Our resident pharmacist explains how to tell the difference and the best way to treat a dry, itchy scalp.
Suffering from a dry, itchy and flaking scalp? When your head starts to itch it’s normal to assume you have dandruff, but you could in fact have a dry scalp. From white flakes to an extremely itchy scalp, dandruff and dry scalp share many of the same symptoms, but they are two different conditions that require separate treatments. So what’s the difference?
If you find yourself scratching or seeing flakes in your hair line, our resident pharmacist Rita Ghelani explains how to tell the difference between dandruff and a thirsty scalp, and the best course of treatment:
What is dandruff?
Dandruff is a common skin condition that results from dead skin on the scalp clumping together to form grey or white flakes, which are noticeable up close or if they fall on to your shoulders. You constantly produce new skin cells and sheds old cells and dandruff can occur when this cycle of skin renewal is sped up.
Dandruff is perfectly harmless and not contagious, but it may be unsightly if you have white flakes on your clothes and it can be difficult to treat. If your scalp feels dry and itchy it may be because of dandruff. There are several causes of dandruff including:
- Fungal infectionscan cause excess growth of skin cells.
- Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that mainly affects oily areas of the body, such as the scalp, a symptom of which is dandruff.
- Eczemais a condition that causes skin to become inflamed and itchy.
However, a dry itchy scalp that is not responding to treatment with a dandruff shampoo may be due to loss of natural moisture, so alternative treatment should be considered.
What is the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp?
If you have tried anti-dandruff shampoo with no luck, there is a difference between having a dry scalp and dandruff, so this may be the reason why the shampoo isn’t working.
A dry itchy scalp can result if the natural moisture balance of the scalp is disturbed. A dry scalp can be caused by the following:
✔️ Skin conditions such as dermatitis/psoriasis
✔️ Hormonal changes
✔️ External factors such as changes in temperature or seasons
✔️ Environmental pollution
✔️ Certain hair treatments
The main way to tell the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp is by the appearance of skin flakes. Dandruff flakes are bigger and tend to look oily, whereas with a dry scalp the flakes are smaller and should disappear once you have applied a moisturising treatment.
So if you do not have white or grey flakes of skin appearing in your hair but your scalp is itchy and dry, then it may be a good idea to try a scalp treatment to help restore the natural moisture balance.
Try Eucerin® DermoCapillaire Calming Urea Scalp Treatment or AVEENO® Skin Relief Soothing Shampoo, both of these will help to treat a dry scalp and restore the moisture balance.