Is It Dandruff or Dry Scalp? Symptoms, Treatment, and More

Both dandruff or dry scalp generate flakes and itchy skin on your head, making them difficult to differentiate. Oily, huge flakes often indicate dandruff, but dry, tiny flakes indicate a dry scalp.

You may have dandruff if your scalp is dry and flaky. However, it might be a sign of dry scalp. Dandruff and dry scalp have the same primary symptoms, which include flaking and itching, but they are two distinct disorders.

Your skin becomes itchy and flaky when you have a dry scalp. The reason of dandruff is an excess of oil on your scalp, as well as an overgrowth of yeast called Malassezia on your skin. Excess oil causes skin cells to accumulate and then shed. Knowing which of these problems you have will help you receive the correct therapy and finally get rid of those flakes.

The reasons for dry scalp

When your skin lacks moisture, you develop a dry scalp. Your scalp’s skin becomes inflamed and flaky. If your scalp is dry, the skin on the rest of your body, including your arms and legs, maybe as well.

Dry scalp can also be caused by the following factors:

  • dry, cold air
  • Contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic response to goods used on the scalp, including shampoo, styling gel, and hairspray.
  • older age
  • the use of chemicals that deplete your skin’s natural oils

Causes of Dandruff

When you need additional skin cells on your scalp or body, they generally proliferate. Then they die and lose their skin. During this process, your skin cells can rotate on a regular basis or rotate more quickly in reaction to inflammation. When you have dandruff, the skin cells on your scalp shed faster than usual.

The most common cause of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, which causes your skin to become greasy, red, and scaly. Dandruff is caused when the white or yellow scales break off. Seborrheic dermatitis can occur everywhere there are oil glands, such as your brows, groyne, armpits, chest, upper back, ears, and along the sides of your nose. It’s known as cradle cap in infants.

Dandruff is frequently caused by a fungus called Malassezia. This fungus is usually seen on your scalp. However, if you get too much of it, it causes your skin cells to proliferate faster than usual.

Malassezia can proliferate due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • age
  • hormones
  • stress
  • underlying medical problems and nutritional inadequacies

Dandruff is not caused by dirty hair, but if you don’t wash your hair frequently enough, the greasy buildup might lead to flakes.

Dry scalp vs.Dandruff

The look of dry scalp and dandruff flakes is one method to tell them apart. Dandruff flakes are larger and appear greasy. The scalp of newborns with cradle caps appears scaly or crusty. Both dryness and dandruff can cause itching on your scalp.

Visiting a doctor

Most dandruff may be treated at home with an over-the-counter shampoo. If you’ve used a dandruff shampoo for at least a month and your flakes haven’t improved, are worsening, or the skin on your scalp looks red or swollen, see a dermatologist, a specialist who specialises in skin care. You may have another skin issue that requires treatment.

A doctor or healthcare expert will examine your scalp and hair to see if you have dandruff. They can rule out illnesses including eczema and psoriasis, which can also cause flaky scalp skin.


If you have a dry scalp, try a mild shampoo followed by a hydrating conditioner. Applying a mild moisturizer to your scalp before going to bed will help you determine if you have a dry scalp or dandruff. If the problem is dry scalp, the flakes should dissipate after your next shower. Some hair stylists can provide a scalp treatment that employs steam to moisturize your scalp.

Dandruff tea tree oil

Tea tree oil shampoos are an alternate dandruff treatment. Tea tree oil is a natural substance that has antifungal qualities and has been shown in trials to cure dandruff. Tea tree oil causes allergic reactions in certain persons. Before you attempt it, see your doctor. If you see any redness or swelling, discontinue the use of the product.

Whatever dandruff shampoo you choose, read and carefully follow the instructions on the bottle. If you’re unsure about which shampoo to use or how often to use it, see a doctor or pharmacist. You may need to test a few different brands before you discover one that works for you.

If your dandruff improves, you may be able to reduce the number of days you use the shampoo. A doctor might prescribe a stronger shampoo or a topical steroid or antifungal for more obstinate dandruff.


Here are some dandruff and dry scalp prevention tips:

If you have dandruff, use an anti-dandruff shampoo on a regular basis. Make certain that all of the shampoos have been rinsed away. Hair products containing harsh chemicals, such as bleach and alcohol, should be avoided. These substances have the potential to dry out your scalp. Avoid using greasy hair products, which can cause buildup on your scalp.

Every day, spend a few minutes in the sun. There is some evidence that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can help manage dandruff. However, too much sun exposure might raise your chances of developing skin cancer. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and other relaxation practices can help you manage your stress.


Dandruff is not treatable. Most people will have to deal with symptoms for the rest of their lives. The flakes usually come and go. Using a specific shampoo to treat dandruff can help you control your disease and reduce itching and flakiness.

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