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Dry hair

Hair - dry

Dry hair is hair that does not have enough moisture and oil to maintain its normal sheen and texture.

Causes

Some causes of dry hair are:

  • Anorexia
  • Excessive hair washing, or using harsh soaps or alcohols
  • Excessive blow-drying
  • Dry air due to the climate
  • Menkes kinky hair syndrome
  • Malnutrition
  • Underactive parathyroid (hypoparathyroidism)
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Other hormone abnormalities

Home Care

At home you should:

  • Shampoo less frequently, perhaps only once or twice a week
  • Use gentle shampoos that are sulfate free
  • Add conditioners
  • Avoid blow drying and harsh styling products

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • Your hair does not improve with gentle treatment
  • You have hair loss or breaking hairs
  • You have any other unexplained symptoms

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your doctor will perform a physical examination and may ask the following questions:

  • Has your hair always been slightly dry?
  • When did the unusual hair dryness first start?
  • Is it always present, or is it off and on?
  • What are your eating habits?
  • What kind of shampoo do you use?
  • How often do you wash your hair?
  • Do you use a conditioner? What type?
  • How do you normally style your hair?
  • Do you use a hair dryer? What type? How often?
  • What other symptoms are also present?

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • Examination of the hair under a microscope
  • Blood tests
  • Scalp biopsy

References

American Academy of Dermatology website. Tips for healthy hair. www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/hair-care/tips-for-healthy-hair. Accessed December 17, 2018.

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Skin, hair, and nails. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 9th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.

Habif TP. Hair diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 24.

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Review Date: 10/8/2018

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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