Updated: Jun 2
A dry scalp can cause dandruff, but the two are very different, and understanding the difference between the two will lead to a more effective treatment.
Causes of a dry and sensitive scalp
A dry scalp occurs when the skin does not have enough oil to become lubricated. Like many other forms of dry skin, a dry scalp can cause itching, flaking, and irritation. It can also make your hair look dry, as there is little oil from the scalp to help condition the hair. Flakes appear smaller and and whiter.
This can be down to air conditoning and heating, weather conditons, excessive washing and existing skin conditions, such as eczema. In fact, many people with existing skin conditions will most likely have a dry scalp, too.
Causes of dandruff
Dandruff flakes are actually dead skin cells- your scalp, like the rest of your skin, sheds dead skin, and dandruff occurs when this process speeds up. The faster the scalp sheds the skin, the worse the dandruff appears. Dandruff flakes are typically larger and may be yellow tinged, or a bit oily.
It is most usually caused due to fungal infections to the scalp, reactions to a certain Shampoo/ Conditioner, and oil secreted by the scalp. Sometimes, all three factors can be behind it, and again, may develop worse if they have already got sensitive skin or a very oily scalp.
Treatment & recommendations
While both a dry scalp and dandruff tend to come and go, dandruff will typically need treatment to solve, whereas dry scalp symptoms can be improved.
For dry scalps, it can usually be solved or eased by a simple lifestle change. Try using a less irrtating shampoo, preferbaly a moisturising one, and shampooing less frequently. This will stop all of the natural oils being stripped from your scalp. Always go for professional products over high street, as they have had more money and research invested in to them, so will give better results.
Some dandruff shampoos contain Coal Tar and Salicylic Acid, however these ingredients are just something that will treat the symptoms, and not help prevent.
Dandruff shampoos containing pyrithione zinc will actually treat and help prevent dandruff, and in a recent scientific study, people who used shampoos containing pyrithione showed a progressive reduction in dandruff. ZPT both removes and helps prevent the formation of scalp irritants, to keep your scalp healthy and comfortable.
For a more natural approach, try a Tea Tree shampoo.