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Dandruff vs. dry scalp: How to know why your scalp is flaky

A flaky scalp can not only be inconvenient and embarrassing, but it can also be accompanied by discomfort such as tightness, itching and stinging. Find out what causes a dry flaky scalp and how you can help reduce the symptoms and even prevent the condition from coming back.

Dandruff vs. dry scalp: what's the difference?

When it comes to dandruff vs. dry scalp, there are some key differences that will help you in your dandruff/dry flaky scalp treatment. Read on to find out what causes these two flaky scalp concerns.

What is dandruff?

Humans and animals both shed (skin, hair, fur, feathers) in a natural process known as "dander", which is possibly where dandruff gets its name. While everybody naturally sheds skin, usually these tiny cells remain invisible and are whisked off into the air to become dust. Dandruff, however, is when these dead skin cells build up on the surface of the skin and cluster in large, visible white flakes. They then break off from the skin and settle along the hair fiber and on your shoulders.

What is dry scalp?

Just as we are born with a certain eye or haircolor, genetics also determine our natural skin type. These skin types are usually divided into oily, sensitive, combination, normal and dry. The latter, dry skin, is caused by the skin's incapacity to produce enough sebum and natural oils to keep itself moisturized. As a result, the top layer of the skin dries out, cracks and sheds as fine flakes, which could be the reason why you notice small white flakes of skin on your scalp and in the hair. This condition can be diagnosed through a dry itchy flaky scalp, while dandruff does not often cause irritation.

Dandruff vs. dry scalp: similar symptoms, different causes

Dandruff is not necessarily due to your skin type, and usually looks different to the small white flakes that are caused by a naturally dry flaky scalp. While dry skin accompanies dry-looking hair, dandruff isn't related to your skin type – so you can have either greasy hair or dry hair with a flaky scalp. This is an important distinction, because dandruff is not treated in the same way as a dry flaky scalp.

How to treat dandruff vs. how to treat dry scalp / flaky scalp causes

How to manage dandruff: To remove flakes of dandruff without irritating the skin, use a gentle clarifying product like the Serie Expert Instant Clear Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for flaky scalp concerns. It contains zinc pyrithione which clarifies and purifies the scalp and all down the hair lengths. Regular use will help balance the skin's moisture levels and help prevent visible flakes from forming.

How to treat dry flaky scalp causes: Treat your dry scalp just as you would a dry complexion – through moisturizing with the best shampoo for dry flaky scalp concerns. The Nutrifier haircare collection from Serie Expert contains glycerol and coconut oil: the range is ideal for moisturizing both the skin and hair fiber itself. The Nutrifier Masque is popular for replenishing damaged hair and soothing a dry scalp, and the shampoo for flaky scalp problems is also a firm favorite.

Other causes for an itchy flaky scalp

Some other reasons for scalp sensitivity and dry flaky scalp treatment suggestions.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis occurs on areas of the body that produces a lot of oil, which is why it is common on the scalp, upper back and nose. In infants it is known as "cradle cap", and it can be triggered by stress, hormones, irritants (harsh detergents, chemicals, solvents etc.), cold dry weather and certain medications. The most common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include redness, excess oil, white/yellowish flaky scalp, pink inflamed patches and a burning or itchy flaky scalp. If you have these signs you might want to consult your doctor for a dry itchy scalp treatment.

How to treat an itchy scalp: If your itchy flaky scalp is due to sensitivity, it is important to soothe the scalp while also removing the excess flakes by using the best shampoo for flaky scalp conditions. Try Source Essentielle Delicate Shampoo or Serie Expert Sensi Balance shampoo for flaky scalps, both specifically formulated for sensitive skin prone to dandruff.

Another cause of an itchy flaky scalp could be psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disease caused by skin cells multiplying far faster than the normal rate. As a result, dead cells build up into red, cracked and often painful scales. On the scalp, this can prevent new hair from growing, so hair thinning is often noticed around the inflamed area. Psoriasis can occur in flare-ups throughout life and, while it is not yet fully known exactly what the cause behind it is, psoriasis is believed to be related to genetics, and is not infectious.

How to manage psoriasis: dry itchy scalp treatments for psoriasis can include prescribed oral medication and topical application of ointments designed to soothe the inflammation. If you recognize the symptoms of psoriasis or any serious skin condition, it's highly recommended to see a dermatologist for a dry flaky scalp treatment.

In addition to an expert advice, you should also adopt a sensitive cleansing haircare routine to help care for your dry itchy flaky scalp.

Image credit: Getty Images - Tharakorn

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