Dry Scalp and Dandruff – What’s the Difference? | Salon Secret Africa

Dry scalp and dandruff - What's the difference?

Salon Secret
28 May 2018
Dry scalp and dandruff - What's the difference? : woman with dandruff and dry scalp
For many people, dandruff and dry scalp are the same thing. They spot white flakes on their shoulders or nestled between their hair strands and reach for the nearest itchy scalp treatment – regardless of which condition it’s been specially formulated for. 

This is a big mistake, as Redken brand educator Richard Nienaber explains. “Dandruff and dry scalp are totally different issues, but without a professional opinion people normally see the problem as dandruff. If you’re suffering from dry scalp, though, using anti-dandruff products will only make the scalp drier and more irritated.”

What is the difference then? After all, both conditions leave you with an itchy scalp, and unattractive white flakes everywhere. How do you tell them apart, and choose the correct scalp treatment? 

Dry scalp

A dry, irritated scalp is caused by too little moisture. There could be many reasons for that lack in hydration, such as stress, hormone changes, environmental issues like dry winter air, and the use of harsh haircare products that strip away essential scalp oils. You could even just be genetically predisposed to having dry hair and scalp. It’s a very common problem among African women with intensely coiled hair.


What causes dandruff is something entirely different. True dandruff, or seborrheic dermatitis, is a condition that leads to an overproduction of oil and skin cells. The body can’t shed the skin cells fast enough, and they build up noticeably on your head. Dandruff can also be caused by a type of fungus, which has an inflammatory effect on the scalp as it spreads.

The most obvious, noticeable difference between dry scalp and dandruff is that while dry scalp shows as tiny, fine flakes that feel like salt to the touch, dandruff flakes are bigger, crustier and stick to the scalp. Redness and greasiness are also common visual indicators of dandruff, and may even show around your eyebrows.

Expert haircare solutions

The key to effective treatment of dandruff is to use a product like L’Oréal Professionel’s Instant Clear Shampoo. This dandruff treatment contains a zinc pyrithione complex to keep flaking in check, along with a camomile derivative, which helps hair feel fresh, clean and light. 

For a professional dry scalp remedy, Richard points to Redken’s Scalp Relief Soothing Balance Shampoo. Key ingredients in this gentle cleanser are eucalyptus and liquorice extract, which help to soothe and de-stress the scalp at the same time as moisture levels are rebalanced.

Now you know more about dry scalp and dandruff – but it’s still best not to self-diagnose. Make an appointment at your nearest salon and speak to an expert for a professional analysis. At the same time, you’ll be able to pick up exclusive salon-quality products like anti-dandruff Instant Clear and dry scalp-fighting Soothing Balance, depending on your needs.
I like this article
Be the first to like this article

Oops, something went wrong! Please try again later...

More to discover

African woman with hair in silky bun
12 February 2019

The secret to ultra-soft hair? A day-long conditioning session

Got no time for leave in conditioner? Fear not - you can leave it on all day, and still look chic and sleek for work!

Chuck that towel, save your hair  : woman with towel
25 May 2018

Chuck that towel, save your hair

When it comes to African hair, towels aren’t inherently bad. They’re amazing for wrapping just-washed hair and sealing in moisture for a few hours. But if you’ve been using a bog-standard supermarket towel to dry your hair, stop right now. You’re likely causing damage.

Wake up from the breakage nightmare : woman wake up from the breakage nightmare
25 May 2018

Wake up from the breakage nightmare

If you have a fear of combing your hair because the twig-like strands crack and remain on your comb, then it’s time to face your breakage problem. Breakage is your hair telling you that it’s thirsty. There isn’t enough moisture to maintain structure, and the harsh fibres with which it comes into contact are causing major friction burn. This happens to all hair types, including natural and chemically treated hair. Here’s how to relieve yourself from this nightmare.


Experience the latest in cuts, colors, techniques, and styles from experts you trust.


We use cookies to give you the best user experience and personalisation on our site and third party sites. By continuing to browse our website, you consent to our use of cookies. For more information, see our Cookies Policy.