Dandruff and Dry Scalp: What’s the Difference?

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There is a big difference between dandruff and dry scalp. Since they both manifest as flakes of dead skin, they often get confused for one another. But the truth is that they’re two different skin conditions, and they require different treatments.

Though they are often associated with each other, and sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as each other, they are very different conditions. For example, dandruff can be caused by an underlying scalp condition called dermatitis seborrheic, whereas dry scalp is purely due to dehydration.

What is a Dry Scalp?

Dry scalp is a condition of the skin of the scalp. It can look dry, flaky, itchy, dull, or even scaly. This can be caused by many different things, including medications, illness, or even genetics.

Understanding the causes of dandruff and dry scalp is very important. They are both very treatable, but in order to effectively treat them, you have to know what is causing them. There are many causes of dry scalp, which include:

  • Medications, such as anti-seizure medications, anticholinergics, and blood pressure medications. Even some antibiotics can contribute to dry scalp.
  • Infrequent use of shampoo and conditioner.
  • Increased use of hair styling products, such as gels and pomades, can contribute to dry scalp.
  • Being in a warm, dry environment is another cause of dry scalp.
  • Some illnesses, such as eczema or psoriasis, can also contribute to dry scalp.
  • Certain hairstyles can cause dry scalps, such as cornrows, tight ponytails, or braids.
  • Scalp psoriasis.

If you’re suffering from dry scalp, it’s important to treat the causes of dry scalp, as well as the dry scalp itself. When you find the causes of your dry scalp, you can treat them, and then treat your scalp.

How to Treat Dry Scalp

If you’re suffering from dry scalp, there are some things you can do to treat the dry scalp. Some of these things include:

  • Using a mild, medicated shampoo can help with dry scalp.
  • Conditioning your hair. (Use a conditioner after you shampoo.)
  • Use a moisturizing hair mask.
  • Using hair oils to keep the scalp healthy.
  • Using a humidifier to help the scalp absorb moisture.
  • Try to limit the use of hair styling products.
  • Minimize the use of hot tools on the hair, such as blow dryers, curling irons, straightening irons, and hot rollers.
  • Using shampoos and conditioners that are specifically made for dry scalp.
  • Using cooler water when showering.
  • Shampooing less often, as shampoo takes away your hair's natural oils.
  • Don't use too much product on your hair.
  • Resting your hair by not washing it every day.

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff is flaking or itching of the scalp. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but it may be more severe in some people, especially when weather changes are involved. An underlying scalp condition can cause it, and it's not a cookie-cutter cause.

Dandruff may be caused by a commensal yeast or a yeast that lives on the skin, called pityrosporum. Pityrosporum is a natural yeast that lives on everyone’s skin. But in some individuals, it can multiply at an accelerated rate, causing the skin to shed its cells at a faster rate. This is what causes dandruff to flake, and when it does, it can be very itchy.

Dandruff is very common. It's estimated that 85% of the population will experience dandruff at some point in their lives. But it's not only a problem for adults. Dandruff is a problem for children as well, and it's seen frequently in children between the ages of 5 and 12.

How to Treat Dandruff

Dandruff can be treated in a number of ways, but the most common is to use a dandruff shampoo. These shampoos contain ingredients that fight the yeast that causes dandruff. They eliminate the yeast and reduce the amount of dandruff a person experiences.

To treat dandruff, it's important to keep the scalp moist and keep the skin on the scalp healthy. This can be done by washing the scalp regularly with a dandruff shampoo. This will keep the yeast that causes dandruff from multiplying and spreading to other areas of the body. There are a number of other ways to treat dandruff as well.

Another way to treat dandruff is to use antifungal creams or shampoos. These products can be applied to the affected area and will kill the yeast that causes dandruff. This will decrease the amount of dandruff a person experiences. Shampoo that contains tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is known to be an excellent antifungal agent, which can help treat the condition that causes dandruff.

Another option is to use a corticosteroid cream on the affected area. This will reduce inflammation and swelling.

Because dandruff is such a common condition, there are a number of different treatments that can be used to stop it. It's important to discuss all of your options with your doctor before you choose the treatment that's best for you.

Can Dandruff or Dry Scalp Cause Hair Loss?

Dandruff itself does not cause hair loss. The main cause of hair loss is the scalp being damaged. Dandruff can cause the scalp to be irritated, which can cause the scalp to become inflamed. This inflammation can lead to hair loss. Dandruff can also be caused by an underlying scalp condition, such as psoriasis. This condition is known to cause hair loss, and is one of the main causes of hair loss on the scalp.

It's also important to note that there may be other causes of hair loss. Hair loss can be caused by many things, such as a medical condition, age, genetics, a scalp infection, a nutrient deficiency, and scalp damage. Dandruff may cause the scalp to be dry, but it is not a cause of hair loss.

Dry scalp itself is caused by a number of things. The most common cause of dry scalp is a lack of oil or sebum from the scalp. Dry scalp is also a culprit for an itchy scalp, and an itchy scalp can cause you to frequently scratch your head, putting your hair follicles at risk for breakage. To avoid hair loss, treat your dry scalp with one of the methods listed above.


Dandruff and dry scalp are two conditions that often get confused because they look very similar, but there are actually separate conditions with similar symptoms. Both dandruff and dry scalp can be treated with various different products. It's important to discuss the options with your doctor before making any decisions.

If you're experiencing hair loss associated with these symptoms, make an appointment to see a doctor through Phoenix Health's telehealth platform. No camera is required. Get started today!

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This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.

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