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5 min read

Managing dry scalp and dandruff

Managing dry scalp and dandruff

Flakes on your shoulder can only mean dandruff, right? Wrong. The commercials you see want you to believe that’s the case, but they’re just trying to sell their shampoo.

Dry flaky skin is a sign of a dry scalp, but dandruff is a sign of a yeast or fungal infection that’s often closely linked to an oily scalp. It’s startling how different those two things are and yet we’re convinced that flakes mean dandruff. 

Let’s learn a little bit more about both of these conditions before we discuss how to manage either one of them. 

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is not typically white flakes on your shoulders. It more often presents as yellowish flakes that stick to your scalp or close to it. It can also be very itchy. 

Dandruff is easy to spot and treat, but it’s not always so easy to determine what the cause is. There are a number of theories for what causes dandruff and the consensus seems to be that, well, it could be lots of different reasons. These include reactions to the products you use, dry skin, eczema and more

But the best news here is that it is easy to treat. As we discussed, there are commercial haircare products designed to help you manage the condition or even reverse it. If that doesn’t work, your primary healthcare provider can give you a prescription that should do the trick.

What is dry scalp?

Dry scalp is exactly what it sounds like, your scalp is not producing enough sebum, you’re shampooing too often or using a product that dehydrates your scalp. There are a lot of reasons for dry scalp, even some medications can cause it. 

There is good news with a dry scalp, too. It’s also pretty easy to manage or reverse. It might require a new shampoo and conditioner, maybe a new haircare routine and sometimes eating better and drinking more water can help.

Tips for dandruff management

If you’ve determined that dandruff is what’s giving you flakes, the first step is to try an over-the-counter shampoo designed to help dandruff. Just be diligent—since each person is different, finding something that works often takes time and a little experimentation.

Shampoos for dandruff are classified by their active ingredient medication.

Pyrithione zinc: This agent is antibacterial/antifungal and is found in the most common dandruff shampoos. It’s a great starting point.

Coal tar: This is another popular ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos. It slows the cycle of cell death and regrowth on the scalp. If you have light hair, this can cause discoloration.

Salicylic acid: This is more of a scrub than shampoo because its primary function is to remove scale. Make sure you use a good conditioner if you go this route.

Selenium sulfide: If Malassezia, a fungal infection, is causing your flakes, then this is what you want. But use carefully, as it can also discolor hair.

Ketoconazole: By prescription or over-the-counter, you’re pulling out the big guns with this one. It’s a broad-spectrum antifungal that will work where others fail.

Tips for managing a dry scalp

If you’ve got dry scalp issues, the causes are broader and the fixes are even more varied.

Check your products: If you’re using anything that removes natural oils from your head, discontinue using it immediately. You want those oils to protect your scalp. 

Cut back on shampoos: If you’re shampooing your hair too frequently, you could be stripping it of too much sebum. Try going every other day with washes to see what happens.

Go natural: Try using all-natural haircare products that don’t have any harmful chemicals.

Use a hair mask: Look for a hydrating hair mask that will give your scalp a good dose of healthy moisture.

Change your diet: Are you eating and drinking enough to properly hydrate your body? Try to bring more fresh produce with high water content. This Tropical Turmeric Green Smoothie is a great way to kick your new diet in gear.

Supplements: If you can’t or don’t want to change your diet, then at least add some supplements that support scalp health and drink more water.

Final thoughts

Flakes don’t always mean dandruff. Even flakes with an itch can be dandruff or a dry scalp. A medical professional will be able to tell the difference, but you might be able to do so on your own if you know what you’re looking for.

Managing both dandruff and a dry scalp is pretty easily done. For dandruff, you need to find the right shampoo. If none of the over-the-counter ones work for you, connect with a healthcare professional so you can get a prescription. Remember to be patient, this could take a little time and experimentation.

Managing a dry scalp is a little trickier because you need to figure out what’s causing it. Then it’s just a matter of reversing the damage that’s been done and creating a new haircare regimen that supports moisture and balance.

If you start to see flakes, don’t fret. You can solve this, dust your shoulders off and move on.

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    At Hair La Vie, we know that your hair is an integral part of how you present yourself to the world and shape your authentic style.

    Join our private Facebook Community for a safe, human-moderated space to share your Hair Journey, discover new natural beauty, and take steps towards becoming “you” with the help of an understanding, supportive community.

    Join now for instant access to livestreams, discussions, and exclusive access to new products!

    JOIN THE GROUP