Dandruff and Dry Scalp - What's the difference ?

dry scalp dandruff differenceDandruff and dry scalp are often thought to be the same condition. All to often people will think they have dandruff, go to a hair treatment professional only to discover they have dry scalp. Dandruff is caused by certain bacteria and can be passed to other people if you use the same combs, brushes or wear the same hats as other people. 

For this reason it is important to know how to recognize the differences between dry scalp and dandruff and get the best appropriate treatment available. Dandruff is fine yellowish colored powder like combination of oil released from the hair shaft ( known as sebum ), scalp tissue, sweat and bacteria. Dry scalp is a product of dead and dry skin cells from the scalp. It's often caused by scratching or itching of the scalp surface, over combing of the hair follicles or drying of the oil-producing sebaceous glands. Dry scalp can also result from using poor quality hair care products. Some poor quality shampoos and conditioners are not good enough to remove the build up of hairspray or styling products. This results in a white powdery residue building up on the scalp and at the base of the follicles.  

What causes dandruff ? 

1. Overactive sebaceous glands. 
This issue may have a genetic component, people with this conditions may need to seek the help of a skin doctor to get the best treatment solution. Sufferers should also avoid using any products that may cause a build up of residue on the scalp such as grease ,balms and any oily hair care and hair styling products. People with this condition should try to keep their scalp bacteria free by washing their hair every second day. Shampoo which contains tea tree oil in it is a popular choice amongst dermatologists when advising sufferers on the best products to use. However care should be taking when using any anti dandruff shampoo as they are strong products and if abused may actually exacerbate the problem you are trying to cure. 

2. Bad hygiene. 
Bacteria is the underlying cause of dandruff. It is important to wash your hair at least once every two days to keep you hair bacteria free. 

3. Hair grease, oil balms, Vaseline. Products like these are heavy in oils that are hard to remove. These oils coat the base of the hair follicles and surface of the scalp. This prevents air from reaching the scalp. As the scalp will still continue to sweat and produce natural oils, the sweat and oil will become trapped under the gunky oil layer left over from the oily hair care products. If not treated and removed immediately bacteria will form leading to dandruff. 

4. Scratching and digging at the scalp. If possible you should not scratch and scrape at the scalp as these actions can allow bacteria to form. It may be tempting to scratch and remove dandruff from the scalp but this will only make the problem worse. 

5. Sharing combs and objects that sit on the head with others. Combs, brushes and hats. Sharing such objects with others who sufferfrom dandruff can result in you getting dandruff too ! Be sure to use your own items or if you must share combs and brushes make sure who you are sharing with does not suffer from dandruff. Remember dandruff is caused by bacteria and as such is a contagious condition. 

 What causes dry scalp ? 

1. Decreased sebum ( hair oil ) production. 
Sebum, the natural oils produced from the base of your hair follicles, regulates your hair's protective barrier from the environment. The production of sebum can be low, normal or high. People with a high level of sebum production often suffer from oily hair. Those with a low-level of sebum production may have skin with a parched look caused by its inability to retain moisture. Low levels of sebum production contribute to a dry scalp. 

2. Harmful hair care products. 
Shampoos and conditions that are readily available over the counter or on the supermarket shelves contain chemicals that a lot of the public may not be aware of. Such chemicals range from simple color and scent enhancers to more damaging chemicals such as alcohol and waxes. These chemicals can cause your scalp to dry out. In such cases one should immediately switch to a professional product that is designed with the health of your hair in mind. Also some users may experience an allergic reaction to certain products especially products containing certain flower or fruit extracts, and butane derivatives found in aerosol and pump containers. If you have a consistent problem with these stop using them as they can cause, itching, burning and dry scalp.  

A final note on product buildup 

Product buildup is a result of using overly oily and greasy products on your hair. These products include such items as mousse, hairspray, gels and hair greases. If you have dry scalp or dandruff such products should be avoided. If you must use them then be sure to shampoo regularly with a quality shampoo to keep your hair buildup free.