Is It Dandruff or a Dry Scalp? There’s Actually a Big Difference

Recently, I found out that I had been wrong all my life. I thought dry scalp and dandruff were the same thing. I also learned that others thought the same thing, and I wanted to spread awareness of the dandruff vs.dry scalp problem so more people could fix their issue. Keep reading to understand the difference between the two and find the right treatment for both.

If you’re reading this, you probably know what I mean when I talk about the embarrassing feeling you get when you see those little white flakes on your shoulders. When you scratch your head and some flakes fly off, that’s even worse. I started really suffering when I would brush my hair and dandruff flakes would always fly around. Sick, right? I needed to figure out why I even had this issue.

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp

Understanding Dry Scalp

Dry scalp occurs when your skin lacks hydration (moisture). This can be because of cold weather, dry air, improper hydration or other factors. Some people experience dry scalp just during the winter because the air is dry and cold and because they shower in hotter water. The skin gets dehydrated and irritated, so it flakes off. The flakes are usually very small and white and flake off when scratching the scalp. Typically, when you experience dry scalp, you also experience dry skin on other parts of the body, especially your elbows, face, and hands.

Your body may be too dry, which would explain your skin being dry and flaky. Drinking more water can replenish your dehydrated skin and body. Sugary foods and drinks, as well as alcohol, also contribute to a dry scalp, as too much sugar in your diet promotes inflammation in our bodies. Smoking tobacco causes oxidative stress on our skin and entire bodies, which, in turn, causes a dry and irritated scalp. Cutting out all of these factors can greatly increase the hydration in your scalp.

Another recommendation to prevent dry scalp is to switch to hair products without sulfates, silicones or harsh ingredients. This is crucial when trying to repair the skin on the scalp that has been dehydrated. My favorite sulfate-free shampoo that targets hydration contains natural oils and stopped my flakes from flying within weeks.

Finally, here’s a little note on how to prevent dry scalp:

How To Prevent Dry Scalp

Understanding Dandruff

This one’s a little more complicated. If you have dandruff, that means your scalp’s pH level is out of whack. Let me go back to the beginning. Dandruff is characterized by large, white or yellow scaly flakes that look oily. It’s caused by too much oil on the scalp, and the skin cells multiply and build up to form the large flakes.

The underlying cause of this buildup of oil is called seborrheic dermatitis, a condition that will make the skin red, oily and flaky. This occurs most frequently on the scalp, although many people experience it in other locations, such as inside their ears and in their eyebrows. This is what causes “cradle cap” in babies and dandruff in adults. Unlike dry scalp, dandruff is usually not accompanied by dry skin on other areas of the body.

To make matters worse, a fungus called Malassezia thrives on an oily scalp, and it can also trigger dandruff. People with too much of this yeast will experience their scalp’s skin cells multiplying too quickly and falling off at a rapid rate. This can be a symptom of age, stress, and especially a hormone imbalance. Using products with toxic ingredients can also throw off the pH of your scalp.

To help balance the pH of your scalp, I recommend a naturally based oil that can work to remove the buildup and stabilize the state of your scalp. Also, you can choose a drugstore oil to experiment with. Or even blend of natural oils that are good for scalp health. My favorite scalp oil is a blend of 13 essential oils that are engineered to penetrate deeply into the skin to repair and hydrate from the inside out. It mimics the body’s natural oils; in turn, it balances out the amount of oil your skin usually produces.

Oils For Dandruff

How to Prevent Buildup and Flakes

Having a flaky scalp is no fun, especially when you feel like other people around you can notice it. There are ways to prevent buildup and flakes on your scalp, though. Brushing daily will distribute the oils and skin cells on your scalp through the rest of your hair, stopping it from building up on the scalp too quickly. Washing more often can also help decrease flakes, as dirty hair will produce more flakes because it contains more buildup. Make sure you are washing with a sulfate-free shampoo, so your scalp doesn’t dry out or get unbalanced again.

Last, but not least, take care of your body and hair. Eat nutritious meals and cut out the extra sugar and carbs. Your scalp is a huge representation of your inner health. Keep your scalp and body clean, stopping the Malassezia yeast from growing and thriving.

This article is not meant to replace medical advice. If you try all my tips and still experience dandruff or dry scalp, seek medical advice. Now you know all the different causes and symptoms.

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