dry scalp vs dandruff

Dry Scalp vs Dandruff: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Home Remedies

Are you experiencing itchy and flaky scalp? You might think it is the dry scalp which is causing dandruff. However, these two are different things. Here is everything you need to know about dry scalp and dandruff.
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difference between dry scalp and dandruff

People often relate dry scalp with dandruff or get confused between the two. If you too thought that the same until now, it's honestly not your fault. Because both of these have the same main symptoms - flaky and itchy scalp. However, dry scalp and dandruff are two different conditions. When you have a dry scalp, your scalp skin feels irritated and flakes off. And when you have dandruff, it usually causes excess oil production on your scalp, which leads to the skin cells building up and eventually shedding. It's crucial to know and understand which of these conditions you have so that you can get yourself the right treatment.

Causes of Dry Scalp and Dandruff:

The primary difference between dry scalp and dandruff is that when you have a dry scalp, there is a lack of oils on your head, which makes it harder for your skin to feel lubricated. Another dry scalp vs dandruff difference is that the former can cause itching, flaking and irritated skin on your scalp while your hair looks dry as the oils from your scalp fail to condition the hair.

  • Causes Of Dry Scalp:

    People with dry skin type are more prone to having a dry scalp, which means most of the factors that cause dry skin can cause dry scalp as well. Some of these are:
    - Skin conditions like eczema
    - Excessive hair washing
    - Dry air, especially during the cold months of the year
    - Dandruff

  • Causes Of Dandruff:

    Just like the rest of your skin, your scalp sheds dead skin cells and when this process speeds up, dandruff occurs. So, the faster your scalp sheds dead skin, the worse your dandruff can get. Potential causes of dandruff are:
    - Oils secreted by the scalp
    - Sensitive to certain substances in hair products
    - Fungal infections of the scalp
    When these three factors work together, it makes your dandruff worse than ever.

Symptoms of Dry Scalp and Dandruff:

Between dry scalp vs dandruff, a couple of symptoms might be the same. But it's very important for you to note down the other symptoms as they clarify the difference between dry scalp and dandruff.

  • Dry Scalp symptoms are:

    - Itchy scalp
    - Dry hair
    - Small, barely-there flakes (similar to when your scalp feels extremely dry just the way your skin flakes on your face, arms or legs when it becomes dry.)

  • Dandruff symptoms are:

    - Itchy scalp and/or eyebrows
    - Noticeable white flakes
    - Redness on the scalp

You will easily be able to notice dandruff when the flakes start to fall from your scalp, on your shoulders and back as you brush your hair.

Key Dry Scalp and Dandruff Differences:

While an itchy scalp and flaking can be the similarity between dry scalp and dandruff, there is a huge difference between the two that you must understand.

- Dry scalp can be a hydration issue, which means you can experience a dry scalp when you are dehydrated. But it can also be a major hair issue as it can often damage hair follicles and lead to hair loss

- Dandruff is caused by an elevation of fungus on the surface of your scalp, which means it's an actual medical condition.

Prevention for Dry Scalp vs Dandruff:

Now that you know the difference between dry scalp and dandruff, both with the causes as well as the symptoms, let us tell you what you can do to prevent each of these separately.

Dry Scalp Prevention:

  • Use a Moisturising and Gentle Hair Cleanser and Conditioner:

    It's vital to swap any harsh hair products, primarily the hair cleanser and conditioner, with a moisturising and gentle formula. We'd recommend you to use the hair care combo that Pure Sense has to offer. Pure Sense is a premium skincare and haircare brand that makes products that are chemical-free, cruelty-free and earth-friendly. The Pure Sense Macadamia Deep Nourish Hair Care Combo is encased with a macadamia-infused hair cleanser and hair conditioner. The macadamia hair cleanser is the best shampoo for dry scalp and dandruff as it gently cleans and nourishes the scalp and also leaves your hair frizz-free. The hair conditioner is rich in vitamins and minerals that lock in the nutrients to soften your hair and add shine to them.

  • Try a Pre-Shampoo Scalp Treatment:

    When you have a dry scalp, it needs hydration the most. One of the best ways to do that is to give your scalp a pre-shampoo treatment. It can be an exfoliating scalp scrub or a hair mask, whatever you desire. You can also indulge in some home remedies for dry scalp where you can use natural ingredients like coconut oil, honey, eggs, oats, bananas, avocados, etc., as all of these are naturally hydrating ingredients.

  • Wash Your Hair Less Often: 

    avoid dry scalp
    One of the main issues with dry scalp is that people tend to wash their hair too often, which strips off moisture from their scalp. Try to limit washing your hair to twice a week and always use lukewarm water when you're at it. While you might think that the water temperature might not cause any issue, in reality, it does do a lot of damage. When it comes to hydration, the hotter the water, the more dried out your scalp and hair is going to feel.

  • Eliminate Hair Products with Alcohol as its Main Ingredient:

    A lot of hair care products are made with alcohol, which can be an issue for dry scalp. Hence, when you're investing in hair care products, make sure you don't pick a product that contains alcohol in the list of its first five to ten ingredients.

Dandruff Prevention:

  • Use a Medicated or Natural Shampoo: 

    People struggling with dandruff should use a shampoo that is formulated specifically for dandruff or to clean an oily scalp, and use it at least twice a week. Shampoos that contain salicylic acid, selenium sulphide, zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole will work wonders in decreasing oil, fungus and flakes. You can also try the Pure Sense Rejuvenating Grapefruit Revitalising Hair Cleanser. It is the best shampoo for dry scalp and dandruff as it gently cleanses your hair and refreshes the scalp. Packed with vitamin C-rich grapefruit extracts, it boosts collagen and controls excess oil production in your scalp.

  • Increase Your Omega 3 Intake:

    Omega-3s usually help regulate oil production, which reduces the amount of fungal growth and flaking on your scalp. Omega 3-rich foods are fish like salmon and mackerel, cod liver oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, spinach, Brussel sprouts, etc.

  • Consume Vitamin D Supplements:

    One of the best ways to prevent dandruff is to take vitamin D3 supplements. Vitamin D helps slow the rate of rapid skin cell growth, which is the main factor in extreme causes of dandruff.

  • Try Meditation:

    A lot of hair issues can occur due to high levels of stress, including dandruff. Indulging in a session of meditation once a day will calm you down and reduce stress as well. The calmer you are, the less likely a dandruff flair will happen.

Home Remedies for Dandruff and Dry Scalp:

Many people rely on home remedies for dandruff and dry scalp as natural ingredients are the safest to use and won't do any harm but are good for your scalp and hair health. Here are a few home remedies for dandruff and dry scalp that you should consider putting to use -

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV):

    Method: Add equal amounts of ACV and water in a cup and keep it aside. Once you're done washing your hair the regular way, apply the mix to your wet hair. Gently massage your hair and leave it to work its magic for 15 minutes before rinsing it off.

    Benefit: Apple cider vinegar is one of the best ingredients to use and treat dandruff and a flaky scalp in general. Use this home remedy for dandruff and dry scalp every time you wash your hair, i.e. twice a week and not more.

  • Coconut Oil and Lemon:

    Method: Heat two tablespoons of coconut oil and mix it with equal parts of lemon juice. Apply this mixture to your scalp and massage your hair gently. Leave it for 20 minutes before rinsing it off with shampoo and conditioner.

    Benefit: Coconut oil is a natural moisturiser that treats dry scalp while lemon juice helps cure dandruff as it is acidic in nature. You can use this home remedy for dandruff and dry scalp once a week.

  • Curd:

    Method: Apply a few spoons of curd onto your scalp and hair. The quantity depends on the length of your hair. Let it sit for an hour or so and then, rinse it off with a mild shampoo and conditioner.

    Benefit: Curd is packed with antibacterial properties, which makes it a great ingredient to treat dry scalp and dandruff. And as curd is rich in vitamins B5 and D, it is an excellent superfood for your hair as well. You can follow this home remedy twice a week before a hair wash.


When it comes to dandruff, many doctors fail to understand how a fungus that is harmless on one individual's head can cause such severe dandruff on another's. There are no guarantees with any dandruff treatment and there is absolutely no way to predict who gets dandruff or how severe it can get. Both dry scalp and dandruff are quite annoying to deal with but aren't harmful if you take preventive measures to keep your scalp and hair healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions On Dry Scalp VS Dandruff (FAQs):

  • How do I know if I have dandruff or a dry scalp?

    All the above-mentioned information for dry scalp vs dandruff will make it easy for you to distinguish between the two. But the easiest way to find the difference between dry scalp and dandruff is to notice any dried up flaky skin falling on your shoulders or back when you brush your hair. If the flakes are noticeable, it's dandruff and you must treat it immediately.

  • How can I tell if my scalp is oily or dry?

    Just because you have dirty hair, does not mean you are dealing with dandruff that occurs on an oily scalp. But, if you don't wash your hair regularly, the oily buildup will start contributing to flakes. One big way to find out if you have a dry or oily scalp is to notice how greasy your hair gets, and how quickly it happens. If your hair gets oily in a day or two, it means you have an oily scalp. If you can go three to four days without feeling any greasiness in your hair, it is a dry scalp.

  • Should I wash my hair every day if I have dandruff?

    It is always advised to wash your hair regularly with a mild shampoo and conditioner regardless of you experiencing dandruff or dry scalp. But this doesn't mean you have to wash your hair every single day. If you have a normal to dry scalp type, you can wash it twice a week. If you have an oily scalp, washing three times a week is fine.