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Dandruff vs Dry Scalp: What’s the Difference?

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp: What’s the Difference?

Have you noticed white, yellow, or brown flakes in your little one’s hair? Are you unsure if it’s seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap) or a simple case of dandruff or dry scalp? While these conditions all generally result in a flaky scalp, there are certain signifying factors you can use to determine a specific scalp treatment to get rid of the dryness and dead skin cells.

So how do you determine the differences between dandruff flakes vs dry scalp flakes, and how can you treat these issues? Let’s take a closer look at the possibilities:

Dry Scalp Flakes vs Dandruff

Dry scalp flakes vs dandruff symptoms are not one and the same.

The biggest difference between hair dandruff and dry scalp is that one is a medical condition, while the other is just the result of poor hydration, as explained by certified trichologist William Gaunitz.

“Dandruff is caused by an elevation of fungus on the surface of the scalp,” he shared with Byrdie. “The main difference between dandruff and a dry scalp is that dandruff is an actual medical condition, whereas a dry scalp is simply a hydration issue.”

Dandruff symptoms include dry white flakes, continuous itching, and red patches throughout the scalp. Typically, dandruff is the result of excess of a fungus, but hormones and stress can also contribute.

Dry scalp is exactly as its name describes. It’s an issue that occurs when your scalp doesn’t have enough moisture to nurture its natural oils. This is often caused by cold and dry air or using products on the hair and scalp that strip away those necessary oils.

Hair care products get their foamy lather from surfactant; an ingredient that activates you mix it with water. The most commonly used surfactants are many times referred to as sulfates.

The two most common are abbreviated as SLS or SLES and can really strip the skin of its moisture. Don’t fret, people with dry scalp flakes vs dandruff can both benefit by finding skin care products that avoid use of sulfates.

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp vs Psoriasis and Other Skin Conditions

The notable contrast between dandruff vs dry scalp is that one is a skin condition and the other is an annoyance. So how does dandruff compare to other common and similar conditions?

  • Eczema: This is another severe skin condition, causing itchiness, rashes, and flakes that can turn to blisters and infections, as explained by the National Eczema Association.
  • Cradle cap: More formally known as seborrheic dermatitis, this is a severe version of dandruff found in newborn babies. The condition may clear up on its own, but using a medicated shampoo can accelerate the resolution and scaly flaky appearance.

Soothe Sensitive Skin with our Three-Step Solution

As detailed above, avoiding sulfates in skin care products can help to avoid wicking away important natural oils. But also avoiding added fragrance (that delicious shampoo that smells like vanilla ice cream for example), dyes, and preservatives (referred to as parabens) can go a long way to soothe dandruff flakes vs dry scalp flakes on scalps.

Other ingredients that can irritate skin, and even be the culprit of dermatitis include lanolin, topical antibiotic, MCI/MI, soy, propylene glycol, and balsam of peru.

All three skin conditions mentioned above, and people of ALL ages, will benefit from use of products made by a skin care company that avoid harsh ingredients that can lead to a worsening of dandruff vs dry scalp. Happy Cappy was literally created to deal with irritated skin.

Our 3-Step Skincare Solution for Baby’s Sensitive Skin includes Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo and Body Wash, Daily Shampoo and Body Wash, and Moisturizing Cream. All of these products are pediatrician created and clinically tested to soothe cradle cap, eliminate symptoms on the scalp and skin associated with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, and to moisturize, restore and protect dry, itchy, eczema prone skin.

Your baby’s skin and the skin of the person reading this, deserves the best! Shop our products for relief, soothing, and hydration of sensitive skin.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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Does Winter Cause Dry Scalp?

Yes. Winter is often the reason for dry scalp. The dry air in the winter has very low moisture, which causes the scalp to become dry.

Do Hair Care Products Cause Dandruff or Dry Scalp?

Yes, hair care products that contain harsh chemicals like fragrance, artificial dyes, parabens, and sulfate can irritate the scalp and cause common scalp issues like dry scalp and dandruff.

Does Stress Cause Dandruff or Dry Scalp?

Stress doesn’t directly cause dandruff or dry scalp. Stress weakens your immune system, which could lead to skin symptoms. However, stress can worsen the preexisted dandruff.

Is dandruff oily or dry?

Dandruff can be oily and dry. Oily dandruff is usually known as seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap it causes thick yellow, greasy flakes on the scalp. And dry dandruff usually causes small white dry flakjes on the scalp.

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