If you hesitate to wear black due to fear of white flakes, you’ve likely chalked the problem up to dandruff. While the condition is prevalent, with 1 in 5 people having an official diagnosis, you could actually be dealing with dry scalp, an entirely different condition with its own underlying cause and treatment plan. 

What Causes Dandruff?

Every day, we shed thousands of dead skin cells from our bodies, including our scalps. This process goes mostly unnoticed for the majority of people, as these microscopic flecks are far too small to be seen by the naked eye. 

For people living with dandruff, the skin cells group into clusters on the scalp, turning into the large, visible flakes we associate with dandruff. This process is caused by a fungus that thrives in the oily environment created by our skin’s sebaceous glands. Typically, our immune system can control this naturally-occurring fungus. However, when the environment is just right for the fungus to take hold, it settles onto our scalp and multiplies. This causes hypersensitivity, inflammation, and the overproduction of skin cells.

Because dandruff has little to do with the moisture levels of your skin, the hair and scalp can be quite oily and still present with dandruff. 

This all equates to the most common symptoms we see with dandruff:

  • The appearance of white flakes, especially when you brush or tousle your hair
  • Redness and irritation
  • Itchy scalp and eyebrows

Because dandruff is a chronic medical condition, it’s essential to speak with your dermatologist about treatment options. In most cases, the fungus can be treated with medicated shampoo, like CLn Healthy Scalp Shampoo. It is formulated to cleanse pores and hair shafts, leaving the scalp rejuvenated and hair fresh. 

What Causes Dry Scalp? 

Unlike dandruff, dry scalp isn’t a medical condition. Instead, it’s a lack of hydration. Just like the rest of your skin, your scalp has a moisture barrier that can be broken when it is stripped of the natural oils that keep it healthy. 

Most of the time, dry scalp is temporary and environmental. For example, more people experience the problem in winter, when the air is dry. Sunburn is another common cause. Even excessive shampooing, which strips the scalp of oils, can leave your scalp tight, itchy, and flaky. 

Unlike dandruff, clients dealing with dry scalp may notice that their hair also feels dry and frizzy. This is because the oil that our scalp produces helps keep our hair hydrated, and when it’s unable to create or retain moisture, our strands suffer. Additionally, the flakes associated with dry scalp are much smaller and less visible, much like the ones we see on our face when it’s dehydrated. 

Dry scalp is easier to treat, as it typically only requires a change in hair products and routine. Patients can start by shampooing less often and using products that are specifically designed to moisturize. You could also try using a humidifier in your home or at the office, especially if you live in an arid climate. 

Still not sure what’s causing your symptoms? The skincare experts at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Institute can help you understand your scalp health and work with you to create treatment options. Soon, you’ll be rid of flakes and feeling confident about donning your favorite black outfit!