Dandruff and dry scalp are probably two the most common hair problems. Most of us don’t see the difference between them while in fact they are two separate conditions with different causes, symptoms, and ways of treatment.
If your scalp is itchy all the time or you deal with the unattractive white flakes on your hair, or maybe you have both problems, you should first understand your condition, differentiate between dandruff and dry scalp and learn how to get rid of it and how to prevent it in the future.
What Is Dandruff?
Dandruff may be described as white flakes that accumulate in the scalp area. The flakes are usually greasy and waxy in the whitish and yellowish shades. The flakes are usually quite large and in reality they are skin cells which built up on your scalp.
Additionally, your scalp may be itchy and you keep scratching it. The skin may also be reddish, oily, and scaly – a symptom difficult to observe if you have thick hair.
In case of dandruff for sure you find the flakes on your shoulders, brush, or comb. They are also difficult to remove from your scalp and they have a certain smell. Pick some of the flakes on your fingers and check it.
Dandruff is usually caused by certain types of fungus, bacteria, or yeast that are present on your scalp. Also, it often occurs when your scalp is too oily and as, for example yeast, feed with oil, more and more dandruff accumulates. Dandruff, however, may also cause drying up of the scalp and that’s why the two conditions are often mistaken and people are often confused about them.
What Are The Causes of Dandruff?
There are various factors which may lead to dandruff development. Many of them are connected with your daily routines so if you want to deal with the problem permanently, you will probably have to introduce some changes into your habits.
Firstly, your diet is often to blame. If it lacks vitamins and minerals and instead it’s full of processed food products, fat, fast food, or sugar, it’s highly probable that you deal with the problem of dandruff.
Dandruff may also be a genetical problem. Therefore, if any of your relatives have dealt with this troublesome condition, you are in the risk group as well.
A quite common cause of dandruff is hormonal imbalance. This problem, however, usually causes also some other symptoms than dandruff only. These include irregular periods if you’re a woman, weight problems, or excessive sweating. If this is your case, you will probably have to take some prescribed medicines to balance your hormones.
It’s difficult to believe, but quite a common cause of dandruff is too much stress and tiredness. If you don’t sleep well or you constantly sleep less than eight hours, you may have found the answer to your problem with dandruff. Similarly, if you live under constant stress and can’t relax, dandruff and other conditions may bother you.
Dandruff may also appear when your health is generally poor and you deal with some other illnesses or your immune system is weakened. Then, dandruff is just an accompanying symptom of some other medical condition.
The majority of people, however, who suffer from dandruff don’t take proper care of their hair and scalp. A common problem is using a shampoo and conditioner, which is not good for our hair type or we use too much of it and we don’t remove it thoroughly. As a result, the residue of shampoo or conditioner may lead to dandruff development.
In general, if you want to be free from dandruff, you need to keep your scalp clean. That means that you must wash your hair frequently and don’t let it become greasy. Similarly, don’t use too much of styling products as they may irritate the delicate skin on your scalp and in consequence lead to dandruff. Let your hair rest from cosmetics from time to time.
It’s possible that you are sure that the problem you’ve been dealing with is dandruff. You may have even identified the cause of it. However, it’s also possible that the above description doesn’t fully reflect your symptoms. In such a case, it’s probable that you suffer from dry scalp, a condition often mistaken with dandruff.
What Is Dry Scalp
Dry scalp is similar to dandruff as the conditions have similar symptoms. In case of dry scalp, however, the problem is often periodical and not permanent as it usually happens with dandruff. For example, you may get it with the weather change or when you travel to a place where there’s a completely different climate from the one you’re used to.
Dry scalp is actually more common and most of people who think that deal with dandruff, actually have dry scalp. Dry scalp also causes white flakes on the scalp, but they are small and you will rather find them close to your scalp only and not on your hair. Your scalp may also be itchy and you may find dry patches of skin also on other parts of your body.
What Are The Causes of Dry Scalp
There are various reasons which may cause dry scalp. You can’t have any influence on some of them, but there are also a few which are connected with your daily routines.
First of all, you need to be aware that dry scalp is almost always caused by dehydration. Thus, you actually need to find the cause of dehydration if you want to find the reason for your dry scalp. For sure, you might get it when a season of the year changes or when you experience a sudden change of weather as your sensitive scalp may react to it with dryness.
You may often deal with dry scalp during summer, especially if it’s connected with exposing your scalp to two contrasting temperatures. For example, it’s very hot outside, but you spend some time in the car or office, which is air-conditioned. Your scalp doesn’t like such changes and may become dry because of it.
Using an improper shampoo and conditioner are a common cause of dry scalp as well. Hair cosmetics of poor quality may deprive your scalp from its natural oils, which naturally protect it from dryness. Using too much of hair products may bring a similar effect. Moreover, keep your scalp clean but don’t exaggerate as over-washing your hair may actually have a negative influence on your scalp.
Last but not least, when we get older, we also become more vulnerable to dry scalp as our skin loses its elasticity and natural oils, which keep our skin hydrated.
Now, as you know what the main difference between dandruff and dry scalp is and you know what causes the conditions, you need to find out how to get rid of them fast.
How to Get Rid of Dandruff Fast
It’s not easy to get rid of dandruff and it might be necessary to see a doctor in order to get rid of the problem permanently. However, you may try to introduce some changes into your daily routine first and see if it works for you.
1. Proper Shampoo And Conditioner
The first thing you should do in your fight against dandruff is buying proper hair products and it especially relates to a shampoo and conditioner as these are the hair cosmetics which are used most often.
You should choose a shampoo which has anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities. If your dandruff is not serious, you can try hair products which contain tea tree essential oils. However, if your dandruff is more severe, try some special dandruff shampoos.
They contain compounds which can effectively eliminate fungus from your scalp and the flakes which are caused by it. These include substances like pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and coal tar.
Pyrithione zinc has great antifungal properties, but at the same time is very mild so you can use it on everyday basis. Selenium sulfide has similar properties, but it can change the color of your hair so be careful with it if you have dyed or blonde hair.
Ketoconazole can successfully remove the fungus, which is responsible for dandruff on you scalp. You can buy a milder version of it without a prescription or a stronger one when it’s prescribed by your doctor. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, can eliminate the accumulated scale before it starts to flake. In some cases, though, it can dry the skin out and in effect cause even more flaking.
Coal tar can slow down the development of skin cells on your scalp. However, it can also change the color of your hair. If you can’t decide which type of shampoo is the best for you, ask your doctor about it. It’s important, though, to be persistent and don’t expect the results after the first use. Sometimes you will have to try a few types of shampoos before you find the one which will help you.
2. Less Hair Products
Styling hair products may make the problem worse, especially if you use them regularly and they are of poor quality. Styling products often cause your hair to be more greasy which often leads to dandruff. What’s more, if you use improper shampoos too, the hair cosmetics are not washed off properly and they build up on your scalp, creating dandruff.
Therefore, always choose styling products which contain as many natural ingredients as possible. Additives found in the cosmetics may dry out and irritate your sensitive scalp and that may lead to dandruff. Also, don’t overuse hair styling products. Leave them only on special occasions and from time to time let your hair and scalp breathe.
3. Stop Scratching
When you suffer from dandruff, scratching your scalp is really difficult to resist. However, you shouldn’t do it as every time you scratch your scalp, you make your problem worse.
When you scratch your scalp, you additionally irritate it and make it more open to infections. What’s worse, if you keep scratching your head, you may even seriously damage the scalp and follicles. As a consequence you may start losing your hair.
Thus, even if you treat dandruff only as a cosmetic problem, you should do something about it as when left untreated, it may lead to some serious problems with scalp and hair.
4. Try Essential Oils
Eucalyptus and neem oils are well known and natural remedies to dandruff. Eucalyptus oil has wonderful antimicrobial and antifungal qualities. Choose a shampoo and conditioner with this substance or prepare your own solution.
You can mix a small amount of eucalyptus oil with coconut oil, which you should warm up for a while first, and then apply the mixture on your scalp. Gently massage the oils into your scalp and leave it for about twenty minutes. After that time wash it off with warm water and wash your hair with your shampoo. Repeat it twice a week to see the positive results.
Another good option is neem oil, which has similar qualities to the eucalyptus oil. It will reduce the fungus, and moisturize your scalp. You can find the oil in various shampoos and other hair products. You can also prepare your own mixture by adding some neem oil to the coconut oil. Use it as the eucalyptus oil.
How to Get Rid of Dry Scalp Fast
The tips to follow in case of dry scalp are actually very similar to those recommended in treating dandruff. However, there are some more things you can do to solve your problem faster.
1. Drink Water
It may sound as a cliché type of advice, but drinking a lot of water turns out to be very helpful if you deal with dry scalp. It’s the problem with dryness of the skin and that’s why people who suffer from dry scalp often have dry skin in general.
Thus, if you take care of a proper hydration of the inside of your body, the outside of your body will also be well hydrated. That’s why you should drink at least eight glasses of mineral water every day, also during winter time.
2. Use Professional Hair Products
There are plenty of shampoos and hair conditioners available on the market. Unfortunately, most of them are too harsh for your scalp, which is a very sensitive area of skin. The chemicals added to the hair products often damage your natural oils, which protect your scalp.
We often tend to choose cosmetics which have a label ‘pH balanced’ as we believe that they are good for our skin. Unfortunately, it isn’t necessarily the truth as every substance that is water soluble has some Ph, but it doesn’t mean that it is the same pH as our skin and hair have.
For sure a good choice will be a shampoo containing tea tree oils as it can gently scrub the dead skin cells from your scalp without drying it out. When you use a shampoo with tea tree oil it’s important to wash your hair thoroughly. Gently massage your scalp before you rinse it off. You can use this shampoo even every day.
If you feel that over-the-counter hair products don’t work, visit a doctor who will prescribe you some stronger shampoo, destined for dry scalp.
3. Use Cool Water
Be aware that hot water won’t help in case of dry scalp. That’s why don’t rinse your hair with hot water when you wash it. Hot water deprives your scalp from its natural oils which are responsible for moisturizing your skin. As a result, after washing your hair in hot water, instead of feeling relieved, your scalp will be more irritated and dry.
What’s more, people who have problems with dry scalp or dandruff often have the feeling that their hair is constantly dirty and because of that they tend to wash it too often. However, it’s not such a good idea as washing your hair too frequently may actually dry your scalp even more.
Therefore, in case of dry scalp it’s recommended to wash your hair three or four times a week. Remember also to rinse your hair and scalp with cool water.
4. Use a Proper Brush
The way you brush or comb your hair and what type of accessories you use is very important too. You should choose a brush with soft bristles that are close to one another. In case of dry scalp you shouldn’t use a brush with stiff bristles as they may additionally irritate your skin.
When you brush your hair, start with the hairline and make sure to brush the whole of your scalp. This way you will remove dead skin cells, which often cause dry scalp.
When to See a Doctor
In most cases you should manage to deal with dandruff or dry scalp on your own with the use of over-the-counter shampoos. However, you need to be patient and persistent as you need to use it for at least a month before it works.
If despite the fact that you’ve been using a dandruff shampoo regularly you don’t see any difference, you should consult your doctor.
Also, if you noticed that your condition got worse, or some accompanying symptoms appeared, such as swelling or redness of the scalp, you should see a dermatologist. He will examine you and decide if you suffer from dandruff, dry scalp, or other skin disorders, such as eczema or psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a more serious problem than dandruff or dry scalp as it’s a disorder of our immune system. One of its symptoms is overproduction of skin cells which can be visible as flaky and dry areas on our body, including scalp.
Other parts of your body which are often affected with psoriasis are elbows, back, and your knees. The condition is very troublesome as it looks unattractive and we feel a lot of discomfort on our skin and itching.
Fortunately, more serious diseases such as psoriasis are less common than dandruff or dry scalp. In most cases the conditions are quickly cured with the use of over-the-counter medicines or shampoos which don’t cause any side effects.
Also, try natural methods first, such as changing your brush or introduce essential oils into your hair hygiene. Remember, though, that in order to get rid of dandruff or dry scalp permanently, you need to be persistent and patient once you start a therapy. Only then it will help you and your scalp will be free from dandruff or dryness.
How to Prevent Dandruff and Dry Scalp
If you’ve finally managed to get rid of dandruff or dry scalp, you need to be aware that the problem likes coming back. Therefore, knowing that you have tendency to such problems, you should use antidandruff shampoos even if you don’t have the condition right now.
Also, don’t use hair styling products which contain a lot of chemicals, bleaching substances, or alcohol as these compounds can only dry out the scalp. Don’t overuse hair products too as they may accumulate on the scalp and cause irritation or dandruff.
There are some studies which prove that exposure to the sun may actually help to get rid of dandruff. Thus, if you have the possibility, you should spend a few minutes in the sun every day. Don’t exaggerate, though, as too much sun can put you in the risk of getting skin cancer.
Last but not least, try to cope with stress as it’s a common cause of dandruff and dry scalp. Learn about some relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing. Don’t forget about regular exercising. You can choose yoga, pilates, or cardio and weightlifting workouts.
Apparently, a lot of people who finally dealt with dandruff or dry scalp claim that changing their daily routines often helps more than anti-dandruff shampoos or medicines. Thus, pay attention to proper hair hygiene, don’t wash your hair too often, and use cool water instead of hot. Avoid hair cosmetics which contain a lot of chemicals and for sure you will get rid of dandruff or dry scalp.