Oily Dandruff vs Dry Dandruff: Know The Difference

Oily Dandruff VS Dry Dandruff

Everyone hates those tiny, white flakes that fall from your hair everywhere you go. Especially if you are wearing your favorite little black dress. The fear of visible dandruff flakes would kill your mood.

All of us might have faced dandruff at least once in our lifetime. But do you know there are different types of dandruff?

What Is The Difference Between Oily Dandruff and Dry Dandruff

Dry dandruff appears as small, dry, white flakes that easily fall from your hair and look similar to shredded coconut. While greasy dandruff is when oily, yellowish flakes and scales appear on your scalp, they usually stick to the hair.

Before delving deeper into different types of dandruff and how to get rid of them, it is important to understand what is dandruff.

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff is one of the most common scalp conditions worldwide. One medical term used for dandruff is ‘Pityriasis capitis’. It appears as tiny white or gray flakes on the scalp and hair. These flakes are mostly dry and fall off easily from the hair onto your shoulders and clothes.

Our scalp contains certain cells that make up the topmost layer of the scalp called the epidermis. These have a renewal life cycle which is around 28 days. But if you are experiencing dandruff this cycle is disrupted causing excessive shedding of these cells in the form of flakes.

If you are wondering what causes dandruff and makes you feel like a walking snow storm we have got you covered. The life cycle of cells on your scalp can be disturbed due to several factors such as

  • Malassezia yeast
  • Overproduction of sebum
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Reactions to hair products and chemicals

Understanding Types Of Dandruff

There are two main types of dandruff: oily and dry. Both types of dandruff may appear as flakes on your hair. But in reality, they are different.

Oily Dandruff

Oily dandruff appears as yellowish, greasy, sticky flakes that may form as visible patches on the scalp. Greasy dandruff in medical terms is classified as Seborrheic Dermatitis on the scalp.

These flakes are caused due to the overgrowth of Malassezia yeast that is naturally present on the scalp. Sebaceous glands on the scalp are responsible for producing oily substances known as sebum. When excess sebum on the scalp is produced by these glands it mixes up with the yeast and as a reaction thick, oily dandruff flakes form on the scalp, which can lead to itchy scalp and irritation.

These flakes mostly stick to your hair but when scratched they fall off on the shoulders and clothes.

Some of the common symptoms of oily dandruff are:

  • Oily itchy scalp
  • Sticky flakes
  • Oily hair
  • Flakes are yellow or white in color
  • Flakes can be a little larger in size.

Dry Dandruff

Dry dandruff causes flaky, white-colored flakes on the scalp that drop down to your shoulders like an uninvited guest, by a mere touch or a gust of wind. Dry dandruff is caused when there is a lack of moisture in the scalp.

When there is a lack of sebum on the scalp, that is responsible for keeping the scalp moisturized. This causes the scalp to lose its moisture leading to a dry scalp,and itching, and flakes of dandruff to form on the scalp.

There are other factors that cause the scalp to lose its moisture such as

  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Exposure to dry air
  • Hair products with harsh chemicals
  • Stress
  • Changes in hormones.

Some of the common symptoms of dry dandruff are:

  • Dry itchy scalp
  • White or gray colored flakes
  • Fales are mostly small in size
  • Flakes easily fall off from the hair.

The Difference Between Oily Dandruff VS Dry Dandruff

Oily Dandruff Dry Dandruff
Sebum Excess sebum on scalp Lack of sebum on the scalp
Appearance of flakes Flakes are yellowish in color and are greasy, thick, sticky, and scaly Flakes are mostly white in color and are dry, rough and flaky.
Size of flakes The size of the flakes is bigger. Flakes are very small in size
Scalp and hair Causes oily scalp and oily hair Causes dry scalp and makes hair rough
Causes Caused by the excess production of sebum and Malassezia yeast Caused by lack of moisture and sebum on the scalp.

Dry Scalp VS Dandruff

Dry scalp and dandruff both cause irritated, itchy scalp, which makes it difficult to understand both of these conditions are different. A dry scalp is caused by lack of moisture in the scalp. However, dandruff can be caused either by lack of moisture on the scalp or by excess oil present on the scalp.

There are many factors that can cause loss of moisture on the scalp and cause dry scalp such as

Seborrheic Dermatitis VS Dandruff

Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff are often confused with each other due to their similar symptoms that include dry, flaky, itchy, irritated scalp. Both scalp conditions are quite different.

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is a more serious condition while dandruff is a mild case of dermatitis.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by the overactive sebaceous glands while dandruff is mostly caused by lack of moisture on the scalp.
  • Dandruff appears only on the scalp and seborrheic dermatitis can appear anywhere on the body where there are excess oil glands such as the nose, ears, chest, and back.
  • The itching associated with dandruff can be more intense as compared to the itching with seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis causes thick, greasy, yellow scales on the scalp. Dandruff appears as white, dry flakes on the hair.
  • Redness and inflammation are common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis while these are not present when you experience dandruff.

How To Get Rid Of Dandruff?

Before And After Dandruff Treatment

The best way to get rid of dandruff whether oily or dry dandruff is by following a proper hair care routine that includes the use of an anti dandruff shampoo. These shampoos are specially formulated to deep clean your scalp and alleviate the symptoms of dandruff.

Identifying which type of dandruff you are experiencing is important to find the right dandruff treatment. The treatment for oily dandruff vs dry dandruff differs a little.

Oily Dandruff Treatment

  • To treat oily dandruff, wash your hair and scalp with an anti-dandruff shampoo 2 to 3 times a week. Look for a dandruff shampoo that not only controls the dandruff but also balances your scalp’s oil.
  • Shampoo twice in every use for oily scalp. The first wash helps in removing the excess dirt that sticks to the scalp due to excess oil. The second wash helps to balance the natural oil level of the scalp and manage the symptoms of dandruff.

Dry Dandruff Treatment

  • The initial and most important step for dry dandruff treatment is also cleaning the scalp and hair with an anti dandruff shampoo. But for a dry scalp option for a shampoo that contains ingredients that help moisturize your scalp.
  • For dry scalp never use hot water as it will make the condition worse. Use lukewarm or cool water to wash your hair.
  • For dry dandruff don’t shampoo on a daily basis unless advised by the doctor.

Best Shampoo for Oily Hair and Dandruff

Best Shampoo for Oily Hair and Dandruff

Choosing the right anti dandruff shampoo is essential to combat oily and dry dandruff. Some dandruff shampoos contain harsh chemicals such as fragrances or artificial dyes. These can be harmful to the scalp and further exacerbate the condition.

The best dandruff shampoo is the one that is fragrance-free, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic. A dandruff shampoo like Happy Cappy Shampoo for Dandruff is a great option to choose from. It is specially formulated to help eliminate the recurrence of scalp itching, irritation, and flaking associated with dandruff.

Happy Cappy shampoo is suitable for both dry scalp and oily scalp. It contains natural ingredients that help soothe a dry, sensitive scalp and nourish your hair.


Oily and dry dandruff may share some similar symptoms but are different scalp conditions. Dry dandruff is caused due to the lack of moisture and sebum on the scalp. Oily dandruff is caused by excess scalp sebum.

The dandruff flakes of dry dandruff are tiny, rough, and white colored, whereas oily dandruff flakes are greasy, thick, and yellow colored. Both types of dandruff can be managed with the help of anti dandruff shampoo.

If you are experiencing seborrheic dermatitis also known as cradle cap in babies, which is a more severe case of oily dandruff then turn to Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo. It helps eliminate skin and scalp  itching, redness, irritation, and scaling associated with seborrheic dermatitis . It contains pyrithione zinc as an active ingredient.

Shop today! To make your hair feel healthy, smooth, and flake-free.


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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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Are wet dandruff and oily dandruff the same?

Yes, both types of dandruff are similar. Wet dandruff and oily dandruff are caused due to the excess production of sebum on the scalp by sebaceous glands. This causes yellow, crusty, sticky flakes on the scalp.

How to fix an oily flaky scalp?

The best way to get rid of oily dandruff is by regularly washing the hair and scalp with an anti dandruff shampoo.

Can leaving hair wet make dandruff worse?

Yes, if you are experiencing oily dandruff that is caused due to the overproduction of sebum and Malassezia yeast. Then leaving your hair wet can cause more flakes because a moist environment acts as a breeding ground for Malassezia yeast.

What does dry dandruff look like?

The dry scalp appears as small, dry, white, or gray flakes. These flakes easily fall off from the scalp.

Can dry dandruff cause hair loss?

Dandruff itself does not cause hair loss. But when the scalp becomes dry and irritated it causes itching. Intense scratching of the scalp can cause temporary hair loss.

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