Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp: Understanding the Differences

Dandruff and dry scalp are both common, but they are often misunderstood. While they are two separate conditions, they have overlapping symptoms. Learning more about them will help you decide on the type of treatment or hair therapy you need. You will also discover more about the relationship between dandruff and hair loss, which can help to get you started on the road to healthy hair regrowth.

woman with hair dandruff

What Is Dandruff?

If you have dandruff, you may notice large, oily flakes in your hair or on your scalp. Yellow or white in color, they may also be visible on your clothing. Other symptoms of dandruff to watch out for include an itchy scalp, oily skin, and red scaliness on your head.

The condition occurs when your scalp sheds more epidermal cells than usual. Typical causes of dandruff in adults include not shampooing enough, having oily skin, or skin that is too dry. You may also develop these types of flakes if you are sensitive to certain hair care products, have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, or develop a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia that feeds on oily scalps.

Young adults and middle-aged individuals are the most likely to have dandruff, although people of all ages can get it. It seems that men get the condition more often than women, so hormones may play a role in its development. If you are unsure whether you have dandruff, you can compare its symptoms to dry scalp.

What Is Dry Scalp?

In contrast to dandruff, a dry scalp may cause small, dry flakes to drop from the hair. However, you can still expect the same itchy head that dandruff is known for. To determine whether you have dry scalp, look for dry skin on other parts of your body. Your scalp will also be free of oily, red scaliness since this is a symptom of dandruff only.

When you have a dry scalp, your skin does not have enough oil for it to stay moisturized and lubricated. You may have a dry scalp if you wash your hair too much or have a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema. Other possible causes of dry scalp include having dandruff and spending too much time outside in cold or dry air.

Chronic dry scalp can be uncomfortable and cause frequent itching. The urge to scratch your head can result in abrasions or sores. If you think you have dry scalp, try to determine whether your environment, hair care habits, or a skin condition is causing the issue. You may also decide to talk to your doctor to see if medications or other health conditions could be contributing to your symptoms.  

young man itching scalp

How to Treat Dandruff

If you are searching for a way to treat your symptoms of dandruff, try a specially formulated shampoo. While you can experiment with different products to find the ones that work for you, we recommend our Capillus® CAP+ Clinical Hair Therapy Shampoo. This product exfoliates the scalp and removes buildup without the harsh effects of sulfates that strip your head and hair of essential oils.

Follow the shampoo’s instructions to ensure you wash away dead skin cells and excessive sebum. Since your hair and scalp will stay hydrated, you can help to prevent the uncomfortable symptoms of dry scalp.

If your shampoo does not clear up your symptoms, talk to your doctor. They will help you determine why the product is not working for you. They can also make recommendations on both prescription and over-the-counter products.

How to Care for Dry Scalp

A gentle shampoo and a moisturizing conditioner are essential for keeping your hair and head hydrated and healthy. Pair our Clinical Hair Therapy Shampoo with our conditioner. The CAP+ Clinical Hair Therapy Conditioner helps to retain moisture and rinses free without leaving behind residue.

Popular home remedies for dry scalp symptoms include coconut oil, tea tree oil, and aloe vera. You may also have success with witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or a combination of baking soda and olive oil.

If you would like to add even more hydration and lubrication to your head and hair, talk to your stylist about moisturizing scalp treatments. You can also prevent dry scalp by avoiding harsh hair products and chemical treatments. Visit your primary care physician or a dermatologist if you do not find a solution for your dry scalp symptoms.

cap shampoo

Enhancing Your Hair Health

Having an itchy scalp is uncomfortable enough, but you may also be dealing with dandruff and hair loss. There are a few reasons why this can occur in both men and women. If your scalp is uncomfortable or inflamed, pulling your hair and scratching on your head may cause some strands of hair to come out. Over time, sores or frequent hair loss can cause your locks to look thinner than normal. Some people also wash their hair too little or too much. While these habits can contribute to even more dry scalp or dandruff, they can also impact your hair health.

As you begin to use flake-preventing hair care products, consider your options in laser hair regrowth. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT), often referred to as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is becoming a popular treatment for growing thicker, more beautiful hair. While some women like to use it for their hair loss, it is also shown to promote hair growth in men with male pattern baldness.

All you need is six minutes per day with one of our Capillus® laser therapy caps. Wear the device in the comfort of your home as you relax. A combination of therapies can have you growing more beautiful hair and enjoying more confidence.

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