Is it Dandruff, Or Something Else?

You enjoy wearing dark clothes. Black and dark blue suits, chocolate brown hoodies, dark grey team sport shirts. Darks just seem to be “you.”Dandruff or Dryscalp?

Nice fashion statement, but there’s just one problem. Nothing highlights dandruff like dark suits and tops, and no matter what you do or which anti-dandruff shampoo you try, it’s not getting better.  Talk about frustrating – after all, who wants to go through life with perpetual dandruff.

And then one day – today, in fact – you read a blog that tells you maybe all that flakiness isn’t dandruff after all. Maybe the problem is a dry scalp.

While both conditions have the same main symptoms, they are very different in nature, and require different treatments.

Is it dandruff or dry scalp?

Too little moisture dries out your scalp. Simple enough. From there, your scalp becomes irritated, thus causing skin to flake and shed. If your scalp is dry, skin on other areas of your body may be as well. Dandruff, conversely, is caused by excess oil which causes skin cells to build up and, overtime, shed – or flake off.

Symptoms and causes

Symptoms of dandruff include:

  • Oily, large flakes yellow-to-white in color
  • Oily, red, scaly skin
  • Itchy scalp

Symptoms of dry scalp include:

  • Smaller, dry flakes
  • Dry skin on other areas of the body
  • Itchy scalp

Dandruff is caused by a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis, where the skin turns oily, red, and scaly, resulting in yellow or white flakes called dandruff. This condition is not limited to the scalp. In fact, you can get it anywhere you have oil glands, like your groin, armpits, eyebrows, and along the sides of your nose. In many cases, a fungus called Malassezia triggers dandruff, which lives on the scalp and causes skin cells to multiply quicker than normal. It can be due to age, hormones, or stress.

Dry scalp is often triggered by cold, dry air, certain hair styling products that dry out the scalp out – like gel and hairspray – age, and contact dermatitis caused by a reaction to products often applied to the scalp.


To treat mild dandruff, wash your hair daily with a gentle shampoo to help reduce the amount of oil that builds up on your scalp. For more severe cases, try a dandruff shampoo. Most contain ingredients that kill the fungus and remove flaky skin.

For dry scalp, wash with a gentle shampoo and moisturizing conditioner. Avoid products that contain harsh chemicals like alcohol or bleach which can dry out the scalp. Wash hair a maximum of two to three times a week as frequent washing can strip the hair and scalp of its natural oils.

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