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It is important to know the difference between dandruff and dry scalp because they are two different conditions that require different treatments, yet have the same main symptoms. Itchy and flaky scalp are the two main symptoms of both dandruff and dry scalp, but how are they different?

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Dandruff/Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff are considered the same basic condition because they have the same symptoms and respond to the same treatment affecting almost 50% of the world’s population. The only difference is that Seborrheic dermatitis can appear in different parts of the body that are rich in sebaceous glands like scalp, face, chest and presents inflammation. Dandruff on the other hand can only be found on the scalp with flaking and itching but no visible inflammation.

They are very common medical conditions that cause the skin on the scalp to itch and flake. There’s not exact explanation as to why this happens but it is associated with excess sebum (natural oil produced by the scalp) production. It’s suspected to be caused by a fungus called Malassezia that lives naturally in our skin. This fungus feeds off the natural oil in our scalp, so an overproduction of Sebum will result in an over production of fungus. It’s also linked to inflammatory immune conditions.

Dry scalp

It is often confused with dandruff, but this condition is simply dry skin. Cells from the scalp renew every month causing dried dead cells to accumulate in the scalp. Under normal conditions the dead cells should fade away without you noticing , but sometimes poor lubrication, over exposure to the sun, washing your hair too often with a harsh shampoo and using hot water to wash your hair can cause the skin on your scalp to become dry, itchy and flake.

If you are experiencing dry scalp other parts of your body like elbows and legs will be dry too. This condition can be linked to dry weather and not drinking enough water. Dry scalp will also affect your hair’s health. If your scalp is lacking the moisture provided by the sebum it produces then your hair will also be dry, look brittle and dull.

Identifying each condition:

Dandruff: flakes are small, white or grey color. ** ONLY ON THE SCALP**

Seborrheic Dermatitis: greasy and yellow flakes surrounded by red/irritated skin. May also be present around mustache, beard, nose, ears and chest.

Dry scalp: really small, loose ,non greasy flakes.


Dry Scalp

If you suspect you are suffering from dry scalp all you need is to moisturize it by washing your hair with gentle shampoo and using a moisturizing conditioner

•Exfoliate your scalp before washing your hair to loosen up the dead skin. You can do this using a scalp massager tool or by gently using a brush. You can also buy a scalp scrub to remove dead skin cells.

•A scalp treatment is usually formulated with different emollients and essential oils that will help loosen up dead skin and moisturize your scalp.

•Stay hydrated by increasing your water intake.

Note : here’s why it is important to identify your condition. Too many oils applied directly to the scalp can exacerbate dandruff and Seborrheic dermatitis.

Dandruff/ Seborrheic dermatitis

Remember these are medical conditions and consulting a dermatologist or trichologist is highly recommended if the problem persist.

There are things you can do at home to control mild-moderate cases of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Buying an over the counter anti fungal shampoo will help reduce the amount of yeast on the skin. Look for ingredients like Salicylic acid to help remove the flakes and antifungal agents like pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, ciclopirox to help prevent the fungi’s proliferation.

Reading the product's label and following the instructions is extremely important. Most of these formulations are meant to be applied, massaged and left on the scalp for about five minutes.

T/Gel contains coal tar: helps control the symptom of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis by slowing down the growth of skin on the scalp.

T/Sal contains Salicylic acid: clears and helps prevent flakes and dead skin build up.

Nizoral: contains ketoconazole: kills the fungus that causes dandruff.

Selsun Blue contains selenium sulfide: reduces fungus and prevents flaking.

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