Learn how to identify the difference between dandruff and dry scalp.
The winter season is a time for fun and games, but that can quickly turn into tears of pain. Your skin tends to be vulnerable during the colder months, and nowhere is this more evident than on your scalp and face. Apart from the sensitivity, you might even start seeing those flakes fall down and wonder – is this dandruff or a dry scalp?
Your body secretes a waxy oil known as sebum, which is important in defending your skin. It’s produced in sebaceous glands that are present all over the body, with the maximum number of glands found on your face and scalp. The sebum is made up of lipids, fatty acids, and sugars, which is acidic in nature. This forms a biodome on your body, which is often called an acid mantle.
This sebum lubricates and hydrates your skin, shielding from the external elements and germs. It helps in preventing premature ageing of the skin through oxidative stress and controls the bacteria that is naturally present on your skin. Sebum secretion also forms the basis of understanding a dry scalp vs dandruff.
What causes dry scalp and dandruff?
There are various factors that can trigger either scalp condition, and it is necessary to identify the underlying reasons if you want to find the right cure.
Dry scalp – This occurs when the acid mantle on your scalp is disrupted and is unable to retain any moisture. It could be due to a lower production of sebum or excessive evaporation of the same. You’re left with a flaky scalp that is vulnerable to germs, pollutants and bacteria. It can be caused by –
- Overwashing of hair
- Allergic reactions
- Weather and temperature changes
- Hormonal fluctuations
Dandruff – This scalp ailment is caused by a naturally occurring fungus known as Malassezia Globosa and a disproportionate sebum build-up on your scalp. The fungus feeds on any excess sebum and creates fatty acids that you might have a reaction to. This excess oiliness can be due to –
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Poor hair care
- Stress and diet
Dry scalp vs Dandruff – The differences
Dry scalp and dandruff have two major factors in common – itchy hair and flaking. This is why many people confuse dry scalp for dandruff and use oiling techniques as home remedies, which can sometimes make the situation worse.
There are three ways of identifying what you’re suffering from, whether it’s a dry itchy scalp or dandruff. You need to look at the sebum levels, the flakes and the redness.
- Oil – The main identifier is the oiliness. Dry scalp implies that there is no sebum on your scalp, while dandruff is caused by excessive oiliness. So by looking at how greasy your hair and scalp are, you can easily figure what you’re suffering from.
- Flakes – You must also look at the differences in the dandruff vs dry scalp Flakes are dead skin cells that your body wants to get rid of. It builds up at the point of irritation on your scalp and then starts falling down. When your flakes are smaller and white in colour, these are dry scalp flakes which can easily fall down. Flakes that are larger and have a white-yellow tinge to it, are normally associated with dandruff. These are often greasy in nature and can get caught on your hair strands.
- Redness – Another difference between dandruff and dry scalp is the redness. Dandruff is accompanied by red patches of skin, sometimes also seen with scaling. This is not found with a dry scalp, unless you’ve been scratching relentlessly. Cracked skin is possible but not red scales.
What can you do?
Here are some solutions which you can use for both ailments – flaky scalp vs dandruff:
- Hair care – Wash your hair an adequate number of times a week (2-3 times) and make sure to condition. This can help keep your scalp clean and regulate the amount of sebum. Use products like the Head and Shoulders Silky Black, which can get rid of dandruff causing germs and restore any dry hair strands.
- Oils – Certain oils might be helpful for a dry scalp and certain might work for dandruff. Coconut, jojoba, or olive oil hair masks can be effective in hydrating your skin and treating your dry scalp. To fight dandruff, you can use these as carrier oils and mix with essential oils like Tea Tree oil. This can help get rid of both dandruff vs dry scalp flakes.
- Aloe Vera – This is one ingredient that works well for both scalp issues. Aloe vera contains enzymes that are effective in neutralising the effect of dandruff causing bacteria, while simultaneously bringing strong moisturising properties to counter any dryness. You can apply pure aloe vera gel to the scalp or create a homemade hair mask with lemon juice, olive oil or tea tree oil.
Beyond this there are various solutions available for each ailment, which you can find in the shape of a hair mask or a shampoo. Like the Head and Shoulders Cool Menthol that can protect you from both while keeping your scalp cool. You should also improve your diet and reduce the amount of stress. Exercise, meditate and find ways to balance out your life, all for better scalp health.