Knowing the Difference Between Dry Scalp and Dandruff

Dealing with Dry Scalp and Dandruff.

By: Trichologist Dr. Kari Williams

In this post we will discuss the difference between dry scalp & dandruff and how to treat both.

Dry scalp and dandruff. They are closely related and often confused as the same thing, but they are not.  There are some distinguishing characteristics of dandruff and dry scalp. Lets examine those differences so that you know how to recognize and treat them respectively.

Loose, white, powdery flakes are the characteristics of a dry scalp. Dry scalp is a result of dehydrated sebaceous glands (the glands that produce the natural oil for our scalps). This dehydration can be due to cold climates, not drinking enough water or a skin condition like psoriasis. During the winter, you may find that your scalp is drier than other times of the year and this is normal. The key to combating dry scalp is to incorporate light essential oils into your hair care regimen. Some great oils are jojoba oil, coconut oil, olive oil and castor oil.


Dandruff is typically yellowish in color and clings to the scalp. The over production of sebum (oil secreted by sebaceous glands) causes the skin cells to grow at a rapid pace producing visible flakes on the scalp. Sometimes dandruff is the result of a scalp disorder like seborrhea or eczema. This may cause other uncomfortable symptoms like itching and tenderness in the scalp.

Hair product sensitivity can also lead to dandruff. Everyone’s immune system is different, but pay attention to products that cause any form of itching or flaking in the scalp so that you can discontinue its use. Ultimately, bad hygiene can create dandruff if the hair is not shampooed frequently. So it is important to shampoo the hair on a regular basis at least once a week or every two weeks.

It is important not to scratch dandruff because you can create open wounds in the scalp. This creates the perfect passage for bacteria and fungus to enter into the blood stream and cause infection.

To treat dandruff and the symptoms that can accompany this disorder sometimes, I recommend using a shampoo with the active ingredient coal tar or salicylic. This will alleviate the itch and slow down the replication of cells that cause the flaky appearance.

Following these simple recommendations will help you combat dry scalp and dandruff.

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4 thoughts on “Knowing the Difference Between Dry Scalp and Dandruff

  1. tamara

    Omg!!! I have had natural hair for a while and its hard to figure out what kind of product agrees with my hair I really need help….

  2. Liele

    Are there any sisters out there that actually have psoriasis of the scalp? I really need some support in handling it, and those on regular psoriasis forums don’t seem to understand…


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