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Do I Have Dry Scalp, or Dandruff?

Is this dry scalp or dandruff? This is one of the most frequent questions my clients ask me

on regular basis. The determination can be hard for clients to decipher as both have similarities in symptoms and appearances. An average person sheds approximately 9 pounds of dead skin cells annually. When healthy scalp sheds skin cells, it is normally small dry flakes that is not noticeable.

What is Dandruff?

The technical name for Dandruff is Pityriasis. It is caused by a fungus called Malassezia, which we all have on our skin, but it causes Dandruff once it grows out of control. The characteristics of Dandruff is an excessive production and accumulation of large visible clumps of skin cells. Dandruff is not contagious. However, factors such as age, stress, hormones, and/or someone who has poor hygiene, contributes to it.

Symptoms of Dandruff

* Large, oily flakes, can be yellow or white in appearance

* Itchy, irritated scalp

* Oily, red, scaly skin/scalp

* May be attached to scalp in clumps/masses

* Can be scattered loosely in hair or fall on shoulders

What is Dry Scalp?

Dry scalp is as the name implies.....dry scalp. However, unlike Dandruff, the flakes are smaller and less obvious. Whereas Dandruff is a result of the overgrowth of the fungus Malassezia. Dry scalp can occur from sunburn, age, a reaction to chemical or products used on the scalp; cold or dry climate can make it worse.

Symptoms of Dry Scalp

* Small, dry flakes

* Itchy, irritated scalp

How Do I Treat My Issues?

Dandruff that falls under the simplex category, large flakes, scalp irritation, and/or itchy scalp can be treated with the regular usage of an anti-dandruff shampoo, conditioners or topical solutions.

Dandruff that falls under the steatoide (extreme) category, greasy/waxy flakes mixed with sebum, sticks to the scalp in crusts, scalp is red and inflamed, is seborrheic dermatitis and needs to be treated with a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo, conditioners or topical solution prescribed by a doctor.

Dry Scalp can be alleviated by using a gentle shampoo warm water (versus hot water) to shampoo your hair along with a moisturizing conditioner and cool/tepid water to rinse. Keep in mind that too much shampooing can strip your scalp of the natural oils it produces. Be knowledgeable on the products you use and know which ones are causing a reaction to prevent contact dermatitis.

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