Is it dry scalp or dandruff? Did I blow out that candle? How did they afford that apartment on FRIENDS?

Adulthood's everyday questions. And all important to get to the bottom of!

In this article, we'll help answer that more annoying one:

  • How can I tell if I have a dry scalp or dandruff?
  • Is dry scalp the same as dandruff?
  • What are the reasons for both?

If you're looking for relief (and answers!) then read on to find out if those flakes are dry scalp or dandruff.


And for those other 2 questions:

1. You should go home.
2. They inherited it.

Where Dry Scalp and Dandruff Meet

It's not just you. Trying to figure out if it's dry scalp or dandruff is hard. That's because they act very similarly.

Here's the derma-diagram:

table illustrating is dry scalp the same as dandruff

You see?
It really comes down to how things look.

Generally, dandruff will cause large, oily flakes. Where with dry scalp symptoms. These are more akin to when you have dry skin on your body.

Like unless you have a skin condition you don't see large flakes come off the rest of your body when your skin’s dry.

But this isn't a hard and fast rule. Your scalp could still be dry despite not seeing dry skin anywhere else.

So let's go all the way, babe (to the scalp) to find out the differences between dry scalp versus dandruff.

And, most importantly, how to solve them both.

Read Next: How Scalp Exfoliation Can Fix Your Hair Drama

Dry Scalp: The 411

Dry scalp symptoms are generally mild.


Can make it hard to identify light dandruff versus dryness.

Dry scalp symptoms look like this:

  1. Itchiness
  2. Flaking
  3. Slight pain or tightness.

Sound familiar?

Here are some dry scalp reasons.

Dry Scalp Cause 1: Cold or Dry Weather

Tropical vacay feel farther than ever?

Your scalp could be thinking the same.

Dry air can lead to a dry scalp.


What is "dry air"?

It can be hard to sense.


Think of it like this:

When the air is cold, it can't hold as much water vapours.

AKA: moisture.


That's some parched (h)air.

Dry Scalp Cause 2: Contact Dermatitis

This sounds serious.

It isn't really.

(In most cases).

It's just your hair leaving a bad review on your styling product or shampoo's ingredients.


Your scalp could respond in 2 ways:

  1. Allergic reaction
  2. General irritation

Other product-based causes?

Everyone's obsession with...

Astringent shampoos.


Just a quick PSA:

These are usually more bad than good.

Dry Scalp Cause 3: Aging

What could be more fun!

Unexpected bodily changes sans wisdom.

You can blame:

Hormonal changes.

Less collagen production.

A need for more protein.

Dry Scalp Cause 4: Skin Conditions like Eczema

This can be a symptom of Contact Dermatitis.


It can also just be a chronic condition.

Complete with:

Occasional flare ups and triggers.

Of course:

If you're seeing red, scaly, and v. irritated skin;

Consult a medical professional.

We're not doctors...


5 Dry Scalp Treatments That Work:

Think you've got a dry scalp?


You've won:

The easier one to deal with.

Lucky for you:

A dry scalp usually requires less medical attention.

And just some sweet, sweet TLC.


Expose those drying products for the haters that they are.

And break up.


See them less.


Treat occasional scalp dryness with these:

  1. Add a humidifier in your bedroom
  2. Do a DIY dry scalp mask that hydrates roots
  3. Use a gentle moisturizing shampoo
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. Get more vitamin B in your diet
Read next: DIY Deep Conditioning Treatments

    blonde woman wearing the Medium halo hair extension without dry scalp symptoms

    Wearing The MEDIUM Halo in col. #613

    Dandruff: The Nitty Gritty

    If this is only your first foray into dandruff.

    We're happy for you.

    I guess.

    'Cause it's:

    So common.


    So annoying!


    We're in this together.


    We can totally bond over dandruff symptoms like:

    • Large, oily flakes
    • Itchiness
    • Red and/or painful scalp
    • Oily scalp


    Let's really see:

    Is dry scalp the same as dandruff?

    Dandruff Cause 1: Overwashing

    When your skin's stripped of its natural hair oils (scalp sebum);

    *cough* Astringent shampoos *cough*

    It has to work double time.

    Which causes:

    An overproduction of cells.

    Which creates:

    A way-too-quick overturn of cell shedding.

    Not the overachievement we want.

    And it can also cause an overproduction of hair oil.


    Little oil flakes falling from your head...

    Dandruff Cause 2: Washing Too Little

    Life's about balance, babe.

    Although, we say:

    1-2 times per week is ideal;

    Different lifestyles require more or less washing.

    If you:

    Work out often.

    Are going through a heat wave.


    Just have an oilier skin type;

    You need to accommodate to your scalp's needs!


    There's likely to be an oil traffic jam.

    Dandruff Cause 3: Fungus

    Which isn't even remotely a nice word.

    But, more specifically;

    We're looking at:


    A stunning, way cooler word.


    90% of adults have this naturally occurring fungus on their scalp!


    It usually sorts itself out.


    You have an overproduction of it.


    It's joining powers with other;

    (More mean)

    Skin conditions like Seborrheic Dermatitis.


    These two skin conditions create severe dandruff.

    And that requires medical attention.

    So, why are they working against you?

    There isn't an exact cause of Seborrheic Dermatitis.

    Or a concise reason why Malassezia can act up.


    What we do know is...

    They’re more likely to develop because of that excess oil.

    Some causes of oily hair could be:

    A change in hormones.

    Infrequent washing.

    Family history.


    Dandruff Cause 4: Compounded Factors

    These aren't sole causes for dandruff.


    They're a mystery bag of what could be making things worse.

    Be sure to monitor:

    1. Diet: reduce refined sugars and carbs
    2. Mood: find ways to stress less
    3. Air quality: try an air purifier at home

    3 Dandruff Treatments To Use At Home:

    When it comes to dry scalp versus dandruff:

    Dandruff can be a little more...


    It can be rude.


    Everyone's treatment looks different.

    Because dandruff can range in severity:

    From mild and lowkey.

    To severe and all-consuming.

    For occasional bouts;

    And if you don't suspect it's a fungal infection.

    Add these to your treatment plan:

    1. Use a gentle(r) shampoo to your hair: your current 'poo may be too moisturizing.
    2. Drop in tea tree or peppermint in a homemade scalp treatment: these are both powerful anti-fungal oils.
    3. Don't rely on dandruff shampoos! They're great for superficial dandruff, but your scalp can become dependent on it.


    Always see a doctor to decipher your dry scalp versus dandruff.

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