What Is Going On? Difference Between Dandruff And Dry Scalp?

Because the symptoms of dandruff and dry scalp are so similar, few people know which one they’re battling. They try treatments that either don’t work or make the problem even worse. That’s why it is necessary to know which issue you’re plagued with, so it can be treated properly.

What is Dry Scalp?

Dry scalp happens when your skin isn’t getting enough moisture. It shows up on your scalp in the form of small, dry dry scalpflakes and can be accompanied by an itchy scalp. You may also notice dryness on other areas of your body, which means the lack of moisture isn’t localized to your scalp.

There are many different issues that can cause dry scalp, according to the hair care professionals at Illumai. A lack of moisture from the use of harsh shampoos or other hair cleansers, styling product buildup, and even cold temperatures can all contribute to this issue. The main reason this can cause dry scalp is that it alters the pH level of the sebum produced, which normally would protect your scalp from infection. This disturbance could leave you prone to bacterial and fungal attacks, say the experts at PHS Hairscience salons.

This can cause a variety of symptoms, including an itchiness, tight scalp, flaking, irritation, and an unclean feeling on your scalp and hair. Because these are similar symptoms for those suffering from dandruff, those with dry scalp try to treat it with dandruff products, making it even worse. Dandruff treatments are harsher cleansers that strip away natural oils and proteins that those with dry scalp need to retain, which is why these products can actually reduce the moisture in your already dry scalp.  In fact, not only can these products dry the scalp even further, they can also slow your hair’s growth and cause inflammation of the follicles.

Shampooing too often can also lead to excess dryness, even if you’re using a gentle product. This frequent use is stripping away what moisture you do have, leading to dryness, flaking, and itching.

Another possible cause for dry scalp could be a vitamin deficiency, usually due to a lack of Vitamins B6 and B12 in your diet. Even not drinking enough water can affect your scalp and the rest of your skin, so if you’re noticing dryness, taking a look at what you’re eating may be a good idea.

How to Treat Dry Scalp

If you are suffering from a dry scalp, there are a few things you can do to help it retain its moisture and halt the flaking skin you’ve noticed in your hair and on your clothing. Using a shampoo that does not contain sulfates is a good first step. These cleansers are especially harsh on your hair, stripping it of its natural moisture and oil and leaving it clean, yet dry. A sulfate-free shampoo will leave the oils alone while still giving you that clean feeling.

treat dry scalpStay away from any medicated shampoos for dandruff treatments because these are not meant to reduce dryness. They are doing more damage and creating a drier scalp. Don’t use your new, gentler shampoo every day. Shampooing every two to three days is better because your scalp will have time between washings to produce the natural oils it needs to recover from its dryness.

Since your dry scalp is likely caused by a lack of moisture, be sure to use a good conditioner every time you wash. You can also add in a deep conditioning treatment or a hot oil treatment to increase the moisture and get rid of the flakes. If the hot oil treatment is the option you prefer, make sure it is warm instead of hot, as excessive heat can make the dry issue worse. You can do these treatments once or twice a week as needed.

Adding a scalp massage to those treatments can help stimulate your scalp. Just massage the product of your choice into your scalp gently with your fingertips, but don’t use your nails, or you could scratch yourself. This type of massage increases blood flow and helps exfoliate, removing those loose flakes to reveal the healthy skin underneath.

If you use styling products regularly, try to cut back a bit by using them less often as well as a smaller amount each time. Blow-drying should also be kept to a minimum because it can make the issue worse.

If the dry skin is caused by a vitamin deficiency, eat more foods that contain B and D vitamins. This includes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. You can even add some supplements if needed, such as zinc, selenium, and flaxseed oil. Avoid sugary, spicy, or salty foods, as these could add to the issue. And be sure to drink plenty of water.

If all else fails and you still suffer from a dry scalp that no amount of gentle care can deal with, it may be time to visit your dermatologist to be sure you are doing everything correctly. They may have a few suggestions for you.

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff is more common than dry scalp and if you’re noticing flakes, this is most likely the issue as explained in this dandruffvideo by Dr. Jeffrey BenabrioLike dry scalp, dandruff is an excessive shedding of skin off the scalp in the form of oily, white flakes. Itchiness and a scaly appearance are also symptoms of dandruff say the healthcare specialists at Medguidance.

Some causes of dandruff include various skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and Malassezia. Seborrheic dermatitis is also a common cause of dandruff and along with the oily skin and flakes on your scalp, they can also appear on your ears, nose, armpits, and groin areas. Contact dermatitis is also a common cause of dandruff. This condition is an allergic reaction to certain types of hair products including dyes, styling products, and shampoos. Using too much of these products can result in a red, itchy, scaly scalp.

There are a few genetic causes of dandruff as well. One is heredity, which means that if some family members have it, you could get it too. Another one is hormonal changes, like when you go through puberty. You can’t help either of these, though you can treat dandruff when it shows up.

Other potential causes of dandruff include stress from work or home, changes in the weather, or even drinking too much alcohol. What you eat can also contribute to those oily flakes and itchy scalp, especially if your diet is lacking in fatty acids or vitamin B.

How to Treat Dandruff

If you’re suffering from dandruff, be sure to wash your hair often and thoroughly rinse away all the shampoo, so there is nothing left in your hair to irritate it further. There are specific shampoos designed to treat dandruff because of the stronger cleansers that will help to strip away the excess oils and leave your hair clean, fresh, and free of flakes.

treat dandruffPHS Hairscience lists a few ingredients to look for when purchasing these dandruff controlling products: Ketoconazole, Salicylic acid, Zinc pyrithione, Selenium sulfide, and those containing Coal Tar all can help to reduce fungus, slow the death of the skin cells, and clear out the oils. Writer Alyssa Jung also suggests numerous natural products to help deal with dandruff. Aspirin is one, though it should be used crushed into your shampoo rather than ingested.

Tea tree oil can also be used in this way. Tee tree oil is a natural product that has antifungal properties, which can help reduce the scaling dandruff is known for without causing any extra side effects. You can even add a few drops to your regular shampoo and use it as you normally would. Keep in mind that some people are allergic to tea tree oil, so be sure to check with a doctor or allergist, or at least do a small patch test, before you start using it on your scalp.

Baking soda can also be used in lieu of shampooing to reduce any fungus on your scalp. Equal parts apple cider vinegar and water sprayed on your scalp makes it difficult for yeast to grow and can reduce your dandruff production. Olive oil, coconut oil, lemon, and even mouthwash can all be used in different ways to help deal with your dandruff issues. Be sure to consider their uses and what will work best for your particular hair type, so the problem is cleared up instead of made even worse.

Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp Final Thoughts

While it can be difficult to tell the difference between dandruff and dry scalp, it is not impossible. Once you know which ailment, you can begin down the road to treating the issue. In addition to hair products on the market, there are also alternative methods for treating both dandruff and dry scalp. If you are looking for more hair care articles check out our blog and our hair care buyer’s guides.