Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp: Understanding the Differences.

Although dandruff and dry scalp are common, they can sometimes be confused for one another. Even though they are two separate conditions, they do have similar symptoms. If we learn how each occurs, we can then have a better idea on how to treat them both.

What’s the difference between dandruff and dry scalp?  


Dandruff is when your scalp sheds more epidermal cells than usual. You can typically see dandruff when you aren’t shampooing enough, have oily skin, or caused by a fungus.


Dandruff appears as large, oily flakes of dead skin that usually clump up and can be visible by looking in a mirror (or by running your hand through your hair and seeing the dandruff flake off your hair).  


Dry scalp on the other hand may look similar, but it’s a lot smaller…and drier. If you scalp doesn’t have enough moisture, due to factors like age, hair care products, and climate.  


Simply, dry scalp is when the skin on your scalp gets too dry and flakes off. Dandruff is primarily caused by your scalp having too much oil.  



In the case of dandruff, it can also be caused by Malassezia.



Malassezia is a fungus that makes its home in our hair.  


There are different species of Malassezia, and the kind you get is dependent on your location and climate. Fortunately for about half our population, this fungus is completely harmless. However, for the other half, they are more vulnerable to what Malassezia can do to their scalp.  


Malassezia feeds off the oils on your scalp, called sebum. The byproduct of Malassezia feeding on the sebum is oleic acid. Some people are more receptive to this oil and can induce dandruff-like symptoms.  




Can rubbing dry hair cause dandruff?  


As explained above, dandruff is the build-up of oil and dry skin that form large flakes. Rubbing your hair may cause the dandruff to flake off, but the act of physically rubbing your hands through your hair will not cause dandruff.  



Can either dandruff or dry scalp cause hair loss? 


There hasn’t been any link for either dandruff or a dry scalp to directly cause hair loss. However, they may cause irritations and scratchy-ness that may cause you to aggressively rub your hair – forcefully ripping it from your scalp. This form of hair loss is called “traction alopecia.”



Essential oils that can help with dandruff or dry scalp.


The best essential oils for dandruff are:
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Thyme Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil


The best essential oils for dry scalp are:
  • Cedarwood Oil
  • Almond Oil
  • Coconut Oil


How to treat dry scalp with colored hair? 


Dyeing your hair is an easy – yet impactful way to express yourself. However, some chemicals that are used to dye your hair can be harmful for your scalp. Depending on the chemicals used, the dye can even lead to permanent damage to your scalp causing some forms of hair loss if not careful. We recommend reading the ingredients and making sure the chemicals listed aren’t harmful.  


More premium hair dyes tend to not have these harmful chemicals. However, even if the ingredients don’t cause hair loss, some can still lead to dandruff or dry scalp. Note that the hair dyes themselves don’t cause dandruff or dry scalp, but instead can set the stage for bacteria or fungal infections to grow – which have been shown to promote both dandruff and dry scalp. Some of these chemicals can negatively interact with the natural oils in your hair, drying them out in the process.  



Do bald people get dandruff or dry scalp?  


Dandruff comes from hair, so the lack of hair means that you won’t get dandruff! That won’t save you from not having a dry scalp, however. It’s common for the bald to have dry scalp, since there’s no hair to help lock in moisture and oils. So, if you do scratch your bald head and see flakes, it’s not dandruff – but dry skin that has flaked off.  



Can dogs or cats get dandruff?  


Yes! Both dogs and cats can get dandruff. Either due to disease, grooming habits, or a nutrient deficit – it can be very uncomfortable for your pet if left untreated. If you have any suspicion that your pet has dandruff, visiting a vet is a good way to be sure. From there, they may recommend some shampoos or other products and medications to help combat the root cause of your pet’s dandruff.  


How Capillus can help!


Although we do not sell products that are designed for dandruff or dry scalp soley, we offer products help improve overall hair health, which can aid with reducing either dandruff or dry scalp.



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