The next time you reach for the dandruff shampoo to treat a flaky scalp, first consider whether it’s actually dandruff or just a dry scalp.

We tend to use the term ‘dandruff’ generally to include all symptoms that include a flaky, dry and itchy scalp (you can thank popular shampoo commercials for this!). When it comes down to it, dandruff and the related condition of seborrheic dermatitis, have very unique characteristics including dry skin and require different treatment.

Small, white flakes of dead skin is often the first symptom of a dry scalp, which can also tingle and feel itchy.

• Washing your hair too often and stripping the scalp of natural oils

• Using a shampoo that contains sodium laureth sulphate or sodium lauryl sulphate (SLES/SLS)

• Using baking soda as a hair wash (the ‘no poo’ hair washing method may have many benefits for certain hair types, but baking soda is very alkaline and can cause skin irritation for most people)

• Weather changes and humidity levels

Natural Solutions for Dry Scalp 

• Wet your hair and scalp and massage in a nourishing oil like argan, letting it fully absorb overnight. Follow up by washing your hair in the morning.

• Once a week, rinse your scalp with a diluted apple cider vinegar solution (2 parts water, 1 part vinegar). Dry skin is alkaline, meaning it has a high pH (normal skin has a pH around 5.5). Apple cider vinegar can help to decrease the scalp’s pH level and balance the alkalinity of dry skin.

• Exfoliate your scalp. We often neglect the scalp but just like your face, it can benefit from regular exfoliation.

Apply full fat Greek yogurt to your scalp using a large makeup brush (do this in the same way a hair stylist applies hair dye to your roots). Cover your hair with a cap and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. The lactic acid in the yogurt will help to gently break down dead skin cells, leaving your scalp flake free.

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis (SD) are related conditions that affect the scalp and sometimes the body (in the case of SD). Dandruff looks very similar to a dry scalp but flakes may be larger and more widespread. SD also causes a flaky scalp, but flakes may look yellowish and sometimes waxy because it’s an inflammatory skin disorder generally found in areas where oil glands are most prevalent. For babies, SD is known as “cradle cap”.

Some people may be more prone to dandruff and SD than others and is generally associated with bacterial or fungal growth, overproduction of skin cells, and overactive oil glands (which is why you see cradle cap in infants because their oil glands have not yet regulated production).

Natural Solutions For Dandruff

• For a natural solution, apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil used in a shampoo or hair rinse can help relieve symptoms

• For severe cases, consult a naturopathic doctor for a natural treatment plan

• Infant cradle cap is best left alone. For a temporary solution, you can massage the scalp with coconut oil or olive oil and gently removed the crusts using a soft bristled brush. There’s no permanent solution to cradle cap except to wait it out until your infant outgrows the condition (often around 8-12 months of age).

The next time your scalp is dry and itchy, hold up on buying those dandruff shampoos! You may just need to switch up your shampoo and give your scalp a good exfoliating or moisturizing treatment.

Have you experienced dandruff? What solutions have you used that work?

This content was originally published here.