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How to Moisturize a Scalp With Dreads

How to Moisturize a Scalp With Dreads

Dreadlocks offer a versatile, natural way to wear your hair, but without proper care, they can lead to uncomfortably dry skin. Read on to learn more about how to a moisturize scalp with dreads and why it matters to much.

Why Moisturize a Scalp With Dreads?

If you notice dry, flaky skin around your dreadlocks, it might mean that it’s time to moisturize your scalp. Most people consider dreadlocks to be a maintenance-free hairstyle. However, it’s vital that you keep a consistent care regimen to keep your locs looking healthy.

The most important part of dreadlock upkeep is scalp health. Dreadlocks expose your scalp to the elements, increasing the chances that your skin dries and flakes. Not only does this lead to issues such

 as dandruff, but it can affect the growth, strength, and sheen of your locs. Fortunately, there are a variety of different ways that you can keep a dry scalp moisturized, including:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding coloring, chemicals, and heat treatments
  • Following a proper hair care routine
  • Using oils or gels
  • Wrapping locs before bed

If your dreadlocks aren’t looking their best, it may be time to switch up your regular hair care routine. In this guide, we’ll discuss when, why, and how to moisturize scalp with dreads.

What Contributes to a Dry Scalp?

Woman with braids and a flaky scalp reading our guide on how to moisturize scalp with dreads


There are many things that can contribute to a dry scalp, ranging from lifestyle choices to environmental factors.

Your Hair Care Routine

If you don’t strike the right balance when caring for your locs, you may inadvertently dry out the skin underneath. Overwashing your hair will remove natural oils and lead to dry skin over time. Underwashing your hair, on the other hand, will encourage excess oil production and lead to issues such as yeast buildup. 

While you don’t have to wash your hair as often with dreadlocks, you should still clean your hair and scalp at least once per week to maintain optimal health. It may be prudent to wash dreads two to three times per week for people with naturally greasy hair. 

The Local Weather

Weather can have a strong impact on how your hair behaves. Excessive cold can end up drying out both your hair and your scalp, especially at the peak of the season.

Dry heat can also damage dreadlocks, as can prolonged exposure to sunlight. When your dreads get exposed to harsh weather, you may want to moisturize more frequently to prevent dryness.

Your Diet

A poor diet is often the root of health concerns such as a dry scalp. When you eat unhealthy foods such as refined sugar, processed carbs, and unhealthy fats, it can disrupt the balance of healthy oils on your scalp. 

Instead, you should try to stick to a diet full of skin-friendly fats such as omega-3 from seafood, beans, or nuts. Vitamins A, C, D, and E also play an important role in keeping skin hydrated.

High Stress Levels

You can sometimes trace issues such as dry skin back to mental health. Dry skin, hair loss, and other scalp issues relate to high stress levels for many people. Not only can it encourage faster shedding, but stress also weakens the immune system to make yeast and fungal outbreaks more likely around your scalp. 

Genetics, Hormones, and Age

Sometimes, a dry scalp is unavoidable. Plenty of people experience dryness and itching not necessarily due to negligence on their part but because of their background. Some of us are more genetically predisposed to developing a dry scalp, especially as we grow older.

Hormones can also play a role in skin composition. Disorders that lower the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the bloodstream can lead to dry skin, as can those that raise androgen concentrations. An underactive thyroid gland may also contribute.

Signs of a Dry Scalp

If you aren’t sure whether your scalp is suffering from dryness, there are a couple of telltale symptoms to watch for during your hair care sessions.


One of the most obvious signs of a dry scalp is visible dandruff. Dander contains dry skin cells that die and flake off when your scalp lacks enough moisture. Yeast and fungal infections caused by a microflora imbalance can also lead to moderate to severe cases of dandruff. 

Itching and Inflammation

If you notice your scalp itching more than usual, it’s most likely because the skin is too dry. You may even notice sites of redness and irritation under your dreads. Scratching can make this even worse, leading to lesions and infections at the site.

Dull, Brittle Locs

When your scalp is dry, your skin isn’t the only thing that suffers. Your hair will likely also be duller and weaker, as follicles won’t be able to produce thick, healthy strands.

Your dreads will appear dry and brittle, breaking more easily under pressure. Dander and oil buildup can also block follicles, leading to thinning dreadlocks.

What to Do About a Dry Scalp

Person eating a well-balanced meal for a piece on how to moisturize scalp with dreads


If you notice that you’re showing signs of a dry scalp under your dreads, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to restore natural balance to your hair for thick, lustrous, and healthy locs.

Change Your Diet

Making adjustments to your diet is one surefire way to improve the appearance of your scalp. The right nutrients can make all the difference towards hair and scalp hydration. On the other hand, the wrong foods can exacerbate a dry scalp.

Try to eat a diet rich in healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Plenty of fruits and vegetables will also keep you hydrated while delivering essential vitamins and minerals to the bloodstream.

Nowadays, the Mediterranean diet is a popular choice for people looking to maintain optimal physical and mental health. It includes plenty of fish, greens, and whole grains to keep your skin looking its best. The Mediterranean diet also comes with added benefits such as a lowered risk of developing dementia and cardiovascular disease.

In addition to eating healthier, you should also ensure that you’re drinking enough water each day to keep your scalp hydrated. According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, this means about 15.5 cups of water daily for men and 11.5 cups per day for women.

Avoid Harsh Treatments or Colors

Hair treatments such as chemical straightening or perms can do irreparable damage to your hair and leady to a dry, itchy scalp. Even certain at-home treatments can put you at risk of irritating the skin beneath your dreads. 

Heat treatments tend to dry out the surface of the scalp, especially when they’re a part of your daily styling routine. Hair straighteners, curling irons, and even blow dryers can all lead to a dry scalp.

Permanent color is another main contributor to weak hair and dry skin. In fact, hair color containing lightening compounds such as peroxide can outright burn the scalp, potentially causing permanent damage to your follicles. 

If you notice your scalp is dry, it might be a good idea to ditch the dyes and harsh chemicals. You should also avoid any heat treatments that might cause damage. Instead, stick to gentle, natural products for healthy growth.

Try Moisturizing Oils

Applying certain oils to your scalp can help hydrate skin and lock in moisture for long-lasting protection. Natural oils offer a safe and gentle way to restore balance to your skin and prevent issues such as itching and dandruff.

There are several different oils to choose from, depending on the effect you want:

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oils come from natural sources such as whole grains, healthy nuts, and fatty fruits. While vegetable oils aren’t the most efficient at delivering hydration, they help form a barrier and lock in moisture. There are a wide variety of gentle vegetable oils to choose from:

  •  Almond oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil

Coconut Oil

If you’re looking for a deep moisture treatment, coconut oil penetrates deep into the roots of your hair and the skin around it. Not only does it seal in moisture, but it also delivers hydration to your scalp. Be sure to use coconut oil sparingly, as too much can make your hair appear greasy.

Protect Your Dreads

Before you go to bed, it’s a good idea to cover your hair to prevent moisture loss. Otherwise, the fabric of your pillow and bedsheets can wick away the natural oils that keep your scalp healthy and moisturized.

When you wrap your dreadlocks, try to use a soft, smooth material that won’t snag or catch stray hairs. Otherwise, you may wake up to frizz, split ends, and breakage. Silk or satin is often the material of choice, as it’s gentle on hair. If you don’t want to wrap your dreads each night, you can swap to a silk or satin pillowcase to achieve a similar effect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Guy with dreads and a well-moisturized scalp smiles in a green room

Wayhome Studio/Shutterstock

Here, we’ll answer some common questions that people ask about how to moisturize scalp with dreads.

How do you treat a dry scalp with dreads?

There are a range of different methods that you can use to fix a dry scalp with dreads. The treatment you use will depend primarily on the root of the issue. You may have to make adjustments to your diet, hair care schedule, and even sleep routine to keep your scalp healthy and moisturized.

What can I safely put on my scalp with dreads?

When cleaning or moisturizing your dreadlocks, you should avoid harsh chemicals or products with compounds like sulfates or parabens, as dreads hold more residue than straight hair.

Instead, stick to natural oils such as coconut or vegetable oil. You can also use certain essential oils such as tea tree oil to help keep your scalp microflora balanced.

How do I oil my scalp with dreads?

To moisturize your scalp with oil, massage the oil directly onto your skin between and underneath dreads, making sure to apply in an even, consistent layer.

Ensure that you cover your entire scalp, including the top of your forehead and the nape of your neck. Then, spend some time massaging the oil into your scalp to help stimulate healthy blood flow. 

Should I oil my scalp every day?

In most cases, it isn’t necessary to moisturize your scalp daily. In fact, doing so may end up doing more harm than good, leading to limp, greasy locs. Instead, moisturize as needed depending on your hair type. Two to three treatments per week are enough for most people to maintain a healthy scalp with dreads. 

Which oil is best for dreadlocks?

There are a wide variety of safe, all-natural oils that are ideal for keeping both your dreads and your scalp hydrated. Perhaps one of the most popular oils is coconut oil. Not only is it widely available and reasonably priced, but it penetrates hair and skin better than other oils.

So, How Do You Moisturize Scalps With Dreads?

Dry scalps are a common issue amongst people with dreadlocks. Fortunately, if you notice the signs of dryness, there are plenty of lifestyle changes that you can make to achieve a healthy, moisturized scalp.