How to Differentiate Between Dry Scalp & Dandruff

By LeafTV Editor

Individuals affected with dry, itchy, flaky scalp may find it hard to differentiate between dry scalp and dandruff. Dandruff, also known as pityriasis, affects 45 to 50 percent of the world population while dry scalp is actually considered rare. There are a few indicators to tell the difference between these two unpleasant scalp conditions. A person suffering from either condition can treat, as well as take certain precautions to lower the occurrence and severity of the symptoms.

Curly brunette in a sweater on the coast
credit: iprogressman/iStock/GettyImages
How To Differentiate Between Dry Scalp Dandruff


Consider origins of both conditions. The scalp usually renews its cells, like any other skin cell, every month or so by producing new cells under the old ones, and then slowly sloughing the old ones off to uncover the new ones. Dandruff is a result of a fungus, which is present on all scalps, becoming overactive and triggering the accelerated production of these new skin cells, not giving the old ones time to slough off undetected. The fungus sucks up the fatty acids in the scalp's sebum, drying it up and produces acid on the scalp which leads to the itchiness. Dry scalp is usually caused by a person drying out the scalp from over processing, use of drying hair products, weather changes or improper diet.

Observe the size of the flakes. Dry scalp sheds small flakes because the skin is sloughing the dry cells slowly. Dandruff sufferers shed large flakes because of the overproduction of cells that is forcing large clumps of cells off the scalp.

Look at color of the flakes. Dry scalp sheds transparent flakes you can hardly see since it is just dry, sloughed off skin cells. Dandruff produces white or yellow flakes because of the overactive fungus on the scalp.

Consider consistency of the flakes. Dry scalp produces dry flakes. Dandruff produces greasy flakes and is usually accompanied by an odor because it is a result of a fungal infection.