You've noticed white flakes in your hair but aren't sure if they're due to a dry scalp or dandruff, or whether the two are actually the same condition? Here's a simple breakdown of dry scalp and dandruff, as well as how you can treat them both, prevent recurrence and maybe even use natural oils to boost your scalp's health.
Dry Scalp Vs Dandruff: The Difference
Dry white flakes in your hair and on the shoulders are a common hair concern, not just because they're unaesthetic, but because they can accompany scalp discomfort such as itching and stinging sensations. So what is the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp?
A dry scalp is literally when the skin on your head is dry, and does not produce (or retain) enough natural oils to keep it moisturised, whereas dandruff (described medically as pityriasis capitis or pityriasis sicca) is usually linked to an imbalance in scalp conditions, leading to an overactive production of skin cells. They can be difficult to differentiate because both result in white flakes on the scalp, but a dry scalp and dandruff require separate treatments.
Causes of a dry scalp
A naturally dry skin type can be behind a dry scalp, as well as some hormonal conditions and can be the side effect of certain medications (eg. oral acne treatments). A dry scalp can feel (like a dry complexion) tight and uncomfortable, and often results in frizzy and dull-looking hair, as the scalp isn't producing enough oil to lubricate it. This is where it differs from dandruff-related conditions, where the hair can appear oily yet flaky at the same time.
Remedies and dry scalp prevention
Restoring the natural moisture levels of your scalp isn't like moisturising your skin. You can't simply apply an emollient over the head, as this will leave the hair greasy and limp. The solution is in haircare designed specifically for sensitive scalps, like the Sensi Balance shampoo from Serie Expert or Source Essentielle Delicate Shampoo. Apply to towel-dried hair before lathering, rinsing and following with a conditioner tailored to your hair type.
Causes of dandruff
Dandruff is not simply dry skin build-up, but is linked to many factors, including the presence of a naturally occurring fungus on the scalp surface. A scalp suffering from a skin condition is typically extra sensitive to haircare products, and can often feel tight and itchy, and in more severe cases can show patches of redness.
All skin naturally sheds continuously as part of the regeneration process, but for someone suffering from dandruff, these cells can cluster and produce those tell-tale white flakes of dandruff, regardless of how often you wash your hair.
Remedies and dandruff prevention
It is sometimes important to get a professional diagnosis, to differentiate simple dandruff from other scalp-flaking conditions, such as seborrhoeic dermatitis or psoriasis. These other conditions might require more rigorous treatment, including tropical and oral medications. .
There are many ways to help combat dandruff, in most cases the simple use of an anti-dandruff shampoo, such as Instant Clear by Serie Expert can help combat the root cause of the issue, and reduce visible flaking.
Can essential oils help my dandruff and/or dry scalp?
One of the latest personal care trends is to use natural oils to treat all number of skin and hair concerns, but it's important to note that not all oils are beneficial, and you should never use the directly onto the scalp unless diluted in a carrier oil. The most popular carrier oils are jojoba, grapeseed, coconut and sunflower seed.
A safe way to avoid irritation is to use a dermatologically-tested shampoo that includes natural oils. Source Essentielle Delicate Shampoo is ideal for those with a dry or sensitive scalp, made with 80% natural origin ingredients it gently soothes the scalp whilst removing impurities to leave hair soft and supple.
Haircare takeaway: dandruff and a dry scalp are two different haircare concerns, and require separate treatment. A dermatologist is the most qualified expert to diagnose your scalp condition and prescribe, if necessary, the right treatment for flake and discomfort-free hair.