An Skilled Weighs in on Variations, Therapies

Scalp considerations are downright uncomfortable. They will also be tough to determine. As a result of the signs of a dry scalp and dandruff overlap—itchiness, flaking, irritation—it is tough to know which one you’ve gotten. Taking the time to diagnose your self, nevertheless, is vital for the reason that proper course of therapy is completely different for a dry scalp (which wants extra hydration) vs. a case of dandruff (which wants haircare merchandise with sure energetic substances).

To information you, we turned to prime dermatologists, trichologists, and scalp educators to assist clarify the variations between dry scalp and dandruff, what causes every, and methods to repair them.

What’s dandruff?

Dandruff is a standard and power oily scalp situation associated to fungal and bacterial imbalances in your scalp, says Anabel Kingsley, president and consulting trichologist at Philip Kingsley. It is also typically generally known as seborrheic dermatitis (SD), which Kingsley calls dandruff’s indignant sibling. “The precise causes of dandruff and SD aren’t absolutely understood, however we do know that they are reliant on the presence and overgrowth of Malassezia yeasts,” she says.


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Malassezia is a fungus naturally discovered on the scalp. Nonetheless, when it proliferates, it causes flaky, itchy, and irritated pores and skin, explains Chuck Hezekiah, a scalp knowledgeable, educator, and model ambassador for Rene Furterer. A number of elements, together with stress, fatigue, and genetics, trigger this yeast to overproduce. Probably the most outstanding, although, is extra oil manufacturing. “Malassezia yeasts feed on sebum (oil), so when your scalp is overly greasy, you’re vulnerable to yeast overgrowth and microbiome imbalances,” says Kingsley.

You’re extra prone to have a greasy scalp should you’re genetically predisposed to it, should you aren’t washing your hair usually sufficient, should you’re experiencing excessive ranges of stress, or if in case you have a medical situation that causes extreme oiliness, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), explains Kingsley.

What’s dry scalp?

A dry scalp is when the pores and skin in your head lacks water and moisture, says Craig Ziering, DO, FAAD, dermatologist, hair transplant surgeon, and proprietor of Ziering Medical. You possibly can expertise a dry scalp for a number of causes, together with washing your hair too usually. This strips the scalp of the pure oils it wants to remain hydrated. Climate shifts (chilly climate causes pores and skin and scalp dryness) and even hair merchandise are different widespread culprits. “A scalp that turns purple, itches, and flakes after you wash it may very well be a results of contact dermatitis, which is an allergic response that may occur after utilizing irritating shampoos, soaps, or different merchandise in your hair,” says Ziering. In the end, a dry scalp is often linked to environmental or exterior fluctuations and is usually a transient concern slightly than a power one, provides Kingsley.

What is the distinction between dry scalp and dandruff?

It is tough to inform the 2 circumstances aside as a result of they present up equally. And dry scalp can usually coexist with dandruff, says Atiya Jordan-Brown, scientific communications senior supervisor at Procter & Gamble. “In truth, a dry scalp and itchiness are two of the commonest signs related to dandruff,” she says.

Nonetheless, the easiest way to find out the distinction at house is to research the looks of your flakes. “Oily, massive flakes usually level to dandruff, whereas dry, smaller flakes sign a dry scalp,” says Ziering. Dandruff flakes could have a yellowish tint. “Dry scalp flakes often seem like white salt, sand, or snow,” Hezekiah says.

Apparently, there’s an opportunity that you’ve got dandruff with none flakes, says Brown. In that case, take note of extra oiliness. Your scalp will really feel oily or get oily shortly, and the pores and skin could itch or look purple and infected.

Find out how to deal with a dry scalp

Ensure you have a gradual rotation of hydrating haircare merchandise in your routine. Search for substances like glycerin or hyaluronic acid, suggests Hezekiah. We just like the Ouai Hydrating Scalp Serum, which is a straightforward strategy to enhance hydration after washing your hair. Soothing haircare merchandise that hydrate the pores and skin are additionally a good suggestion. Kingsley recommends the Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Toner.

Life-style adjustments like defending your scalp with SPF through the summer time, utilizing a humidifier within the winter, washing your hair much less continuously, and utilizing lukewarm water to clean your hair also can do wonders in preserving moisture.

Find out how to deal with dandruff

Eliminating dandruff requires haircare with energetic substances that cut back Malassezia, says Hezekiah, who recommends anti-dandruff shampoos with zinc pyrithione and/or selenium. An reasonably priced possibility is Head & Shoulders Scientific Power Dandruff Protection Shampoo. Brown suggests utilizing it each time you wash your hair for 3 weeks for the very best outcomes. So far as how usually to clean your hair? Kingsley recommends each day cleansing your scalp and never going longer than two days between washing.

Including a serum that targets irritation also can assist soothe signs related to dandruff. The René Furterer Astera Recent Depart-in Soothing Freshness Serum is a superb possibility, per Hezekiah. “It’s additionally greatest to keep away from making use of oils on to your scalp as a result of oils feed the dandruff cycle,” Brown says.

On the finish of the day, if over-the-counter choices aren’t working and you continue to aren’t positive what you are coping with, it is best to seek the advice of a trichologist or dermatologist.

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