Dandruff Vs. Dry Scalp, What is the Difference?

by Brianna Thompson

Dandruff and a dry scalp are two common conditions that can cause flakes of dead skin to appear on the scalp and hair. While they may seem similar, they are actually two different conditions that have different underlying causes and require different treatments. 

Ichy Scalp


Dandruff occurs when there is an overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia on the scalp, which can cause irritation and excess skin cell turnover. This results in white or yellowish flakes of skin that can be seen on the scalp and hair. Dandruff may also cause itching, redness, and inflammation.

Dry Scalp 

In contrast, a dry scalp occurs when the skin on the scalp becomes dry and irritated, leading to flaking and itching. This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as cold weather, harsh hair products, and over washing the hair. Unlike dandruff, a dry scalp typically does not cause inflammation or redness.

Telling the Difference 

To tell the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp, you can examine the flakes themselves. Dandruff flakes are often larger and oilier than those caused by a dry scalp, and they may be accompanied by itching and inflammation. Dry scalp flakes, on the other hand, are usually smaller and drier, and they may be more spread out across the scalp.



Treatments for dandruff usually involves using medicated shampoos or topical treatments that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide. These ingredients help to slow down the growth of the Malassezia fungus and reduce inflammation on the scalp. Here are some potential options to help with dandruff. Keep in mind it is suggested to see a dermatologist to further inspect your scalp condition and if you need something medicated. Here are some great products to rid and control dandruff (if severe make sure to double check with a dermatologist!) 

GK Anti-Dandruff Shampoo- 

GK Hair's Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is the perfect solution for those struggling with stubborn dandruff. Its advanced formula contains natural extracts like tea tree oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oil that hydrate and nourish the scalp, providing relief from itchiness and irritation. This shampoo is suitable for all hair types, including color-treated hair, and it's easy to use.

Bosley MD Scalp Relief Anti Dandruff Shampoo- 

The BosleyMD Scalp Relief Anti Dandruff Shampoo is a hair care product that helps eliminate dandruff and soothe the scalp. This gentle shampoo is suitable for all hair types and restores the scalp's natural moisture balance, leaving hair healthy and clean-looking. Regular use of this shampoo promotes a flake-free and healthy scalp.

How To Use:

  • Apply the shampoo to wet hair.
  • Lather the shampoo.
  • Rinse thoroughly.

How To Use:

  • Apply a generous amount of GK Hair's Anti-Dandruff Shampoo to your wet hair
  • Massage the shampoo into your scalp for a few minutes
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly with warm water

Dry Scalp 

For a dry scalp, treatments may include using a gentle, moisturizing shampoo or conditioner, avoiding harsh hair products, and washing the hair less frequently. It may also be helpful to massage the scalp and use a scalp serum. For extreme flakiness, a scalp scrub is also a good option. Here are some recommended products I suggest for a dry scalp.

Living Proof Care Dry Scalp Treatment

 Leave-in scalp treatment that delivers instant hydration and lasting relief from an itchy, dry, irritated, and flaky scalp.

Malibu Scalp Therapy

  • SOOTHE DRY SCALP: With this progressive solution that delivers immediate relief with a freshly activated antioxidant complex that even provides dual-action defense against environmental triggers to help prevent future irritation.
  • WHAT IT DOES: Promotes a healthy scalp by massage that improves blood flow to scalp layers. Helps improve the appearance of symptoms associated with dandruff, eczema and psoriasis.
  • BENEFITS: Gentle, wellness alternative to prevent flaky, itchy, irritated, dry scalp; soothes and calms scalp.
  • YOU NEED TO KNOW: Infused with a B vitamin complex plus biotin for intensely therapeutic results.
  • WHY YOU NEED IT: The first-ever 100% vegan crystallized flake fighter infused with a one-of-a-kind blend of soothing botanicals and essential oils, safe for lifestyle use, unlike many traditional scalp products.

Ouidad Bye-Bye Dry Soothing Moisturizing Serum

Give your scalp the TLC it deserves with this ultra-moisturizing serum that soothes, rebalances and restores. The lightweight formula is infused with ingredients like aloe, hyaluronic acid, and cotton seed extract that help soothe while infusing essential moisture and nutrients back into the scalp, helping to reduce dryness, irritation and flaking. Amino acid-rich plant collagen and our proprietary botanical moisturizing complex (geranium oil, dandelion, elder flower, hibiscus flower, and marigold extract) deeply hydrate and form a protective barrier to keep moisture locked in so curls stay smooth, supple, and frizz-free. Eco-safe microbeads infused with concentrated doses of vitamins A, C and E (pink bead) and abyssinian oil (white bead) instantly dissolve, delivering a burst of nutrients that moisturize and rejuvenate the scalp and strands.
dandruff vs dry scalp

If you are experiencing scalp issues, it is important to speak with a dermatologist or healthcare provider to determine the cause of your symptoms and create a personalized treatment plan.

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About the Author

Brianna Thompson

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