dandruff vs dryl scalp blog

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp: So You Can Better Fight the Itch

So you've been scratching your head all day and seeing white flakes—so is it dandruff or dry scalp?

So what's the difference and why does it matter?

Because they both suck pretty bad and we want them out of our lives.

So read along to know the difference between dandruff and dry scalp—so you can go back to having that healthier, flake-free hair.

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp: So Why Does It Matter?

So why is it important to know the difference between dandruff and dry scalp? Well because if you want to get rid of these hair care enemies. Then you'll want to make sure you apply the right hair care routine and products. Otherwise, you could be wasting your time and your money. Or even worse... worsening your condition.

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff, you know, those pesky white flakes on your shoulders. Your black shirt's worst enemy. It's like that annoying friend you purposely didn't invite to the party that no one wants around but still shows up. While it's not dangerous, it can be pretty embarrassing to deal with.

dandruff vs dry scalp comparison

Do you know how your skin cells shed and renew themselves? Well, dandruff is caused when your scalp sheds more quickly than usual. This leads to more visible and clumpy white flakes.

Besides leaving flakes, it can also leave your head itchy with redness. So try to avoid scratching or you could make the issue worse.
Some causes of dandruff:

  • Dry Skin: Very dry skin can also flake off, creating a dandruff-like appearance.
  • Oily Skin: Who would have guessed? Having an overly oily scalp can also cause dandruff. A type of yeast lives on these oils, leading to irritation and increased skin cell shedding.
  • Lack of Washing: Not washing your hair enough can lead to oil and skin cell buildup.
  • Skin Conditions: Issues like psoriasis or eczema can also cause flakes (Bernstein, n.d.).
  • Harsh Hair Products: Some people might react to certain ingredients in hair care products. Symptoms may include a red, itchy, scaling scalp.

Types of Dandruff

Breaking down dandruff further, here are the main types of dandruff:

  • Oily Dandruff: This type makes your scalp feel like a McDonalds Frymaster. The flakes are larger and greasier, and they stick to your hair.
  • Dry Dandruff: The opposite of its oily counterpart. Dry dandruff has smaller, lighter flakes that love to make their presence known. Especially on dark clothing.
  • Fungal Dandruff: This type of dandruff comes from the body's response to fungus. Although funguses can be found on everyone's skin (gross right), not everyone reacts to them the same.
  • Medical-Condition Dandruff: This dandruff can be caused by certain medical or skin conditions. The three types include eczema, scalp psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

What is a Dry Scalp?

A dry scalp is like having a desert on your head, complete with all the dryness and none of the fun of a sandy beach. No one invited it, but there it is, making your scalp feel as parched as a forgotten cactus in the sun.

dry scalp vs dandruff comparison

Just like your skin gets dry and flaky when it's thirsty, your scalp does the same. When it lacks moisture, it can feel drier than the Sahara Desert. And let's not forget the itchiness—that constant, nagging feeling begging you to scratch. But beware, scratching is asking for more irritation and even more flakes.

So, what's causing this dry scalp?

  • Cold Weather: Cold climates and areas with low humidity can dry out your scalp.
  • Hair Products: Chemicals such as sulfates and silicones might be cleaning your hair but removing your scalp's natural oils.
  • Overwashing: Yes, there is such a thing as too much cleanliness. Washing your hair too often can remove the natural oils. These keep your scalp hydrated and protected.
  • Hot Showers: As great as they feel, hot showers can turn your scalp into a dry-out your skin and scalp.
  • Skin Conditions: Conditions like eczema can also affect your scalp.

Head to Head: Dandruff vs Dry Scalp

So it’s time for the main event: dandruff vs dry scalp. Let's put these two side by side for a clearer picture.

dandruff vs dry scalp chart


  • Dandruff: The flakes are usually larger and have an oily look. They stick to your scalp and hair, sometimes making your hair look greasy. You might also see a bit of redness.
  • Dry Scalp: Here, the flakes are smaller, drier, and more 'dusty'. They easily fall off your hair, much like dry skin. You also may notice that your hair looks dryer and less shiny.


  • Dandruff: Key signs include a red, oily scalp, itching, and sometimes a tingly feeling. The flakes are more noticeable and persistent. Your scalp may feel tender from the redness.
  • Dry Scalp: The main symptoms are dryness, tightness in the scalp, and small, dry flakes. Itching is common but usually less intense than with dandruff.


While both conditions involve flakes, their treatments differ significantly.

For dandruff:

  • Shampoos with antifungal properties are a good bet. Ingredients like zinc, salicylic acid, and ketoconazole can help.
  • Add some powerful organic hair products that have anti-dandruff benefits. Such as our Hair Growth Dropper, Nourishing Mask, and Hair Ampoules Set. They contain plant-based ingredients that help reduce and get rid of dandruff.
  • Regularly washing your hair helps manage oil production.
agua de cielo hair growth products

For dry scalp:

  • Look for shampoos and conditioners that are hydrating and soothing. You can try our Recover Me Hydrating Shampoo with an organic and vegan formula.
  • Add a weekly deep conditioning treatment. Something like our Nourishing Mask and Hydrating Ampoule.
  • Limit the use of hair styling products and tools that can dry out your scalp, especially alcohol.
  • Try not to over-wash. Your scalp is already dry, so you want to avoid washing even more of the natural oils away.
agua de cielo recover me shampoo


So now you’ve seen the fight between dandruff vs dry scalp. It's the first step in tackling these hair care problems. With the right care and products, you can keep your scalp healthy and your hair looking fabulous—and less itchy. Remember, the best hair care routine is the one that suits your specific needs.

Want to learn about the other common hair problems and how to prevent them? Then check out our blog "10 Ways to Prevent Damaged Hair


Is it possible for someone to have both dandruff and a dry scalp?

Yes, it's possible. Sometimes treating one can cause the other, so balancing your scalp care is key.

Can stress cause dandruff or dry scalp?

Yes. Stress can disrupt your body's natural balance, affecting your scalp health.

Is dandruff contagious?

No, don't worry. Dandruff isn’t dangerous or contagious.


  • https://michaelanthonysalondc.com/3-major-stress-effects-on-hair-scalp-and-skin/
  • https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/scalp-psoriasis-vs-dandruff