, irritated and flaking skin.

Appleciderbenefits.com recommends a vinegar scalp treatment of 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar to 1 cup warm water. Use this as a pre-shampoo treatment, leaving in for 30 minutes. Then shampoo with a gentle option, and refrain from using chemically laden styling products and blow drying your hair


Honey is used in cosmetics because of its gentle moisturising  and antibacterial properties. Research published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 2004 found that topical application of honey relieved dandruff discomfort and flaking, improved scalp condition and decreased hair loss. You can apply warmed up runny honey directly to the scalp, leaving it on the skin for up to 30 minutes before shampooing as normal. Do not use very hot water or a hair dryer afterwards, as this may exacerbate scalp dryness and cause further irritation. If you have ample time, you may leave the honey mask in place for up to several hours, wearing a shower cap to minimise dripping. NOTE: If you suffer from hay-fever or other allergies, honey produced from certain flowers may irritate.


Rosemary has antibacterial properties, is a circulatory stimulant and may be helpful for treating dandruff. Add 5 drops of Rosemary essential oil to 100mls of SLS free shampoo - only use this is the scalp isn't sore or inflamed. If you do not have access to Rosemary essential oil you can create a tincture by steeping 8 tbsp of dried or 4 tsp fresh rosemary in a pint of boiling water for at least five minutes, strain the mixture, cool, apply to the scalp and leave on for as long as possible before rinsing.

Other Essential Oils

If you suspect that your  dandruff  is caused by yeast proliferation, you can try adding the following essential oils to 100ml of SLS free Shampoo and Conditioner:-

Oily Hair: 10 drops Lavender, 5 Cedarwood, 5 Cypress and 5 Tea Tree

Normal/Dry Hair: 3 drops of German Chamomile (for sore inflamed scalp) or 3 Roman Chamomile (if scalp is just dry and flaky), 10 Geranium, 15 Lavender

Scalp tonics

These can be left on the scalp, preferably after a good scalp massage, for at least half an hour before gently shampoo out as normal.

For Oily Hair:

250ml De-ionized / Distilled Water

50ml Rose Otto Hydrolat

3 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

5  Cedarwood

5  Rosemary

5  Cypress

For Normal/Dry Hair:

35ml Cold Pressed Olive Oil

5ml Jojoba Oil

5ml Wheatgerm Oil (as long as you do not have a wheat allergy)

3 drops German Chamomile or Roman Chamomile (as before)




Hope this helps!

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

The information provided on the Base Formula blog is for personal information and interest only. It is not intended to offer professional medical advice or treatment for any condition. We recommend that you consult your GP or nurse if you have any health concerns whatsoever. Our advice has been provided on the basis that there are no known contra-indications to treatment. If you have any health problems or are taking any medication you should seek advice from your healthcare provider prior to using aromatherapy. We would also advise that you make an appointment with a local aromatherapist who will be able to take a full case history and offer you tailored treatment advice. Please note that Base Formula accepts no liability for misuse of essential oils or other products or for any reliance on the information provided within.

Please visit our website for more details on using essential oils safely and effectively.



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