Dry scalp or dandruff – How to tell them apart

Your scalp is itching, and you’re not entirely sure whether it’s caused by dry scalp or dandruff. But what’s the difference between dry scalp and dandruff, and how do you get rid of those scalp problems? Let us help you.

Dry, itching scalp
Dandruff in scalp

Scalp snow doesn’t have to be dandruff. Whatever the cause, dry scalp and dandruff are super annoying and you would probably really like to get rid of those falling flakes. That’s perfectly understandable, so here’s the solution to your scalp problem.

Difference #1: A dry scalp looks tight and clear

Look at the appearance of your scalp to determine if the itching is caused by dry scalp or dandruff. If your scalp looks tight and clear between those white flakes, you’re most likely suffering from a dry scalp. If your scalp looks a bit oily, dandruff is the likelier cause of your itching scalp. Please note that there is a difference between having dry and greasy dandruff and that the treatment of the two varieties differ.

illustration of healthy scalp, dry scalp and scalp with dandruff

Difference #2:  Dry scalp occurs on the surface of your scalp

Another difference between dry scalp and dandruff is where the condition originates. A dry scalp originates from the surface of your scalp, whereas the cause of dandruff can be traced to the hair follicle, i.e. below the scalp’s surface.


Difference #3: Dry scalp flaking scatters more easily

If you’re suffering from a dry scalp, those white flakes tend to fall from your scalp more easily. Dandruff has a tendency to cling to the hair strands. Although it’s a fact, it’s one of those differences that may be a bit difficult to pinpoint because how do you know whether those flakes on your shirt landed there quickly or not?

Causes of dry scalp


Cause #1: In the winter you stay inside in the dry, heated air

When autumn and winter kicks in, you crank up the heat and stay inside in the dry and heated air.

You’ve probably already experienced how the skin on your lips and hands become dry. And the skin on your scalp acts in much the same way. So when you whip out your lip balm and your hand lotion, know that it won’t be long until you’ll have to give your scalp a little bit of TLC to prevent that dry scalp from rearing it’s ugly head (again). 

Woman with beanie on

Cause #2: Your scalp doesn’t get enough oxygen

Like with cause #1, this cause is also most prominent in cold months. On cold autumn and winter days, you probably wear some kind of headgear to protect your ears from those cold winds. A warm hat pulled down to your eyebrows reduces the oxygen flow to your scalp. Consider if excessive use of a hat may be the cause of your scalp problem.

Try using earmuffs, a headband or similar headgear that doesn’t prevent oxygen from reaching your scalp. A neat added bonus of earmuffs and headband are that you can easily style your hair in a high ponytail or a bun. Nice, right?

Woman with shampoo in her hair

Cause #3: You’re using the wrong shampoo

Make sure you use a shampoo that matches your scalp type and nourishes your scalp in the right way. Like the skin on your body, your scalp needs moisture and care to stay healthy.

How to get rid of dry scalp or dandruff

If your scalp is itching, use hair care products containing the following active ingredients: Climbazole, pyrithione zinc, piroctone olamine, salicylic acid, sulphur, melaleuca oil.

Find a mild, nourishing and moisturising shampoo for your dry scalp. IdHAIR Solutions No. 2 is a shampoo containing many of the active ingredients mentioned above. IdHAIR Solutions No. 2 is effective for both a dry scalp and dry dandruff.  Always ask your IdHAIR stylist to help you determine if you have one scalp problem or the other. Then you know that you get the right treatment. With your stylist’s guidance, you’ll be rid of your dry scalp or your dandruff within 6-8 weeks.   

Have a nice hair day!

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