When you see white flakes in the hair around your scalp, it’s a distressing situation. It’s important to know whether the flakes are due to dandruff or dry scalp before pursuing treatment.
Dandruff Definition and Symptoms
Dandruff or pityriasis involves excessive shedding of dead skin cells found on the scalp. Frequent exposure to extreme cold or heat can cause dandruff. Symptoms of dandruff include itchy, scaly scalp and oily white flakes of dead skin in hair and on shoulders.
Dry Scalp Definition and Symptoms
When the scalp sheds skin cells faster than the typical frequency of 20-30 days, it can cause dry scalp. Many factors can affect the normal skin condition of the scalp and cause dryness. Symptoms of dry scalp include itching, irritation and redness on the scalp and flakes of dead skin cells at the scalp or in hair.
Causes of Dandruff
There are several causes of dandruff and finding the right one helps you pursue effective treatment. Common causes of dandruff include:
- Not washing hair often enough – Without proper shampooing, oils and skin cells can accumulate on the scalp and this leads to oil flakes in the hair.
- Skin conditions – Psoriasis and eczema are two skin conditions that can contribute to dandruff.
- Dry skin – Dry skin on the scalp that flakes off and appears in hair and clothing is one of the main causes of dandruff
- Contact dermatitis – A scalp that’s sensitive to hair products like shampoo and dyes can appear red, itchy and scaly.
- Seborrheic dermatitis – The oily skin of this condition creates red, greasy skin covered with yellow or white flaky scales.
Dry Scalp Causes
The causes of dry scalp can be similar to those that lead to dandruff, which makes diagnosing the cause of flakes tricky. Causes of dry scalp include:
- Washing hair too often – Shampooing too much can remove the natural oils on the scalp and cause flaking skin.
- Skin conditions – The same skin conditions that cause dandruff can also cause dry scalp.
- Excessive cold or heat – When weather is overly cold or hot, the air can become dry and lead to dry skin all over your body, including your scalp.
- Using harsh products – Hair dyes, styling products and shampoo ingredients can damage the scalp and lead to flaky, dry and red skin.
Determining the cause of your flakes brings you closer to restoring the health and appearance of your scalp and hair.