Dandruff or Dry Scalp? Symptoms & Treatments For Your Hair

dandruff or dry shampoo

Despite what a lot of people think, dandruff is not a condition caused by poor hygiene. While unclean hair may make dandruff more visible, it is not the cause and on its own, won’t get rid of it. The exact cause of dandruff is unknown, but there are things that can make it worse, and things you can do to make it better. We’re going to discuss here what dandruff is and how it is different to having a dry scalp, as well as what you can do to help prevent both conditions.

Dandruff vs Dry Skin – Which Do I Have?

Dandruff is not a symptom of dry skin (or lack of hygiene), as many would have you believe. They are two separate conditions that happen to have some similar symptoms which can make it difficult to determine which you have. In this article, we’ll discuss both in detail and later talk about how you can help to treat these conditions.

Dry Scalp Symptoms

For those with a dry scalp, the skin becomes easily irritated through means like scratching or brushing and this causes skin to flake off, leaving flakes of skin in your hair. The same happens to those with dry skin on their hands, for instance, only the flakes of skin don’t have much hair to latch onto so it’s not as visible. The causes of dry scalp can vary but it occurs when the scalp doesn’t have enough moisture. This could be because of a condition like contact dermatitis, a reaction to products used on your hair, the temperature and atmosphere being too cold or dry, or even your age, with those of an older age typically having dryer skin.


Dandruff Symptoms

Dandruff, on the other hand, is caused by too much oil on your scalp which causes your skin cells to build up and shed more quickly than usual. One of the most common causes is seborrheic dermatitis which leaves skin red and oily. It can also be caused by a build-up of Malassezia, a fungus that for some can cause skin cells to multiply too often.

dandruff hair oily yellow flakes

How To Tell The Difference Between A Dry Scalp And Dandruff

As we’ve already established, the main symptoms are mutual between the two that can make it difficult to tell them apart. Both lead to an itchy, uncomfortable scalp with visible flakes in the hair. For those with dandruff, however, the flakes are typically quite large and can be yellow or white, usually quite oily from the excess oil on your scalp. The skin can also present itself as red, oily and even scaly. Those with a dry scalp, however, will notice smaller, white flakes without excess oil on the scalp. It’s also possible that other areas of the body will be dry as well.

How Do I Treat Dandruff Or My Dry Scalp?

As these conditions are separate, they need to be treated differently. Fortunately, they are usually both quite easy and quick to treat.

Dry Scalp Treatment

To treat a dry scalp you need to give your skin more moisture. This often requires using a good shampoo or conditioner (or both) with ingredients designed to add moisture to your skin.

Dandruff Treatment

As with most conditions, some people might find different treatments, or a combination of treatments, more helpful. Some people may also find that stress is a trigger of dandruff (and dermatitis), therefore finding ways to help manage your stress levels can have a positive impact on your symptoms.

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