Dandruff vs Dry Scalp, What’s The Difference?

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp - What's The Difference?

Update 4/21/15: Paul Mitchell, the company I most highly recommend as a professional hairstylist, recently started selling their products at Loxa Beauty – the only place approved to sell authentic PM products onling. For your convenience, you can use this or any of the partner links later in the post to purchase products at Loxa Beauty!


We’ve all seen the commercials for Dandruff shampoo where a nice man or woman in a dark colored shirt is caught in an embarrassing situation with unsightly little white flakes of scalp snowing down onto their shoulders. “Oh,” their friend or colleague will assure them, “try this shampoo and your flakes will be gone!” But is that true? No. Yes. Well, maybe.
You see, it’s not quite as simple as that. The flakes we see on their shoulders aren’t usually dandruff; they’re dry scalp, and yes there is a difference. Unfortunately these commercials cause people to misidentify their problem, and often mistreat it, possibly making it worse.
Let’s go over a few of the major differences between Dandruff and dry scalp. I should also make it clear before we get into the thick of it that your hairstylist may be able to give you their personal and professional opinion on what scalp condition you have, but Dandruff can only be diagnosed by a doctor. I am not a doctor, and certainly can not diagnose you online.


We’ll start here, since this is what the majority of people who think they have Dandruff actually have. Dry scalp is characterized by small, white flakes of scalp. It can be caused by severe dehydration and over-shedding of the scalp, using poor quality shampoo and conditioner which are stripping your scalp of it’s natural oils, over-washing your hair, washing your hair with hot water, or change in the seasons. It may also be accompanied by itching and irritation. Here are some ways that you can combat dry scalp. (Note that dry scalp can also be genetic, in which case there isn’t a whole lot to be done about it)

1. Make sure to drink plenty of water. I often forget to do this in the winter-time, but staying well hydrated in the winter is important for our skin because we are often moving in and out of heated buildings, which can suck moisture from your skin. If you’re well hydrated on the inside, your whole body will function better, and your hair and skin will look and feel better since your body will be more easily able to turn over new cells.

2. Switch to a professional shampoo and conditioner. Many drugstore brand shampoos have harsh cleansing agents which will strip your hair of the natural oils that it needs to stay hydrated. Beware of claims that drugstore products are “pH balanced”. This means nothing. They are allowed to make this claim no matter what because everything that is water soluble has a pH, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the same pH as your hair and skin. Most professional products ARE balanced to the pH of your skin unless they are meant to serve a certain purpose like clarifying shampoo for swimmers. A couple of good professional products are Paul Mitchell Instant Moisture Shampoo and Instant Moisture Daily Treatment, and Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo and Conditioner. One of my favorites for dry scalp is Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Hair and Scalp Treatment. The tea tree is soothing for itchiness, and the treatment should be massaged into your scalp and has little beads to help exfoliate dead skin cells so that they don’t fall off later, when you don’t want them to. The tea tree treatment isn’t necessary to use every day, and you want to make sure to rinse it out thoroughly. I should also mention that although Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree products are fairly color safe, anything with tea tree oil has the potential to fade color, so if you have your hair colored, you probably won’t want to use tea tree products every day. Overuse of tea tree products can also be drying, so, everything in moderation.

dry scalp treatmentdandruff treatmenttea tree treatment

3. Wash your hair less often and with cooler water. Hot water strips the natural oils from your skin causing it to feel tight and dry. I know a lot of people love to take scalding hot showers, but it’s really terrible for your skin and can cause all kinds of irritation and problems down the road. Also if you think you have a dry scalp, and you wash your hair every day, try to cut it down to every other day at the most; this will give your skin a chance to create the oil that you need to protect your skin and re-balance it’s own natural pH.

4. Gently brush your scalp before washing your hair. Use a brush that has bristles which are close together and not too stiff. Start at your hairline and work around your head, making sure to brush all areas of your scalp. This will help loosen dead skin cells which are ready to shed off so that you can wash them out.


Dandruff is usually characterized by larger, greasy or waxy flakes or clusters of skin cells and are usually yellowish or grey. They may come off in your hair brush or stick to your hair or scalp, and are accompanied by itching. Dandruff, unlike dry scalp, is usually associated with a fungal or bacterial infection of the scalp. If you have dandruff, you should clean your brushes, combs, hats, towels etc. between each use. [edited: and as one commenter’s dermatologist recommended, changing your pillowcase daily may help as well!] The type and cause of Dandruff can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. Here are a few things you can try to help combat Dandruff, but be sure to check with your doctor/dermatologist, especially if it is accompanied by severe itching, bleeding, or oozing.

1. Shampoos and conditioners which contain Tea Tree oil can be effective against dandruff caused by infection because tea tree has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. I recommend Paul Mitchell’s line of Tea Tree products. [edited: As one commenter suggested, dilute any essential oils with water instead of applying directly to your scalp. Or you can add a couple of drops to your shampoo before use]

2. Cut down on styling products, especially if they are greasy or waxy. Too much product and improper shampooing creates build-up on your hair and scalp, which can cause dandruff, or make it worse.

3. Don’t scratch. Scratching can damage your scalp, making it vulnerable to infection. Extreme damage to your scalp and follicles can result in hair loss which may be permanent.

4. Of course, see your doctor! Your doctor will be able to properly diagnose your condition and recommend or prescribe products and routines to manage your Dandruff problem!

I hope this helped to clear up some of the misconceptions you may have had about dandruff. Remember, I am a cosmetologist, not a medical professional. This article is meant to be informative, based on the information that I have, but I can not claim 100% accuracy and I absolutely can not diagnose you. You are welcome to leave a comment to share your experience and suggestions, but since the comments and emails regarding this post have become numerous, I will no longer be responding to them individually.

P.S. You might also like these popular posts:
7 Ways To Have Healthier Hair
How To Clean And Maintain Your Blow Dryer
10 Of My Favorite Makeup Products Now

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By Kelsi Eldredge


  1. Dana says

    Good post :) The only thing is, I have dandruff and cannot get rid of it for the life of me. My doctor said there isn’t even really a cure for it. I put straight tea tree oil in my shampoo (I just dumped the bottle in there and shook it up) and it didn’t help.

    Also, I can’t not wash my hair daily. I feel dirty when I don’t and my hair gets oily. =/

    I think I might try the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree oil shampoo one of these days.

    • says

      If your doctor can’t prescribe a medicated shampoo, I would personally try switching shampoo and conditioner. Whatever you’re using now may be irritating or building up on your scalp, which can contribute to dandruff. If there are patches of dandruff, you can apply Tea Tree essential oil directly to the area with a cotton ball. Make sure you are using real essential oil and not just fragrance oil, and disinfect brushes and anything that comes in contact with your scalp after every use.

      • danielle says

        Never put undiluted essential oil on any part of your skin, ever! It is too concentrated and can cause a severe allergy to develop – dilute with a carrier oil, it will give you more use of your pure essential oil AND be just as effective, and will be far less likely to cause any allergies to develop. Not to be rude or anything, I think your advice is fantastic, but I think that needs to be at least suggested that diluting will prevent further irritation.


    • says

      Have you seen a dermatologist, rather than just a general practitioner? You’d be surprised the gap in knowledge between the two on these kinds of things. I had a skin issue for 8 months that I saw 5 or 6 MDs about; no one had any clue what it was. 5 minutes after meeting with a dermatologist, I was successfully diagnosed. Though your doctor is right- there’s no cure for seborrheic dermatitis (the medical condition that causes dandruff) a dermatologist will probably be more well-versed in current treatment options :)

    • Brian says

      I’ve had dandruff and dry scalp off and on for, oh, I dunno since I’ve been an adult. I’ve been to dermatologists who have definitely helped me and one of them told me if I do have seborrheic dermatitis again, one of the best things I can do is change my pillow case every day. If you have some kind of scalp infection, treating the symptoms with the appropriate prescription or professional hair product is all well and good but the CAUSE still exists in the pillow case (and even the pillow) and you can re-infect yourself again and again and again. Two pillows swapped out each day while one is washed helped me immensely. Hope this helped.

  2. ainju says

    i think it is dry scalp that i am having. but, if i do not wash my hair everyday, i am getting itchy also i loose a large number of hairs when combing and washing the next time. how can i reduce these?

    • says

      As far as losing hair goes, you lose an average of 100 hairs every day, no matter what. If you go a few days without washing your hair, you aren’t agitating it as much, so you won’t notice that you are losing it until you brush it, so it will seem like more hair comes out in the brush simply because it didn’t come out in the shower. You’ll lose the same amount of hair no matter how often you wash.
      As for the itching, I can’t really tell you how to avoid that, as I don’t know the real source of the itching. It could be a buildup of product or oil on the scalp. I’d recommend trying to just wash every other day instead of every day and that should definitely be often enough to remove dirt, product and oil before it starts itching. If you are having a lot of itchiness, you may have a sensitivity or allergy to a product that you are using.

  3. Windy says

    I thought this information was really useful. I’ve been under the impression I had dandruff since sometime around puberty… now I’m not so sure. I used anti-dandruff shampoo regularly, but that never seemed to keep the flaking much more in-line; it just kept the actual strands slightly less oily. I can’t really rely on the rest of my body’s skin to tell which problem I’ve got, either, since my face has always been oily while the rest of me has been neutral to dry.

    My flakes have never been yellowish, and they don’t make that regular an appearance on my clothing, but sometimes they are caught in my hair. I kind of wish I could find reliable pictures of the two conditions, though; after all what’s the degree of difference between grayish scales of skin and white ones, and what constitutes the proper size to suggest dandruff as opposed to dry scalp? I tried searching, but since the internet seems as confused as the dandruff commercials are, I just ended up pulling up everything from fake pictures of dry scalp to psoriasis to infections the likes of which I count myself fortunate not to have experienced. It’s just too much information to sort through.

    Thanks again!

    • says

      I’m glad that you found this post useful, thank you so much for taking the time to comment! Unfortunately the internet is not the most reliable source for pictures. You might be able to find photos on medical website like WebMD though it’s still kind of hit or miss. Your best bet is to ask your doctor about it next time you have an appointment. They may be able to give you a better idea of what condition you have and the best way to go about treating it.

  4. says

    That is an excellent post. You highlighted the differences between dry scalp and dandruff concisely. I don’t drink much water at all and I take hot showers, i’ll defiantly need to change this.

    • says

      Do keep in mind that water consumption probably has the least effect on dryness of skin, it’s those showers that are stripping your skin of the oils it needs! It’s actually a myth that dry skin is lacking in water- as Kelsi points out, it’s lack of the skin’s natural oils, not water, that makes skin dry. One of my favorite explanations of this comes from dermatologist Cynthia Bailey: “drinking water won’t fix dry skin any more than taking a bath will quench your thirst.” Unless you’re severely dehydrated (as in hospital-stay proportions), drinking water really does very little for the skin (and most of us get enough water from our daily food intake).
      Jessica Allison recently posted..Return of The Skinny!My Profile

  5. Reese says

    This was really helpful!

    I have a bad case of dry scalp.
    I found it useful to get some organic aloe vera juice and mix about a cup of it with about 6 drops of tea tree oil and use a small spray bottle to condition my scalp.

    Within a few weeks I noticed less itch and less flakes.

    Also try Cream of Nature’s Scalp Relief shampoo.

    • says

      I’m glad you found it helpful, please share it with anyone else whom you think might like it! The aloe vera juice and tea tree oil sounds like a really good idea, thanks for posting it!

  6. Charnetta says


    After a few days after I have had my hair washed at the hair salon (usually around 4 days afterward) my scalp starts to itch. When I look at my scalp, the flakes/and or shedding..they look white but when I scratch my scalp and look at it underneath my fingernails, it looks greasy looking with a greenish color. In your article, you mention yellowish or grey in color. Can you give me some insight as to what I may have. Dandruff or Dry scalp? I am leaning towards dandruff BUT I am NOT sure. Please Help me. I scratch my scalp a lot. It’s like once I start scratching, it is hard for me to stop.
    I am really confused as to what I might have.
    Thanks. Can you send a response back to my email address? I would appreciate it alot. Thank you.

    • says

      Hi there,
      it’s hard for me to say without being able to see you in person. If you’re really in doubt, do see a doctor about it, because they are the only ones who will be able to diagnose you for sure. Since you don’t experience itching until 4 days after washing it, I doubt that it’s dandruff. It’s probably just your own scalp oils (which are natural an necessary) and maybe hair products building up on your scalp. If you use a lot of hair products, be sure to avoid putting them on your roots. When you do wash your hair, make sure to concentrate shampooing on your scalp, and conditioning just on the midshaft and ends of your hair. You can also try out the Tea Tree products and see if they help with the itching. They should be soothing either way, and if it does happen to be dandruff, it should help to kill it. I will send this to your email address as well. Thanks for your comment.

  7. JEremy says

    had no idea there was a difference! freaking dandruff commercials! I use Axe daily-wash shampoo and i’ve had dry scalp for days, and im one of those people that uses scalding hot water and probably too much shampoo when they shower. Definitely going to try cooler water and less shampoo. Do you have an opinion about these “Daily-wash” shampoos?

    • says

      For many people, I don’t think it’s necessary to wash your hair every day. If you get really grimy at work, or from working out etc. then it’s a good idea to wash your hair, of course. But if you don’t NEED to wash your hair every day, cutting back to every other day or every third day, or whatever feels comfortable to you might help with your dry scalp. Every time you shampoo, it will strip the oil from your scalp. Since oil is your body’s natural way of moisturizing your skin and scalp, you’re drying it out every day without giving it a chance to re-moisturize itself. Try shampooing less often, with cooler water, and if that doesn’t help you might want to try switching to a tea tree shampoo or something. Thanks for your comment!

    • says

      It’s most likely dry scalp. If you try the tips/products outlined in this post and they don’t help, you should definitely ask your doctor about it. A doctor is the only one who can diagnose you and prescribe something to help if it does turn out to be dandruff.

    • nina says

      To get a bit gross for a second, the yellow/brown may be flakes from places you’ve itched too much (like a scab but with a flaky texture). I’ve noticed that when my dry scalp is at its worst because I can’t resist the urge to scratch. :(

      Showering less and switching from dandruff shampoo to something less drying has already helped a lot but I had no idea the temperature mattered so much. I do love a hot shower but maybe it’s time to get used to warm ones instead…

  8. Per says

    Thanks for a great read! I’ve had problems with my scalp for years, but I’m still not certain whether it’s dandruff or just a dry scalp. I’ve had both big yellowish flakes as well as small white ones. My scalp is covered with a white layer. Is it possible to have both dandruff and a dry scalp?

    • says

      Thanks for your comment. It’s probably possible, but I can’t say for sure. To me it sounds more like dry scalp, but the only person who can diagnose you is a doctor. If you have tried the tips from this blog post and can’t seem to kick it, make sure to bring it up at your next doctor’s visit.

  9. alex says

    Hey kelsi ! I’m new here & was connected through a Google search. Thank you SO much for this article ! I see now that I have dry scalp which explains how my “dandruff” would come and go in the winter! Ill definitely try your tips as well as the ones in comments (aloe Vera). I’ve used tea tree and it does resolve the itching but that’s pretty much it. I’d want to try the bristle method to release the dead skin cells bc I think that’d be helpful, but I’m a curly girl, and my hair is much too thick and wound tightly to release the flakes at the end of my hair, let alone get the brush through my scalp :/ any suggestions? And I was going to ask if you hVe heard or have any knowledge of apple cider remedies for dry scalp? Thanks again! I look forward to perusing the rest of your blog. Ill try also a little coconut oil and acv, and also report back for the curly girls :)

    • says

      You should be able to brush your scalp without having to brush through to the ends of your hair. Start by going around the perimeter of your hairline. Hold the brush so that the edge of the bristles are on your scalp and your hand is facing away from you and then slowly turn your wrist, almost with a scooping motion, so that the bristles scrape along your scalp as you turn your hand to face toward you. (I hope that makes sense, it’s so simple, but hard to describe!) Go all along your hairline this way. Part your hair off about an inch or two back fron your hairline and repeat this process over and over until you’ve finished your entire scalp. You will have a lot of dead skin in your hair at this point, which is ok. Now if you want to, you can shake it out or begin brushing your hair out carefully as you normally would, and then go ahead and wash the rest out. It takes a long time to a a thorough job, but the results are worth it. I hope that helps and I’m excited to hear back from you about how everything works out. Thanks for your comment!

  10. says

    Thank you for your information. My daughter has been going crazy and I now think it’s dry scalp. I am going to get her the products you recommended, they certainly can’t hurt to try. Thank you again.

  11. rosalie radish says

    I can’t tell what is going on with my hair. I have curly hair. I use gel and hairspray. I shampoo every 2-3 days and condition everyday. I have white flakes on my hair. I tried switching to enjoy professional line but it’s not helping. What should I do. It’s embarassing

    • says

      It could be actual product flakes. Both gel and hairspray can have a tendency to flake when it dries which can be mistaken for scalp flakes. Make sure not to scratch your scalp (I have a bad habit of doing this, which loosens up dry scalp flakes), and try using some of the ideas mentioned in this post and in the comments such as tea tree or aloe on your scalp.

  12. Akhira says

    Both scalp condition promotes flaky hair. You must look for an absolute solution that will work for your hair and absolutely ask for an advice. Or else get can use natural remedy for your dry scalp.
    Akhira recently posted..tea tree oil for acneMy Profile

  13. says

    Oh my goodness – thank you so much for this post! I’ve been un-officially diagnosed by my family with dandruff, but now I see it really seems like dry scalp. I can’t wait to get off my dandruff shampoos and switch to a tea tree shampoo/conditioner. Thank you!!!!

    • says

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful. It’s pretty common for people to think they have dandruff when they actually have dry scalp, so you’re not alone. I hope that the tea tree products work for you!

  14. Jordan says

    Hi there…this article was very useful for me!! I was sure I had dandruff but now I’m not so sure. I was wondering if I could have your opinion…I have had this weird scalp itching habit since I was young…now my scalp is itchy, and sheds white flakes, they’re not ridiculously oily but they are slightly… I have been using head and shoulders but it really does not seem to help and I do not find it soothing.


    • says

      I have a habit of scratching my scalp too, itchy or not. Any time you disturb your scalp it can become irritated and itchy so it’s not unlikely that you are causing more itchiness by scratching. Your scalp is always producing oil, so it’s not surprising that the white flakes that you are stirring up are “slightly oily”. To me, it doesn’t sound like dandruff, which is probably why your current shampoo is not working for you. I would give the tea tree shampoo a try and see if that helps sooth your scalp. Thanks for reading :)

  15. Rayma says

    I’ve had flaky skin for a long time…the flakes are seen more near the hairline, behind my ears & on the crown. They are especially most glaringly visible just below my hairline, anyone who looks at my face can see it! I’m also losing a lot of hair from that region. And to add to that the flakes are spreading to my eyebrows & I’m losing hair there too! The only saving grace is that they are not itchy. Now I’m at a loss at whether it is dandruff or dry skin. What do you think..?

    • says

      It doesn’t sound at all to me like dandruff, just dry skin cell accumulation. Try exfoliating your scalp well when you wash your hair. If it’s really bothersome or that doesn’t seem to help, you can talk to a dermatologist about it.

  16. charvon jones says

    Good afternoon, first of all id like to compliment you on your professionalism and follow up… In almost every response you stated in some way for them to possibly see a doctor… I like that… Further more if you can just share your opinion in my regard it would be appreciated…I wear weaves which stays in for about 2 months (most african American girls don’t wash their hair everyday) and when I take it out there is always a thick layer of what i believe to be dry scalp scales…if i comb with a small tooth comb and start at the root I can sometimes get a nickel sized piece to come up ….which is fascinating but also disgusting… It’s like my entire scalp is covered in a layer.. Is there any other ways to take care of my scalp without direct access? (Took note on the drinking more water part down) or is there a special treatment I can use as soon as my weaves come down… Fortunately, i look beautiful when its in , however unfortunately it cost $500 so I surely can’t take it down sooner (have to get the most out of my bucks) thank you in advance for reading and responding …. Charvon

    • says

      Unfortunately I don’t think there is a whole lot that you can do. The problem isn’t necessarily that there is anything wrong with your scalp, but just that since it’s being covered for 2 months at a time, it can’t exfoliate normally, which is why you have a build-up of skin cells when you do take the weave out – they just have nowhere to go. I’m not an expert when dealing with weaves, so you might want to get the opinion of the stylist that does them for you, but it would be my recommendation that when you do have it taken out, just be sure to thoroughly brush your scalp and try to gently remove as much of the built up skin cells as possible before having it reinstalled. If it’s itchy or irritated, you might also consider doing a Tea Tree scalp treatment before having the weave put back in to relieve it.

  17. Claire Tilly says

    I recently used some hair dye and my scalp had a bad reaction to it. I had a little dry scalp previously but nothing crazy. After my scalp was so dry and itching all the time and scabbing. I tried the Shielo Hydrate Shampoo and it was INSTANT relief. I also feel like it took it away, my scalp does itch anymore.

    • kelsismellsi says

      That’s great! It sounds like your experience was an allergic reaction, and not a chronic condition. Glad you found something that worked :)

  18. Jeanne says

    I’ve read through this whole article and I am pleased with all the suggestions. This is the third time I have the same scalp condition. It seemed to start with a mosquito bite and then I would start to scratch. (I get VERY affected and itchy from many insect bites. The second time I did the doctor, dermatologist, $150 medicated shampoo, even a biopsy to check for other problems. It is back for a third time. Dry, flaky, white. I am only washing my hair once every third day or so. I have tea tree oil. Switching to a better shampoo will no doubt help as I try to save money by buying inexpensive products. I find myself scratching and picking at my head usually when at the computer, reading a book, even driving. (Just sitting time) I even tried to wear a bandana, and am even considering gloves. I wore the same cap all summer to keep the sun off my head and sweat profusely. I’m now seeing a balding spot which is right at my forehead and looks terrible! I have never used a conditioner, since I had oily hair most of my life. New shampoo, more water and somehow keeping my hands off my scalp. Thanks for the info.

  19. Karen says

    Thank you for this great post and comments. I have been afflicted with what I believe is dry scalp for the past two years. I am 52 and wonder if this could be hormonal? The only other time I experienced it was when I was pregnant about 10 years ago. It seems to go away right after I have my hair colored (brunette), but once I wash my hair again (4-5 days later) it comes back. T-Sal helps a bit, and I try to skip a day of shampooing, but it comes back quickly. I think the shampooing is just washing out the flakes, not really treating the condition. I tried the Tea Tree products from Paul Mitchell and didn’t notice any appreciable difference. Maybe I should add the treatment?

  20. Vishnu says

    Please advice me!
    My 7 year old has dry scalp. I apply oil to her hair every other day
    and wash after 2 hours. Her hair looks very clean for only 2 days.

    If I Donot continue this oil therapy on her hair for couple of times,
    it becomes worse. Thick visible flakes apper as patches on her whole scalp.
    Please advise me what I can do or the underlying cause.

    • kelsismellsi says

      If the suggestions for treating externally that are outlined in this article don’t help, I would suggest you see a doctor/dermatologist. Unfortunately I can’t diagnose what the underlying cause may be.

  21. Betty smith says

    I have really bad dry scalp. Actually, I have dry mouth and skin too. This just recently happened this year and I have been to many docs and test and nothing comes up. Do you recommended a oil for my scalp? I am also itchy. I can go 4 days without washing and it is still not oily. The front area is really dry and when I look at my scalp I can scratch off skin at any given time? It is getting really thin in that area too! I use natural shampoos and conditions and also also jojoba and tea tree to my scalp.

    • kelsismellsi says

      The only suggestions I can give you are the ones that were outlined in this article. If you have had any big changes in your life in the past year (moving to a different climate, a different water source, change of diet, new medications, surgeries, pregnancy, stress, etc.) those may be effecting you internally, but I’m not a doctor so I can’t diagnose what’s going on. Good luck with your condition though, I do hope you get it figured out!

  22. helen says

    This is the best and informative website i have found re: this subject!
    It is clear that I have dry scalp, especially from the description of dry scalp and the big differenceds between that and psoriasis!
    Thank you so very much for all!
    Helen and my cat, Beannie

  23. Ross says


    I’ve had dry scalp for some time but over the last year or so I’ve had small itchy spots on my scalp – particularly along the hairline and crown. They come an go but I usually have about 5 – 10 at any one time. These spots are very small but itchy and release puss when squeezed. Any ideas?


  24. Jennifer says

    I came across this page when doing a Google search about “dry scalp”. I have been experiencing extremely flaky scalp for a few months now and have seen a Doctor (PCP) who said my scalp is “irritated” and prescribed me a shampoo. The shampoo did nothing to help and actually ended up burning my scalp the last time I used it. So I have decided to try this Tea Tree Shampoo. I really hope it works because I don’t know what else to do!!

  25. Jennifer B says

    I have been having really bad dry scalp problems for the past year or so and nothing is working.
    Every time I wash my hair and then it starts to dry, all I see is tons of white flakes all over scalp…mainly in the front and middle.
    I have tried pert plus, head and shoulders and other danduff shampoos and nothing works. What else can you recommend me doing ?

    • kelsismellsi says

      All I can recommend is that you try out the advice outlined in the article. Cooler water, brushing your scalp before washing, tea tree shampoo. It sounds like dry scalp to me, not dandruff. So anti-dandruff shampoos are probably not going to do anything for you and might make it worse.

  26. Michelle Scott says

    I enjoyed reading your article also. But I was advised by a couple of different people, including a beauty college to use Paul Mitchell tea tree oil for my oily hair. My hair is greasy 18 hours after washing it, and for years I washed it daily. I stretch it out now to every 2 or 3 days( but it looks terrible until it’s washed again. I have even been advised to rinse my hair with vinegar and water. 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, once a week. It helped at first, but now it doesn’t even cut the oil sometimes. What should I do? You recommended tea tree oil shampoo for dry scalp. What should I be doing for my oily scalp? They don’t make shampoos anymore for oily hair…Please respond to me …

    • kelsismellsi says

      It’s a tough one. I think you’re doing the right thing by trying to stretch out how often your wash your hair though. Washing it too much will strip your scalp of oils and cause your scalp to over-produce in order to make up for it. Also be sure that you are using cooler water to wash your hair with when you do wash it.

      In between, you might want to try a “dry shampoo”, which is a powdery spray that you put on the roots to help soak up excess oil. I use dry shampoo in my bangs when they start feeling greasy and I’m not ready to wash my hair yet. It’s not actually a shampoo – it won’t clean your hair (and you don’t rinse it off), it just soaks up the oil so that your hair looks fresh and you can stretch it out another day before needing to wash.

      I have had zero luck with any drug store brands, but I love the dry shampoos that TIGI and Kevin Murphy make. Either can be bought at salons.

  27. Ron says

    Yup… you are 100% correct. I made the mistake of buying harsher and harsher dandruff shampoos trying to solve this problem. For years! It wasn’t until I realized that the I was suffering from dry scalp was I able to manage it.

    And I also agree, the Paul Mitchel Tea Tree Oil works well for me. I like the smell too.

    Note; You can’t buy the PM Tea Tree in a retail store. YOu have to go to SuperCuts or one of those quickly cut places. Not that is a big deal… just one more stop a couple of times a year.

    • Jeanne says

      After trying MANY MANY different things for my dry scalp (visible whiteness, lots of tiny particles falling when brushed), I thought I would share this. I tried many of the things mentioned in this article, 2 different dandruff shampoos, the Paul Mitchell Shampoo only, not easily finding the other products. I finally asked my family doctor at an appointment for something also. He prescribed a shampoo available by prescription only. I used it twice a week as directed and my problem has totally cleared up. I am not even through using the small bottle. I don’t know the price because I have a paid prescription policy through my insurance. The product is Selenium Sulfide Topical Suspension USP 2.5%. It was manufactured by Perrigo. I am in no way saying this will work, nor can I give medical advice. I’m just sharing what FINALLY worked for me. If you want to check with your doctor as I did I hope this helps. I really was fed up and am so glad I found a solution that worked for me.

  28. Stephie says

    This was a really informative read and I thank you for posting it. I moved a year and a half ago (away from well water which I’d been using for seven years) and in the last few months my scalp has gotten quite dry in the front (and my face, but that’s another story) and my hair was falling out–and it’s already fine to begin with so it was freaking me out. I’ve started using a silicone/sulfate free shampoo and conditioner this past week–which has helped some on their own and my hair is slowly growing again–and was wondering if you thought adding a drop or two of tea tree essential oil in with each shampoo’ing might help in curbing the dryness I’m now dealing with.

  29. Flo says

    This is a great article! Gave me a lot of ideas for dealing with my poor scalp. I do have a suggestion for the person with the oily hair: CVS has a brand called “Not Your Mother’s,” and their Clean Freak Dry Shampoo works well for me. It can make my hair look dull if I use it too many days in a row, but it usually at least lets me extend the time between washing an extra day.

    Another thing that’s helped me with the problem of oily hair is, instead of washing every single day with shampoo, try alternating between washing with your normal shampoo and simply washing with plain, lukewarm water. If you massage your scalp the way you would with shampoo and rinse your scalp and hair thoroughly, it will clean some of the oil from your hair without the chemicals in shampoo drying it out completely. My hair is really soft and shiny and holds a style better when I do this, and it helps with my scalp irritation a bit as well. If you try this you might want to start this on a weekend or over a holiday when you don’t have to be out much, because when you first start doing it your hair will look a bit greasier until it gets used to it and your scalp stops producing all that extra oil to make up for the daily shampoo.

    Sorry for the long comment. Again, great article!

  30. AlanBR says

    As someone who has suffered with dandruff for years, I can honestly say that I have tried every product out there. After having numerous failures, I finally switched to Head and Shoulder’s. While this worked most of the time, it didn’t help with the itching and scratching. Instead I was left with the occasional flake and annoyance. The solution was using PEPPERMINT! Do your research – peppermint oil fights dandruff! I settled on the Made from Earth Peppermint Conditioner (because it has a pure peppermint oil in it), and it works wonders. I have been using it for 6 months now and have not seen 1 flake at all.

    More importantly for me, though, is that the itching is gone, almost instantly. I can’t believe I’ve been missing this for years. I highly recommend this to any guy who is looking for a way out of it all. No more flakes, no more itching, just pure clean and refreshed hair. The Made from Earth Conditioner has peppermint oil in it, so its exactly what you need to get rid of the dandruff.

    Just as an added bonus, it has a great smell that lasts (my girlfriend loves the smell hours later). Highly recommended!

    • kelsismellsi says

      Thanks for your input! I agree – peppermint can help a lot with itching. It’s also an ingredient in the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree products that I recommend – along with aloe, rosemary and many others :)

  31. Lady says

    So glad I found this!! I’ve been using a sulfate free shampoo and conditioner for a couple years, but then I relocated and can’t find that particular brand. I started to notice flakes and its only near the front of my scalp. Like you said, because of those commercials I assumed it was dandruff. I was actually on my way to buy dandruff shampoo and decided to google dandruff vs dryscalp. Thank you!!

  32. Katy says

    Hi, love your post but i made me confused. i think i have dandruffs but after reading the post i’m not so sure anymore , because i don’t normally see flakes on my hair but only if i rub or scratch my scalps unintentional. So does it mean i have dandruff?

    Thank you so much :)

    • kelsismellsi says

      It’s really impossible to say without seeing it. Most likely you just have a dry or irritated scalp.

  33. Samuel says

    Pretty interesting reading this as I’ve suffered from ‘dandruff’ for a while now and have been using techniques I found at aliveberry: http://aliveberry.com/2013/04/dry-scalp-remedies-home/ to try and remedy the situation. So far using the tea tree oil has helped me a lot with the flakiness and means I can wear a dark suit without having to wipe my shoulders every so often to get rid of the christmas snow.

  34. says

    Bought the PM Tea Tree Oil Shampoo, so far three days with a very minimal change. I wash my hair in cold to luke warm water, but I also wash it daily as I’m usually working out twice a day. Should I simply cut down on how often I wash it? Do you think that would make a significant difference? Also, I don’t condition my hair either…just use shampoo. Do you think this that this may help my dry scalp?

    Thanks so much!

    • kelsismellsi says

      Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the problem or it may be genetic. While the tea tree should help alleviate dry scalp, it won’t necessarily be a cure. Give the shampoo at least a week or so, results won’t come right away. You might also try cutting down to washing every other day and see if that helps. Since you are working out every day, try just rinsing your hair one day and shampooing the next. Just water itself should help rinse out enough sweat to hold you over to the next day. I don’t think that lack of conditioner is the cause of your dry scalp, but more likely just stripping your scalp’s natural oil, which is what moisturizes it. Hope that helps!

      • says

        Thanks so much, I will keep my frequent hair-washing in mind and try to lessen it, seeing if that helps at all. It’s honestly hard for me to even decipher whether I have a dry scalp or dandruff, as in the past, prescription shampoos like Nizoral (for example) didn’t do much for me. I appreciate your thorough responses and the fact you wanna help people:) Take care.

  35. David Johnson says

    Are you serious??? All these years I thought I had dandruff… it was dry scalp all this time?
    Why the heck does everyone call it dandruff? It’s rarely dandruff! the specks on my friends’ tops, on that random guy’s shoulders, it’s all dry scalp then?
    I thought ‘dry scalp’ was like moisturisers for dry skin… we don’t actually have specks of skin falling from our faces, I thought people just had err dry head…?
    I keep seeing ads for dry scalp, i think they’re called Clear http://www.clearhaircare.com.au, but it never occurred to me to try it. The Tea Tree brand looks expensive though, I’ll try the alternatives. Thanks

  36. says

    Can you have dry scalp AND oily hair. I get flakes mostly when i wash my hair, its like my scalp is peeling, but i have oily hair and have to wash frequently…and its mostly on the top of my head. The days i dontñ wash then the flakes stick…I do wash with very hot water…

  37. says

    Thanks so much for this post!! Its been difficult to find answers on the internet..but now I may believe I have dandruff or either product buildup. Just in one area my scalp feels a tad dry..and when I would scratch it, it’d become a patch of greasiness and the dry flake would seem a tad yellow. I had been using herbal essences for about four months….realizing its a terrible product for hair. I have now switched..time will tell whether it gets better. And it also usually occurs when I scratch that area… Do u think it may be due to product buildup? I’ve asked my bf and mother to take a look at that area and they claim they see no dryness at all… the patch also feels like an extra layer of skin on my scalp… your opinion would be definitely appreciated. Thank u!! And thank u so much for the article! :)

  38. Michael says

    Hey everyone, I posted in the comments section a few months ago.Tried the tea tree oil shampoo recommended on this site. Smelled great, but didn’t do anything to help my scalp. I took the time to go to my dermatologist and ask him about my scalp. Turns out, I had a dry scalp…not dandruff, so if you’re able to accurately differentiate this may help you immensely ….

    Anyway, this is what he told me to do… twice a week, at night before you go to bed, put olive oil in your hair (its the closest oil to our natural scalp oil he says) and really get in to the scalp, let it sit for an hour and dab off the excess. Go to sleep with it in your hair (your pillow case may get a little oily, but mine hasn’t been bad…I wash them weekly anyways) the next morning using a product by Neutrogena called TSAL (NOT TGEL)…it’s salicylic acid based shampoo. Both of these have completely done away with all my flakes. ALL OF THEM. Twice a week is all you need (for both the olive oil and TSAL..as they go together as a treatment, as stated above)

    Hope this works for you if you have a dry, flaking scalp.

  39. says

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  40. Kulsum says

    I’m not sure whether I’ve got a dry scalp or actual dandruff. Although I think it is just dry skin and it does look like it, the flakes get on my clothes sometime and can be yellow in colour. Also, after I have a bath it just stays on my hair, and won’t come out. It just sticks and stays on top of my hair. Please can you help.

  41. Nuri says

    I’m not sure if I hv dry scalp or dandruff. All hair stylist says its dandruff. But I work in a cleanroom environment and and it might cause my flakes. My scalp are not itchy. And usually the only time the flakes will drop off (and usually tiny) is when I actually rub or scratch the scalp which is kinda fun. If I move my fingers ard my scalp maybe i can find a bit thicker flake. And yes I hv a habit of flicking that one out too. And usually these will come off with a strand of hair. The hair is in the middle of the flake. And my husband complains that I drop too much hair and worried I’m having hairloss. so far I hv yet to find bald patches on my head. But I did find that boiled curry leaves water works well for hair loss. After boiling, cooled it and put the water in a bottled pump. Spray on the scalp. Just go ard the head. Somehow it makes my hair feels softer too. I think my flakes improved too (I hadnt notice much since i was doing for my hair loss) Maybe you’d like to try. On a side note boiling curry leaves does not give a good smell. BUT once its cooled and sprayed on hair the smell isnt there!

  42. Shereen says

    So recently, I’ve noticed that I have been losing a lot of hair. So much that I’m afraid I might be going bald. I think I have a dry scalp because every time I run my hand through my hair, I sometimes feel these little hard bumps so then I go through my hair to take them out and they’re hard and round (dried scalp cells?). They’re mostly on the top of my scalp where I have a lining that you can clearly see (And I think it’s getting wider). Every time I’m in the shower, I lose a lot of hair and even while combing, these hairs just keep falling out. I believe it’s my shampoo and the fact that I take super hot showers (which I’m going to switch out of and stop taking) but do you have any other advice about how I can stop my hair from falling out so much and confirm if I have a dry scalp please?

    • kelsismellsi says

      It is normal to lose about 100 hairs a day, but if you have noticed a big increase in how much hair you are losing, it could be hereditary, hormonal, or due to stress or many other factors. It is likely caused by something internal, and I would recommend seeing a doctor if you are worried about it. In my opinion, it’s unlikely that your scalp condition is related, but I can not diagnose you. A doctor/dermatologist should be able to point you in the right direction.

  43. says

    I am veru disappointed from my scalp problem , I have been suffering from this problem for 3 yrs and I think its sebopsoriases,
    Its also stay on my forehead there are white flakes which I scratch off oftenly from forehead ,
    My whole scalp has full of some kind of white layer ,
    I shaved my head once after this this problem have been started and still suffering its like I have done big mistake ,,
    These days I use vichy anti dandruff shampoo which is quite helpful but results are temporarily , I want permanent solution of it ,
    It starts coming on hair line and when it spread in my head lots of hair start falling , I think I have got receding hairline ,,
    Plz advice me , I feel very depressed
    Sometimes I think I got this problem by using some supplements for hairs as per prescribed by dermatologist ( aerosol and extend fort are the name of that ssupplements ).
    This oproblem make my hair thin and lots of hair fall
    But after one wash with Vichy anti dandruff shampoo my hair stop falling and scalp become neat and clean , but as I told u its not stay permanent after 20 days u can see its arrival
    Suggest me something via email
    I will be very thank ful
    I liked your article so much u are 95% accurate
    I never got this much accuracy till now ,,
    I hope I could get some benifit from u ,,

  44. says

    Hi, i am suffering from itching, dry scalp, dandruff, hair fall for the past 5 years, I was offended last year and I visited my DR skin specialist, I got medicine such a ‘ Conza lotion, Clobedrem-S and Dermosporin lostons, according to the Dr instruction I applied these lotions on my scalp, I just got rid of my dandruff and itching for some months, but these lotisart mad me totally bald my hairs start faling I was about to lose completely my hair , my hairs falling unexpectedly then I stopped using the lotions and for regrowth of my hair I bald my head using shaving blade, now I have a loose hair and so thin , weak, please tell me how to get rid of dandruff , itchings and hair falls. ..

  45. Sarah says

    Thanks so much for this post! It has helped me tremendously…I suffer from dry scalp but didn’t know the difference. This is my second time reading the post b/c for all the information in my head about dandruff (before I read this I did extensive research on the subject), I got confused about whether to was my hair less or more. I’m going to bookmark this & explore the rest of your blog :)

  46. Chandrakanta says

    Hi, I had treemd my hair complitely and after I saw there are so much dry sell on my head and I could not recocknise them as those are dendruff or any thing else. So, please help me and tell me how to rellife from this.


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