Does dandruff mean my scalp is dry? - TELETIES

Does dandruff mean my scalp is dry?

Yes, dandruff can be a sign of a dry scalp if the flakes are light, ashy or white in color, and you can feel a definite tightness in the skin of your scalp. Dandruff also comes from other things that don’t include dry scalp like excess fungus growth and sebum production, not washing your hair enough, or by not using the right shampoo.

Dandruff from a dry scalp happens because the skin’s normal barrier function gets degraded and allows too much water to leave the skin, and the top layer of your scalp scales and flakes off. Since these flakes are just dead, dry skin cells, they appear white or ash/grayish in color and break off in smaller flakes. 

If you have dandruff because of a dry scalp, your scalp should feel “tight” (imagine how a piece of leather feels stiff when it gets dried out). The good news is that you can likely get rid of the dandruff within days or a couple of weeks by tweaking your grooming routine. 

First check your shampoo ingredients for sodium lauryl sulfate. Sulfates in your shampoo are important for cleaning, but can dry out your scalp and cause dandruff if you’re shampooing too frequently. Try shampooing less often or alternating with a different shampoo.  Another option is to add oils like vitamin E oil into your hair care routine to help seal more moisture in.

But dandruff doesn’t always mean you have a dry scalp. Technically, dandruff is a mild form of a condition called Seborrheic Dermatitis. This can happen with or without a dry scalp and will look more clumpy and yellowish because it comes from excess sebum that gets gunked together with dead skin cells and particles from the air that didn't wash out when you showered. As these clumps break up when you rub or scratch your head, they flake off your scalp and drop onto your shoulders (among other places) appearing like dandruff.

This type of dandruff occurs without a dry scalp for a few reasons. You might be waiting too long between shampoos, or your shampoo doesn’t have enough cleaning power (sulfate-free shampoos for example), and it can occur if you’re not fully scrubbing your scalp. 

There’s another thing to watch out for.  If you have dandruff but you don’t have a dry scalp, and you’re giving yourself a thorough scalp scrub with the right shampoo, it might also be because of fungus around your scalp causing inflammation and scaling of your skin. This is what most anti-dandruff shampoos target with ingredients like Ketoconazole or Zinc Pyrithione.  If you switch to these and that was the cause, you should likely see relief in a few weeks, just make sure to scrub that scalp!  

Now you know that dandruff can be caused by more than a dry scalp. And you have some clues on how to identify the cause of yours.  If you don’t see any difference with the fixes mentioned above, talk with a medical professional. They can prescribe other treatments and evaluate if the dandruff is a symptom of something else happening in your body. Did you find this hair health guide helpful?  Subscribe below for more just like it.

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