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The Difference Between Dry Scalp and Dandruff

There are two different conditions that can cause flakes coming from your scalp: dry scalp and dandruff.

What Dry Scalp Is Like

Flakes caused by dry scalp are light, dry, and white in color. They are just bits of dry skin being released from your scalp in larger chunks than usual. The flakes you see in anti-dandruff shampoo commercials are usually this sort of flake, since they are a kinder, gentler sort of flake than the real thing. Dry scalp can be treated the same way dry skin on any part of the body is treated; use moisturizer and try not to wash your hair too often, since soap and shampoo are drying and will worsen the condition.

Dry scalp feels very similar to dandruff, since it makes your skin feel tight and itchy, and causes flakes to fall, but it is less severe and easier to deal with. Just be sure that you are not worsening your dry scalp by overwashing it or irritating the skin with too-frequent brushing, combing, or scratching.

What Dandruff Is Like

Flakes caused by dandruff are denser, yellowish, and oily or sticky. The flakes generally cling to the hair or scalp until something dislodges them; dandruff sufferers tend to have flakes in the parting of their hair, rather than dusted on their shoulders as they do in the advertisements. Dandruff is caused by a fungal infection in the scalp, and as time goes on it can worsen and develop an odor. Dandruff flakes can even stick to your scalp and build up into a mass. The flakes can get quite large.

Dandruff is treated by specialized shampoos. Again, you should avoid overwashing or scratching, but in this case, it’s because you don’t want to inadvertently damage your scalp, creating openings where the infection can dig itself in. You need to use your shampoo on a regular basis, and be sure to change your pillowcases regularly, clean your hats, and so on, in order to reduce the risk of re-infecting yourself.

A Third Possibility

If flakes appear when you pinch a strand of hair and slide your fingers down it, and mysteriously vanish whenever you wash your hair, then you are probably using too much product, or the combination of products you are using just doesn’t work well. Cut down and go for a more natural look, and your flaking problems will go away.

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