Dry hair

Alternative names
Hair - dry

Dry hair is a relative symptom. Dry hair may be described as hair with insufficient moisture and oil content to maintain a normal sheen and texture. Dry hair may result from excessive washing, harsh detergents, a dry or hostile environment, inadequate diet, or underlying diseases.

Abnormal hair texture, sheen, and even abnormal hair color may be seen in various states of malnutrition, such as kwashiorkor and marasmus. Metabolic diseases such as hypothyroidism and Menke’s kinky hair syndrome produce brittle dry hair.

Common Causes

  • Excessive washing, harsh detergents or alcohols, excessive blow-drying  
  • Environmental dryness  
  • Anorexia Nervosa  
  • Malnutrition  
  • Hypothyroidism  
  • Hypoparathyroidism

Home Care

  • Shampoo less frequently - perhaps only once or twice a week  
  • Add conditioners  
  • Avoid blow drying and harsh styling products

Call your health care provider if
If your hair does not improve with gentle treatment, you are experiencing hair loss, or other unexplained symptoms appear, call your health care provider.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and may ask the following questions:

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

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • Examination of the hair under the microscope  
  • Blood tests


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.