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Hair Devils : Dandruff vs Dry Scalp

Dandruff is a problem that is as common as it is annoying. Which is however also common is the misconception that dandruff and dry scalp are similar. They might roughly have the same symptoms, but they are two vastly different conditions. Both are characterized by flaky skin which drops off and an itchy scalp; however in a dry scalp the skin type is responsible for the dryness and can cause irritation. Dandruff on the other hand, is not related to the skin type and does not normally cause irritation.  

The Difference Between Dandruff and a Dry Scalp

The difference between dandruff vs dry scalp flakes might appear to be difficult to figure out for most, but there are a couple of subtle differences. When your head does not produce sufficient natural oils to keep it moisturised, a dry scalp results. Dandruff is the consequence of a chemical imbalance leading to an excess of skin cells. Having a dry scalp is an uncomfortable feeling, it causes a lot of discomfort and affects the condition of the hair. Dandruff on the other hand does not necessarily adversely affect the quality of the hair. 

What is Dandruff?

The essential difference between dandruff vs dry scalp is that dandruff can be diagnosed as a normal skin problem. It is neither contagious nor is it of great concern. The small white skin particles that fall on your clothing or stick to your hair, can generally be dealt with a daily shampoo. Dandruff can be classified as a skin problem, and could also be the result of fungus. The condition could worsen with stress or sickness and may make your scalp itch. A lot of people also experience a problem of the distinctive effects of dry dandruff vs oily dandruff.  The oily and yellow scales that are seen on your scalp and stick to your hair are the greasy dandruff while the white, dry flakes that fall from your scalp are classified as the dry dandruff.

What is Dry Scalp?

Dry scalp is a condition when your skin does not have sufficient moisture. If your scalp is dry the other parts of your body could also be similarly affected. The most obvious complaint of a dry scalp is continuous itchiness. A dry scalp can also be caused by cold and dry conditions. There are significant differences between dandruff vs a dry scalp and this is worthy of note.

Causes of Dandruff and Dry Scalp

Dandruff vs dry scalp, both are vexing problems for all those people out there. Dandruff is recognised as one of the primary reasons for hair fall. It gives you an itchy scalp, as you shed those white flakes on a regular basis. There could be a number of causes for a dry scalp as well. Some of them could be natural, while others could be a result of bad hair habits. Let us find out more about the cause of both.
  1. Excessive washing: If you wash your hair every day, your scalp will lose the natural oils. If this is continued for a long time the hair will end up becoming brittle.
  2. Quality of products: The shampoo  or the hair dye that you use, might in fact harm your hair instead of improving it. Allergies can develop when your skin does not agree with the chemical combination of the product used.
  3. Changes in weather: During the cold season, we experience dryness all over the body including the scalp.
  4. Seborrheic dermatitis: This happens when an excess of oil generated in the scalp creates a fungal infection and dead cells pile up. The oily flakes are responsible for the dry skin.
  5. Eczema: This causes the skin on the scalp to become flaky and dry. The skin could develop an infection and ooze a liquid like substance.
  6. Psoriasis: This is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles causing dryness of the scalp.
  7. Stress: A great level of stress can create dandruff which in turn might lead to scalp dryness.
  8. Diet: Food habits wherein the intake of foods rich in carbohydrates and sugar is not controlled, could invite fungal infections.           

Symptoms of Dandruff vs Dry scalp

Though the symptoms of dry scalp vs dandruff are very similar there are some marked points of difference that would help us differentiate between the two.
There is a marked difference between the dandruff flakes vs dry scalp flakes. The flakes that are a result of dandruff in the body are oily, large and generally yellow or white because they are the result of seborrheic dermatitis. This condition occurs in any part of the body where oil glands are present. This could also include the groin and armpits among other parts.  The flakes from a dry scalp are smaller and dry. Oily, red, scaly skin is a result of dandruff versus  dry scalp, which is usually accompanied by dry skin on other parts of the body. Both conditions, however, cause an itchy scalp. 

Prevention for Dandruff and Dry Scalp

There is a common conception that dandruff is the result of poor personal hygiene. This, however, is not entirely true; though a long period of time without shampooing your hair might contribute to it. With most people, dandruff is a problem that keeps coming back as frequently as it goes away. Let us find out more about the prevention possibilities for dandruff vs dry scalp.
You can take certain steps to prevent a dry scalp including:
  • Using shampoos that are less harsh or annoying. Certain shampoos or products might not be agreeable to your skin type, and so using gentler and milder varieties might be advisable.
  • Since the issue is always about keeping the hair properly moisturised, it might be helpful to get a proper moisturising shampoo. This will keep the scalp hydrated with ingredients  that are hair nourishing. The hair will be stronger and less vulnerable to breakage. 
  • Remember too much is not good. Washing your hair more frequently will only end up making it drier, and affect the health of your hair unfavourably. 
  • A smart and convenient way of keeping your hair hydrated is using a humidifier. This will keep your hair moisturised for a long period of time. 
  • The best way is of course the most natural cure of them all. Drink lots of water as this the most comprehensive health strategy and a panacea for all ills. Apart from adding volume to your hair, it also aids hair growth.

Treatment for Dandruff and Dry Scalp

There have been a variety of different ways that have been suggested for the treatment of dandruff vs dry scalp. The treatment for mild dandruff is very basic; mild shampoo can be used to remove the oil from the scalp. However, if the problem is more serious, a dandruff shampoo might be required. Dandruff shampoos have a chemical composition which assists in treating a fungus infected scalp,  and extracts the flaky skin. Following are some shampoos for dandruff:
  • Pyrithione zinc: These anti-fungal shampoos can be used on a daily basis. They are very potent in  destroying the fungus that is the cause of flaking.
  • Selenium sulfide: This shampoo though very effective, is to be administered under doctor’s recommendation as it can change the hair colour of some. It is very useful in killing fungus and reducing its weakening effect on hair cells.
  • Ketoconazole: This is an over-the-counter drug and is used to eliminate the  fungus that generates dandruff.
  • Salicylic acid: This form of medication can have a dual effect on the user. Though it is used to extract the excess skin and prevent it from flaking, it could dry the scalp and aggravate the condition in others.
  • Coal Tar: Though these shampoos are good in restricting the shedding of skin cells, they could also induce a change in the hair colour of some. 
  • Tea tree oil: Shampoos with tree tea oil as an ingredient have been effective in preventing scaling. However, since some people have been found to be allergic to it, it is advisable to monitor the effects before proceeding further.
The point is to always customise the solutions according to your hair type after observing the effects of each product. First of all, it would be useful for you to figure the difference between dandruff vs dry scalp. The solutions will take some time to come and you might have to reduce/increase the frequency of use, of the chosen solution. Dandruff is not a curable condition. The problems might keep on recurring after intervals, but finding that right shampoo might help mitigate itchiness and reduce flaking.
People with a dry scalp are advised to wash their hair with a moisturising conditioner, after a shampoo.  A scalp treatment wherein steam is used to provide more moisture to your scalp can be used. Some recommended treatments might apply both to dandruff vs dry scalp.
  • Coconut oil: There are a number of health-giving properties of coconut oil including its benefits as an antibacterial, antifungal agent. It also lends gloss to the hair and makes it smooth. Apply it to your hair/scalp and wash it after 10 minutes.
  • Aloe Vera: This is a great moisturiser and can reduce skin inflammation. Apply it to the specific points, and wash it off after 10 minutes.
  • Apple cider vinegar: This is antimicrobial and its properties allow it to remove the impurities and prevent itchiness. Its anti-inflammatory qualities also help it extract the scales. Mix it with water and apply to the scalp and wash it off after 5 minutes. 
  • Baking Soda and olive oil: The moisturising properties of olive oil and the antifungal and antibacterial qualities of baking soda could work wonders if you are suffering from dandruff as well as a dry scalp. Put the mix on your scalp and wash it off in 5 minutes with a shampoo and conditioner.
  • Bananas: Mix a mashed banana with a few spoons of olive/coconut oil and put it on your scalp; let it stay for 10-15 minutes. The moisturising and anti-microbial properties are great for your hair.
  • Yogurt and eggs: If this provides only good nourishment to your body think again, the cool yogurt is very good for your skin. The eggs, with its excellent protein content, provides the right nutrients to your hair. Mix one beaten egg with a few spoons of plain yogurt, apply it to your hair/scalp and leave it on for 10 minutes before washing it.
  • Avocadoes: The fatty acids in avocadoes are very good for your dry scalp. Mix blended avocado with olive oil and apply it to your hair. Wash it off after keeping it on for 10 minutes. 
The home remedies suggested with essential oils should be tried before on a test patch on the skin to avoid the possibility of any allergic reactions later. It is always advisable to mix them with a carrier oil.  There can be different solutions possible for dandruff vs dry cough. 
Constant itching can also cause hair loss. So if you injure your scalp in this manner, treatment might be necessary to prevent it from spreading. Also, in that scenario, it would be advisable to take the help of a medical practitioner. The home remedies might have certain side effects that could aggravate your present condition.
Traya Health provides several different options for treating the different problems associated with dandruff vs dry scalp. We believe that if you take care of your hair in time, there will be no cause for worry. The detailed tests will ensure that our solutions are directed towards a quick resolution to your problem. You might also be required to take certain supplements to resolve your hair issues. Our experts will ensure that you are provided with the relevant information and medication, to deal with the possible problems of dandruff vs dry scalp in the right manner.



Zahra Lokhandwala

Hair Coach

Zahra is the hair coach-in-chief at Traya. She works closely with the doctors to monitor all cases. She is a fitness freak and has not touched sugar in years!

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