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Is it Dandruff or a Dry Scalp?

By HERWriter
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During changes in season, our skin and scalp may develop dryness. Dryness of the scalp can cause shedding of skin flakes but you may wonder if it is just dry skin or dandruff flakes falling from your hair.

Dandruff can be caused by dryness of the scalp but flakes from dry skin are usually smaller and less oily than flakes from dandruff. Plus, if you are having dry skin on your scalp, you will likely have dry skin elsewhere on your body at the same time.

The scalp gets oil from the hair follicles on your head so it typically does not get dried out like other skin surfaces. If you don’t wash your hair often enough, you can develop dandruff from the build up of cells not being washed away.

Other irritations to the scalp can cause dandruff. A yeast-like fungus called malassezia is often considered to be the culprit. Malassezia lives on everyone’s scalp but in some people can cause irritation.

According to the Beauty Brains website, malassezia releases oleic acid through their metabolism and that chemical causes the irritation in some people. More skin cells grow in response and when those cells die off, they are shed as larger whitish flakes.

Other causes of dandruff not due to malassezia are sensitivity to certain hair products and other skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, but these causes are not considered to be true dandruff.

Seborrheic dermatitis is another frequent cause of dandruff, according to Mayoclinic.com. It appears as red, greasy skin covered with white or yellow scales or flakes. On infants, seborrheic dermatitis is also known as cradle cap.

Treatments may be similar to dandruff treatments but also may include cortisone medications, antibacterials or antifungals, and light therapy.

There are several shampoo treatments for dandruff, so you may have to try a few to see if they work for you. Read the labels of dandruff shampoos to find the active ingredients listed below.

1) Zinc pyrithione

Zinc pyrithione is an antibacterial and antifungal agent. This is an active ingredient in popular shampoos such as Head and Shoulders or Selsun Blue.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.