DANDRUFF OR DRY SCALP? – TheBoah Read: Part 1


Most of us have been there before, or are still there… You part your hair or scratch your scalp, and you end up dusting off annoying, embarrassing white flakes off your face, neck and shoulders. Dandruff!!! Or is it dry scalp? Isn’t dry scalp the same thing as dandruff??  What is the difference???

Whether there is a difference between dandruff and dry scalp apparently seems to be debatable; but what we do know is that they have very similar symptoms- an itchy flaky scalp. Dandruff as characterised by itching and flaking of the skin on your scalp, can be caused by a number of things:



A Fungus called ‘Malassezia’:

This is believed to be the real dandruff, caused by the excessive growth of yeast like fungus known as Malassezia. Malassezia is naturally found on the scalp of most healthy adults, but have grown out of control in dandruff sufferers. The fungus feeds off the oil secreted by the hair follicles, irritating the skin on the scalp and causing extra skin cells to grow. These skin cells die and shed off, clumping with oil on the scalp and hair to form white oily flakes you refer to as dandruff.


Dry Skin:

The most common cause of an itchy flaky scalp is simply plain ‘ol dry skin. The difference between this and normal dandruff caused by Malassezia is that the white flakes are usually smaller and not oily. Usually, you would have signs and symptoms of dry skin on other parts of your body as well. If not, the dryness on your scalp may be caused by regularly using too harsh shampoos (usually with sulfates) over a period of time, chemical treatments (such as relaxers), climate change, washing hair with water that has high mineral content or PH, too much blow drying, amongst others.


Other Causes include:

Irritated, Oily Skin: Also known as Seborrheic dermatitis, which also causes white or yellow oily flakes. However, with this, the same symptoms can also be found on other parts of the body rich in oily glands like beside the nose, eyebrows, behind the ears, groin amongst others.

Product Build up: Using too much gels, oils, serums etc can build up on the scalp and cause dandruff-like conditions, especially when you do not wash your hair often enough. Also, not completely rinsing out shampoos and especially conditioners can cause them to dry up on the roots of the hair and scalp. This is more likely when hair has quite a bit of new growth (is ‘due’), or is natural. Because of the coily nature of African hair, effort needs to be made to completely wash out products particularly at the roots of the hair, to avoid a sticky, greasy flaky mess.

Sensitivity to certain Hair care products (Contact Dermatitis): Just like with the skin, sometimes the skin on your scalp may be sensitive to certain ingredients in hair care products. This sensitivity may manifest itself as dandruff-like symptoms.

Those who suffer from skin conditions like Eczema and Psoriasis may find that these can also manifest themselves on the scalp, and lead to dandruff-like symptoms.



Stay tuned for Part 2: Treatment (unfortunately, I get pretty detailed)…