What is the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp?

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Do you suffer from a dry, itchy and peeling scalp? When your head starts to itch, it’s okay to assume that you have dandruff, but you might actually have a dry scalp. From white flakes to an extremely itchy scalp, dandruff and dry scalp can share symptoms, but they are two different conditions that require separate treatments. So what’s the difference?

If you scratch yourself or see flakes in your hair, Dr Roger Henderson explains how to tell the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp, and the best treatment:

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is a common skin condition that results from the buildup of dead skin on the scalp to form gray or white flakes, which are visible up close or if they fall on your shoulders. You are constantly producing new skin cells and shedding old cells and dandruff can appear when this cycle of skin renewal is accelerated.

Dandruff is perfectly harmless and non-contagious, but it can be unsightly if you have white flakes on your clothes and it can be difficult to treat. If your scalp is dry and itchy, it may be due to dandruff. Dirty hair doesn’t cause dandruff, but if the hair isn’t washed often enough, oil can build up on it and contribute to flaking. There are several causes of dandruff including:

1. Fungal infections

Fungal infections can cause excessive growth of skin cells. One of the most common is called malassezia, which normally lives on the scalp and is harmless but can be present in excess in young people and cause skin cells to multiply too quickly.

2. Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that primarily affects fatty areas of the body (ie.

3. Eczema

Eczema is a condition that causes inflammation and itching of the skin.

However, a dry itchy scalp that does not respond to treatment with an anti-dandruff shampoo may be due to a natural loss of moisture, so alternative treatments should be considered.

The difference between dandruff and a dry scalp

If you’ve tried dandruff shampoo without success, there is a difference between having a dry scalp and dandruff, maybe this is the reason why the shampoo does not work. With a dry scalp the skin becomes irritated and inflamed and flakes while with dandruff the cause is too much oil produced on the scalp skin. This causes the skin cells to build up and then shed, giving the typical appearance of dandruff on the hair and clothing (usually on the shoulders) of those affected.

A dry itchy scalp can occur if the natural water balance of the scalp is disturbed. A dry scalp can be caused by:

  • Skin Conditions Such As Dermatitis /psoriasis

  • Hormonal changes, with aging in general

  • External factors such as changes in temperature or seasons

  • Environmental pollution

  • Certain hair treatments where there is a reaction to products such as gels, hairsprays and shampoos. This causes a condition called contact dermatitis.

There are some key ways to tell the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp. With dandruff, there are large flakes of oily skin that are yellow or white, with an itchy scalp and red, oily skin on the scalp. However, with a dry scalp, the dander is smaller and drier, as well as an itchy scalp and often dry skin on other parts of the body, with the dander usually disappearing once you apply a moisturizer. (unlike dandruff).

So if you don’t have white or gray dandruff in your hair but your scalp is itchy and dry, it may be a good idea to try a scalp treatment to help restore the natural balance of the hair. hydration.

Try Shampoo for dry scalp E45 or AVEENO® Soothing Soothing Shampoo – both can help treat a dry scalp and restore water balance.

When to see a doctor about dandruff

If you have been using an anti-dandruff shampoo for at least a month without improvement, if your scalp becomes sore and redder, or if the skin on the scalp becomes more and more inflamed or the inflammation is spreading then seek medical advice. . This will help make an accurate diagnosis as there may be a different skin condition that needs to be treated such as eczema or psoriasis.

Treatment of dandruff and dry scalp

Although dandruff is not curable and must be managed over many years, for most people, following a few simple tips can go a long way in reducing the effect of dandruff and a dry scalp:

✔️ Avoid greasy hair products

Try to avoid using harsh or strong hair products that contain alcohol or bleach as they dry out the scalp quickly. Also avoid oily hair products to prevent excess sebum build-up.

✔️ Use an anti-dandruff shampoo daily

If you have dandruff, use anti-dandruff shampoo every day, making sure to rinse your hair thoroughly afterwards. Most of these shampoos contain drugs to kill any fungus and get rid of scaly skin – look for products that contain some of the following:

  • zinc pyrithione

  • Salicylic acid

  • coal tar

  • Ketaconazole

  • Selium sulphide

✔️ Try tea tree oil

If you want to use a natural dandruff product, try shampoos that contain tea tree oil. These can cause an allergic reaction in a very small number of people who use them, so stop them if you develop redness or irritation on the scalp.

✔️ Get some sun

There is some evidence that sun exposure is helpful if you have dandruff, so try to spend some time in the sun every day, but also be careful not to get too much sun on your skin.

✔️ De-stress

Anxiety and stress can make things worse for some people, so practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation.

Last update: 18-06-2021

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