Dandruff Vs. Dry Scalp – What's The Difference? Causes, Symptoms

It's known as one of the most common skin disorders — a.k.a. a condition involving lesions and flaking skin on the head or body, dandruff. But is your problem dandruff, or is it dry scalp? They're two distinct conditions with different causes, so treating them incorrectly can prolong the problem and cause more harm to the skin than good.

What is Dandruff?

Most people have dandruff a time or two in their life, and there's not much reason to be alarmed about it. It is one of the most common hair issues and is known as seborrheic dermatitis. Like many other skin conditions, it may cause itching and flaking.

What is a Dry Scalp?

On the other hand, a dry scalp is a skin condition characterized by constantly parched and flaky skin on the top of your head. A dry scalp comes with several side effects, including ingrown hair and an uneasy feeling. 

What causes dandruff?

There are many different causes of dandruff, and it can be challenging to determine the underlying cause. However, several common triggers may lead to dandruff.

  1. Genetics

If you have family members with dandruff, you may be more likely to develop it.

  1. Hormones

Menopause can cause hormones to change, which can lead to an increase in dandruff symptoms.

  1. Skin conditions 

Many skin conditions can cause dandruff, such as psoriasis or eczema. These include: Seborrheic dermatitis (also called seborrhoea) – Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition characterized by redness and scaling on the scalp, eyebrows, and face. 

  1. Nutrition

A poor diet can cause dandruff. If you're not getting enough protein, zinc, and iron in your diet, it could increase the rate at which your skin cells are shed.

  1. Hair care products

Using shampoos and conditioners containing sulphates may lead to an increase in flakes. Some people are sensitive to these chemicals and will notice dandruff even after using them once or twice.

  1. Allergies 

Allergies can cause an overproduction of oil on your scalp, leading to increased flaking and itching. 

  1. Medications

Certain medications like antibiotics or steroids can cause your body's immune system to slow down, which may result in increased oil production on your scalp.

A dry scalp is a common condition caused by many factors. Some of the most common causes are:

  1. Hormonal changes

Dry scalp is often triggered by hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or menopause.

  1. Dry air and cold weather

Dry air and cold temperatures can cause your skin to become dry, leading to a dry scalp.

  1. Using too many styling products

Over-styling your hair with gels, waxes, and other products can damage your hair and leave it prone to drying out.

  1. Not properly cleaning your hair after swimming or exercising

If you don't rinse out all of the chlorine or sweat from your hair after getting out of the pool or gym, it can lead to dryness on your scalp and hair colour fading faster than normal.

Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp: Symptoms

It doesn't need to be complicated. There are a lot of myths surrounding cystic and seborrheic dandruff. In some cases, they are interrelated; in others, they are completely different conditions. Which one is affecting your scalp? Find out the differences between dry scalp vs. dandruff below:

Dandruff: Home Remedies

Here are some home remedies that can be used to treat dandruff:

  1. Coconut oil with lemon

Coconut oil is one of the best natural remedies for dandruff. It helps to remove dead skin cells, nourish your scalp and make it soft.

Mix equal amounts of coconut oil and lemon juice. Apply this mixture to your scalp and leave it on for 2-3 hours. Rinse off with lukewarm water.

  1. Curd

Yogurt contains lactic acid, which helps reduce dandruff caused by bacteria on the scalp. It also contains proteins that help nourish your hair and keep it strong. To use curd as a dandruff treatment, apply some to your hair and massage gently into your scalp for five minutes before rinsing with warm water.

  1. Neem Juice

Neem juice has long been used as an effective dandruff treatment. You can make your own neem juice by boiling dried neem leaves in water for 20 minutes and then straining out the contents.

Add one teaspoon of neem juice to two tablespoons of water and apply it to your scalp. Leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off with water.

  1. Egg Yolk

Egg yolk is a traditional ingredient for treating dandruff and can be used as a natural anti-dandruff shampoo. The egg yolk contains fat that coats the scalp and prevents the accumulation of dead skin cells. It also contains lecithin and cholesterol, which help stimulate the growth of new hair follicles.

Apply egg yolk on your hair and scalp and leave it for about 10 minutes before rinsing off with water.    

  1. Garlic

Garlic contains sulphur and is a natural antifungal agent. It is also known to help with dandruff because it has anti-inflammatory properties.

To treat dandruff, you can use garlic on a daily basis by mixing a clove of garlic with some honey and applying it to your scalp. Leave it on for 20 minutes before washing off with plain water.

You can add one or two crushed cloves of garlic to your shampoo when you regularly wash your hair.

Dry Scalp: Home Remedies

Here are some home remedies that can be used to treat dry scalp:

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Use apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water and rinse your hair with it twice weekly to help restore moisture levels and reduce itching.

  1. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a natural moisturizer that can help treat dry scalp, dandruff and other skin conditions. Aloe Vera also has antibacterial properties that can help with healing dry or irritated skin.

Apply Aloe Vera gel directly to the scalp for a soothing effect on your dry scalp. Leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off with lukewarm water.

  1. Banana

Banana contains potassium, which helps prevent dryness and itchiness. Additionally, the high levels of vitamins B6, C and E help to strengthen hair follicles while also nourishing the scalp.

Mix one mashed banana with 1/2 cup of yogurt or buttermilk. Apply this mixture to your scalp and massage gently into your hair. Leave on for 15 minutes before rinsing off in the shower with a mild shampoo.

At Kailon, our hair care experts have developed a series of personal care subscription boxes, including serums and shampoos, to help care for dandruff and dry scalp concerns. We suggest you take the free hair analysis (forms.thekailon.com/hair-care.php) to get to know your hair type and the specific concerns, which will help our hair care experts to recommend the products suited for you. You can also take up a one-time 'Free Doctor consultation' on our website to speak to our dermatologists to help identify the concerns and recommend suitable products.


Our products are designed by doctors, cruelty-free, 100% vegetarian, and crafted in India without harming the environment.


Wrapping Up

We hope the above article was able to help you understand the difference between dandruff and dry scalp, their causes and symptoms, and some home remedies and products available to take care of dandruff and dry scalp concerns.