Trichology Africa

6 causes of a flaky scalp

Flaky ScalpDid you know that dandruff is the most commercially exploited scalp condition? What else could be causing a flaky scalp?

Flaky scalp is a widespread issue that affects up to 50% of the general population at some point in their lives and causes immense discomfort. The presence of flakes on the scalp and in the hair, along with itching in some instances, are classic symptoms. The severity of such symptoms can range from mild to severe flaking. All types of flaking are commonly alluded to as dandruff. It is no wonder that dandruff is the most commercially exploited scalp affliction, according to studies.

Causes of flaky scalp

Dry scalp can result in flaky scalp

To stay hydrated, the scalp, like the rest of the skin, requires sufficient hydration. The skin produces sebum, which is a natural moisturizing substance that serves to maintain the skin moisturized. However, circumstances such as too frequent washing, environment, scalp disorders, and others can deplete sebum on the scalp leaving the scalp dry and flaky. This may necessitate additional moisture from commercial moisturizing agents.

 Allergic reactions can cause flaky scalp

A common cause of flaky scalp is contact dermatitis. Any allergen on the scalp might produce an allergic reaction, culminating in flaky skin. Irritants include chemicals such as relaxers and hair colour, as well as components in hair products such as shampoos, waxes, and glues that do not agree with your skin. Hair extensions can also provoke an allergic reaction. When the skin is exposed to an irritant, the immune system responds to attempt to control the situation, and flaking is a consequence of that reaction which is the scalps way of ridding itself from the irritation.

Deficiency can result in flaky scalp

What is the best diet for healthy hair is a commonly asked question. The optimal diet for healthy hair and scalp is a balanced diet. However, some key elements are important in maintaining the skin’s integrity and other functions in the hair follicle. Zinc is an essential nutrient that helps to maintain the integrity of the skin and in this case the scalp. A flaky scalp can be caused by a lack of optimal zinc levels in the body.

Scalp conditions can make the scalp flaky

Flaky scalp could be a symptom of a variety of scalp conditions. Psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, pityriasis capitis, dandruff, fungal infection (tinea capitis), and inflammation are all possible causes of flaky scalp. This symptom will not be the lone symptom in either of these disorders; it is merely one of a few other symptoms that distinguish the scalp problem.


The tension that occurs with tightly done hairstyles can cause trauma. The body’s immune system is activated to respond to the tension as a means of sympathizing with the scalp’s great stress, much as it is in contact dermatitis. The skin attempts to rid itself of the unnatural occurrence by flaking during this process. This can occur anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after you have installed a tight hairdo.


Pityriasis capitis is the scientific name for dandruff. For a long time, the term dandruff has been used to refer to all sorts of flaky scalp, as well as commercially used in reference to treatments for flaky scalp diseases. According to studies, dandruff may be caused by colonization of the scalp by a yeast organism called Malassezia globosa, which is a naturally existing organism on the skin surface. The natural oil-sebum of the skin is broken down by this organist, resulting in scaly components on the scalp.

Have you ever puzzled why the oil, cream, or concoction that your great colleague advocated for you failed to work despite months of use, not to mention the financial expense? Have you ever scrolled down a post about how to get rid of dandruff and come across a plethora of treatments, only to try the bulk of them in vain? I think your response is on par with mine. Different circumstances and causative agents might cause flaky scalp problems. Similarly, assuming a one-size-fits-all form of treatment for all flaky disorders is abhorrent.

Do you have a flaky scalp? Visit a trichologist for a thorough examination, diagnosis, and treatment of the condition. A one-size-fits-all strategy in managing a flaky scalp will not only amount to a fruitless upshot but will also leave you paying through the nose and minuscule results to show for it if at all.

Disclaimer: The article was originally posted on the blog of Celestine,

Celestine GitauCelestine is a key trichologist at HairHub Trichology Centre, a pioneer clinic in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has been extensively involved in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of all hair types of hair loss, in particular afro ethnic hair. Over the years, Celestine has appeared on TV and radio and has frequently been featured in newspaper interviews. She also had the privilege of being a keynote speaker at the first World Trichology Society Summit in May 2021.