Understanding the Difference between Dry Scalp and Dandruff

Megan Dominion

Both a dry scalp and dandruff can be extremely frustrating. That white flaky skin may be harmless but is not pleasant non the less. Both are both common scalp conditions, but they have different causes and symptoms.

Dry Scalp

Dry scalp is caused by a lack of moisture and oils in the scalp, resulting in dryness, itching, and flaking. Symptoms of dry scalp include itching, dandruff-like flakes, or skin redness.


  1. Not Enough Moisture: Not enough moisture in the hair can lead to dry scalp. If the air around you is dry, it can take moisture away from your hair and skin.
  2. Not Enough Conditioner: Inadequate conditioning can lead to dry scalp. Conditioning your hair helps to lock in moisture and keep your scalp and hair healthy.
  3. Over-washing: Over-washing your hair can strip away natural oils that keep your scalp moisturized.
  4. Shampoo Quality: Washing your hair with shampoos that contain harsh alcohols or detergents can strip your scalp of its natural oils, upsetting the balance of the scalp and leading to a dry, irritated scalp.
  5. Stress: Stress can cause a disruption in the body leading to dryness and itching on the scalp.


Treatment for dry scalp includes keeping the scalp hydrated with moisturizing shampoos, conditioners, and scalp treatments.

Use gentle shampoos to see if this soothes the scalp. Sulphate free shampoos are a good place to start. Applying oils to your hair and scalp can also add some moisture, choose an oil with soothing properties such as Argan Oil.



Dandruff is caused by an overproduction of a yeast-like fungus called malassezia. This fungus feeds on the oils that your scalp produces, leading to an increase in skin cell production and flaking. The yeast causes irritation and the scalp to flake and produce dead skin cells.

Symptoms of dandruff include greasy, white or yellow flakes, an itchy scalp and redness of the scalp.

  1. Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can increase your risk of dandruff, as dehydration can lead to an overproduction of yeast.
  2.  Irritated Scalp: Conditions that irritate the scalp, such as eczema and psoriasis, can increase your risk of developing dandruff.
  3. Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances caused by puberty or menopause can cause an increase in oil production that can lead to dandruff.
  4. Diet: Eating a diet high in sugar and saturated fats can cause an overgrowth of yeast in your scalp.
  5. Shampoo: Not using the right shampoo for your hair type can make it more prone to developing dandruff.


Treatment for dandruff includes anti-dandruff shampoos, scalp scrubs, and antifungal treatments.


Natural remedies for dandruff or dry scalp may be a good place to start. It’s important to remember if none of these remedies are working, or if your dandruff is severe, rather talk to a doctor or dermatologist who can advise you better.

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.