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What are the Causes of Dandruff and Dry Scalp and How to Treat Them Both? 

‘Dry scalp’ and ‘dandruff’ are often used interchangeably. Understand the difference between these conditions to treat them better.
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1. So, what is dandruff?
2. What is dry scalp?
3. What are the causes of dandruff and dry scalp?
4. Symptoms of dandruff and dry scalp
5. How to treat dandruff and dry scalp?
6. When to see a doctor?

When you get a sudden urge to scratch your scalp and see flakes falling on your shoulders, the first thing most of us think of is Dandruff! But it could also be a dry scalp. Wait, did you think dandruff and dry scalp are the same? Because these two terms are used interchangeably and share similar symptoms like white flakes and itchy scalp, people often confuse between dandruff vs dry scalp.

Irrespective of sharing similar symptoms, dry scalp and dandruff are two different conditions. Dry scalp occurs when the skin on your head is dry and cannot produce or retain enough natural oils to keep your scalp moisturised. Result? dry skin falling off as flakes. Dandruff, on the other hand, is linked to an imbalance in scalp conditions that results in the overproduction of skin cells. Considering the overlapping symptoms, it can get difficult to tell dry scalp and dandruff apart. Fret not! Your hair squad is here to help. Let’s get to the bottom of this now!

So, what is dandruff?

It’s natural for humans (and animals) to shed hair and skin. Known as ‘dander’, this process is probably where ‘dandruff’ got its name from! Though we shed skin, these tiny skin cells are usually invisible and vanish into thin air. In the case of dandruff, these dead skin cells start building upon the surface of the skin and start clustering. Eventually, these large, white flakes accumulated on your scalp fall off and settle along the lengths of your tresses. Give your hair a subtle shake, and it will be raining white flakes on your shoulders.

What is dry scalp?

When it comes to dandruff vs dry scalp, the origins of these conditions will help you differentiate between the two. Moreover, this will allow you to find the right dry scalp cures that will help you manage and nourish it. When it comes to dry scalp, it is dry skin that is the culprit. Dry skin is characterised by its inability to produce or retain moisture. This type of skin does not produce enough sebum and natural oils to keep the scalp moisturised. This, in turn, causes the top-most layer of the skin to dry out, crack, and eventually shed in the form of fine flakes. 

Is dandruff the same as dry scalp? Now that you know the answer to this, let’s look at what causes these conditions and the best ways to treat them. 

What are the causes of dandruff and dry scalp?

Dandruff is a mild form of seborrhoeic dermatitis, a condition that causes the skin to become red, oily, and flaky. It’s more than a build-up caused by dry skin. It is caused by the presence of, Malassezia globosa, a naturally occurring fungus that lives on the scalp surface, to break down the sebum or natural oils, and releases a by-product known as oleic acid. Usually, this by-product is harmless, but to a scalp that suffers from a skin condition, this by-product can wreak havoc, which is known as dandruff. 

Dry scalp is usually caused by some hormonal conditions, or it can also be a side-effect of medications. Do you know how a dry scalp feels? It feels tight, like your skin is stretching and feels highly uncomfortable. The result? Dull hair that is frizzy as well. What differentiates dry scalp from dandruff is that the former feels like dry skin that causes flaking, while the latter can occur in hair that looks oily but is still flaky.

Symptoms of dandruff and dry scalp

Both dandruff and dry scalp have flakes as a common symptom. However, on a closer look, the flakes caused by dry scalp are whiter and smaller, whereas dandruff flakes are larger and yellow-tinged or oily. 

While dry scalp can be taken care of by shampooing less frequently, dandruff that occurs due to fungal infection is highly unlikely to get better without any treatment. 

Dandruff and dry scalp can make your skin surface itchy and irritated. If these symptoms get severe, people with both these conditions might give in to the temptation to scratch their scalp frequently, and end up with redness on the surface, or even develops small sores. 

How to treat dandruff and dry scalp?

Whether you have a dry scalp or mild dandruff, there are several hair products created to offer immediate relief from both these conditions. Let’s look at ways to treat dandruff and dry scalp.

• For dandruff

Some shampoos are quite effective at controlling dandruff. Such anti-dandruff shampoos and conditioners are formulated to treat the root cause of dandruff, with the visible difference from the first wash. If that’s what you are looking for, try the anti-dandruff shampoos and conditioners from Head & Shoulders. These shampoos make use of anti-dandruff active that works wonders for controlling dandruff. 

You can try Head & Shoulders Clinically Proven Solutions Scalp Relief Shampoo, which is formulated using selenium sulphide. This shampoo targets severe dandruff and is clinically proven to control itching and flaking.

For mild dandruff, opt for Head & Shoulders Clean & Balanced Shampoo and Conditioner. This shampoo fights dandruff and offers seven benefits—fights dry scalp, calms itchy scalp, relieves irritation, great scent, controls flaky scalp, reduces redness, and leaves your hair looking great. This anti-dandruff conditioner locks in the dandruff-fighting power and leaves you with a healthy scalp and great hair that have a classic, clean scent. 

• For dry scalp

The dry scalp needs nourishment and hydration since it is mostly dryness that causes the skin to flake and fall off. You need something that will gently cleanse your hair and scalp, and nourish it to keep dryness at bay. Enter Head & Shoulders Dry Scalp Care 2-in-1. This 2-in-1 solution locks in moisture 75% better than any regular moisturising shampoo alone. Plus, it is proven to restore your scalp’s natural moisture. Go 100% dandruff-free*. 

Head & Shoulders Dry Scalp Care Shampoo is another effective option for flake-free hair. With regular use, you’ll notice improved scalp health in 2 weeks. The dual-action formula with almond oil does an incredible job of relieving dry scalp and itch while providing your tresses with extra conditioners. 

When to see a doctor? 

It is advisable to consult a doctor if the condition doesn’t improve, despite using anti-dandruff hair products. If it keeps getting worse or the skin on your scalp appears red or swollen, visit a dermatologist.

Understanding the nuances of dandruff vs dry scalp is what you need to find the right hair care product that will give you the much-needed relief from flakes and the incessant itching that follows. Nourish and care for your hair with Head & Shoulders and keep an eye out for any signs of dandruff or dry flakes before these conditions cause severe problems. 

(*visible flakes, with regular use)