The most alterable feature in our body is our hair. They can be styled and restyled several times to give our personality a completely different look. This makes it completely necessary to take care of our hair to keep them neat, clean and healthy and also prevent them from dandruff and dry scalp. Falling dandruff and the itching in the head can be very irritating and also embarrassing. Both these conditions usually occur due to different reasons and need to be treated differently.

Comparison chart

Dandruff versus Dry Scalp comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartDandruffDry Scalp
ICD-9 classification 690.18 NA
DiseasesDB classification 11911 NA
Definition Dandruff (also called scurf and historically termed Pityriasis capitis) is the excessive shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. Dandruff can also be caused by frequent exposure to extreme heat and cold. Dryness in the scalp can also cause itching that leads to flakes of skin that are white in color fall off in small pieces.

Symptoms of dandruff vs dry scalp

Dandruff and dry scalp have similar symptoms.

Symptoms of dandruff

The cause of an itchy scalp may be dandruff, which is white or gray visible flakes falling off the head. The hair may be oily but still the flakes of skin keep falling from the head. They can sometimes be as large as a quarter inch and have an oily feel to them. Another symptom of dandruff can be redness in scalp or irritation that does not go away after a simple washing.

Dry Scalp

Dryness in the scalp can also cause itching. Dry scalp leads to flakes of skin that are white in color fall off in small pieces. This is usually accompanied by dryness on the rest of the body.

Causes of Dandruff and Dry Scalp

Causes of dandruff

For people with dandruff, skin cells may mature and be shed in 2–7 days, as opposed to around a month in people without dandruff. The result is that dead skin cells are shed in large, oily clumps, which appear as white or grayish patches on the scalp, skin and clothes.

Dandruff is the result of three required factors:

  1. Skin oil commonly referred to as sebum or sebaceous secretions
  2. The metabolic by-products of skin micro-organisms (most specifically Malassezia yeasts)
  3. Individual susceptibility

Common older literature cites the fungus Malassezia furfur (previously known as Pityrosporum ovale) as the cause of dandruff. While this fungus is found naturally on the skin surface of both healthy people and those with dandruff, it was later discovered that a scalp specific fungus, Malassezia globosa, is the responsible agent.

Rarely, dandruff can be a manifestation of an allergic reaction to chemicals in hair gels/sprays, hair oils, or sometimes even dandruff medications like ketoconazole. There is also some evidence that food (especially sugar and yeast), excessive perspiration, and climate have significant roles in the pathogenesis of dandruff.

Causes of dry Scalp

An alternation in temperature or humidity causes dry scalp. For instance, in the winter when the heater is on, the scalp is exposed to a drier environment and the result is peeling and flaking.

Treatment for dandruff vs dry scalp

Dandruff treatment

Anti-dandruff shampoos use a combination of ingredients to control dandruff. Salicylic acid (used in Sebulex) removes dead skin cells from the scalp and decrease the rate at which these cells are created. Zinc pyrithione kills pityrospora (the fungus responsible for dandruff). Selenium sulfide or Ketoconazole achieves the results of both salicylic acid and zinc pyrithione.

Treating Dry Scalp

The easiest and most effective way of treating dry scalp is by having lots of water to re-hydrate your scalp. Natural oils in the hair should be allowed to regenerate by avoiding regular hair wash. A hair oil or a leave in conditioning treatment will let the body adjust to the new level of humidity in a few days and the scalp will return to normal.


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