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The Difference Between A Dry Scalp And Dandruff Is Easier To See Than We Thought

It's very easy to get dry scalp and dandruff confused: both cause dry, itchy flakes on the scalp.

They also have this in common: you want to get rid of them, ASAP.

But doing so requires knowing the difference between the two. Thankfully, that's a lot easier to do than we thought!

Keep reading to learn how to do so — no hairstyling license required.

Whether you've seen the shampoo commercials or experienced it firsthand, most of us know dandruff.

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Texas-based board-certified dermatologist Heidi Prather told Allure that it's "the result of increased oil production and yeast overgrowth on the scalp."

This can be caused by a myriad of things, including common hair habits.

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Not washing your hair enough is one of them.

"Not washing the scalp can cause a build-up of oils and overgrowth of normal flora," Prather told Allure. In other words, this causes a type of yeast that results into a greasy, yellow scale.

Before you say, "but what about my beloved dry shampoo!" rest assured that you can get rid of product build-up with a clarifying shampoo.

"In a way, it's like a hair detox," Iris Rubin, MD, a dermatologist and the founder and chief medical officer of SEEN Haircare, told Brydie.

Next we come to dry scalp.

Since it presents a lot of similar symptoms as dandruff — flaking, itching, and irritation — people often get the two confused.

The truth is, dry scalp occurs when your scalp is lacking some serious moisture. Hence the word "dry."

Many factors contribute to dry scalp.

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Just like the frigid temps of winter cause dry skin all over, it can also aggravate the scalp.

While you might think cranking up the heat inside will help reverse the effects, the opposite happens. The scalp gets dryer.

A dry scalp can be caused by your overall health, including nutritional deficiencies and dehydration.

"Vitamins B6, B12, and essential fatty acids, like omega-3s, are a lubricant for our body and can help to keep the scalp hydrated and healthy," Sophia Emmanuel, certified trichologist and founder of Crown Worthy, told InStyle.

Similarly, water keeps the body and scalp hydrated.

Stay hydrated by setting daily water goals and making drinking water fun. You can add things like lemon or strawberry slices to make it more enticing.

Other beauty benefits that will get you guzzling up include how water [plumps up the skin](https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/beauty-products/g36100851/drinking-water-beauty-benefits/\), making it appear more radiant.

Now that you know what dandruff and dry scalp is, it's time to learn how to tell them apart.

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Turns out, it's a lot easier than you'd think. It sounds gross, but just look at the flakes.

"As dandruff is often caused by too much oil on the scalp, the flakes tend to be larger pieces of skin that are oily in nature," Emmanuel tells InStyle.

Meanwhile, "when the scalp is dry, the flakes are usually fine, very dry, and much smaller in size."

Since dandruff is dead skin cells, you can also tell it apart if there's a smell. It's similar to dead skin cells and bacteria under the armpits causing a body ordor.

Just like the conditions are different, so are the treatments.

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It's recommended that you use a dandruff shampoo that is pH balanced within the range of 4.2 to 6.5 to help balance the scalp.

Scalp treatments can also help — these lift dandruff and control excess bacteria.

With dry scalp, you want to take an overall approach to health.

In addition to drinking enough water, fill your diet with healthy foods that are rich in antioxidants. This includes everything from strawberries to spinach to even garlic.

This will help reduce the inflammation that causes itching. Finally, products like jojoba oil can help by moisturizing the scalp and providing antibacterial properties.