Is It Dandruff or Dry Scalp

Is it dandruff or dry scalp? How do I know? What are the causes of these conditions? What are some treatments available to me?

These questions have been asked and answered many times over. However, there is no one answer because each person’s condition differs from another. There may be other factors such as age, diet, stress levels, genetics and much more that affect your hair loss.

So what exactly is it?

Dandruff is a common problem among men and women of all ages. It affects up to 70% of people over the age of 40. It usually starts with small whiteheads on the scalp that appear as bumps. They become larger and bigger until they turn into blackheads (acne). Blackhead formation leads to clogged pores which lead to increased oil production, making them more visible. Acne is caused by excess sebum produced by dead skin cells. When the oil production increases, the skin becomes red and irritated. If left unchecked, this condition will cause breakouts and eventually lead to hair loss.

Dry scalp refers to any type of hair loss that does not involve acne or blackheads. Dry scalp may occur due to hormonal changes, genetic predisposition or environmental factors such as sun exposure or certain medications. It may also be a symptom of a more serious condition such as hypothyroidism.

How do I know if I have one or both?

Although there are ways of distinguishing between the two, sometimes they occur simultaneously. When this happens, it is important to see your doctor to treat both conditions. In most cases, it is relatively easy to determine whether dry scalp or dandruff is the main cause of hair loss. If you have white spots on your scalp and your hair loss is greater than normal, then it is most likely dandruff. If your hair falls out in clumps and there are no white spots on your scalp, then it is most likely dry scalp.

If you have dandruff, your hair loss will be in small amounts and there will be white spots on your scalp. When you scratch the white spots, they will turn into blackheads which is the dandruff “sebum” that has been blocked from coming out. In some cases people develop an itchy scalp and irritation around the hairline. This may also be accompanied with a red rash on other parts of the body.

If you have dry scalp, your hair loss will be in bigger clumps and there will be no white spots on your scalp. Your hair may even fall out in whole strands. You are likely to experience dryness, flaking, and itching on your scalp and around the hairline.

How can I treat dry scalp and dandruff?

There are several ways of treating dry scalp and dandruff. The treatment you choose will depend on how severe your condition is.

Sources & references used in this article:

The role of sebaceous gland activity and scalp microfloral metabolism in the etiology of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff by BI Ro, TL Dawson – Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium …, 2005 – Elsevier

Dandruff: a condition characterized by decreased levels of intercellular lipids in scalp stratum corneum and impaired barrier function by CR Harding, AE Moore, SJ Rogers, H Meldrum… – Archives of …, 2002 – Springer

Quantitative microbiology of the scalp in non-dandruff, dandruff, and seborrheic dermatitis by KJ McGinley, JJ Leyden, RR Marples, MRC Path… – Journal of Investigative …, 1975 – Elsevier

Oil based scalp treatment composition by MG Ruiseco – US Patent 4,849,214, 1989 – Google Patents

Dandruff and seborrhea: I. flora of “normal” and diseased scalps by GM MacKee, GM Lewis, WTTA of Martha… – Journal of Investigative …, 1938 –