A man touching his hair while looking at himself in the mirror.

A flaky scalp is a tough nut to crack. Dandruff might be the first thing that comes to mind, but it could also be a sign of dry skin. These two conditions manifest as white flecks that fly everywhere, but it is where the similarity ends. If you don’t use the right products, the problem will keep coming back. So, in the battle between dandruff vs. dry scalp, it’s crucial that you emerge as the winner.

How to Tell the Difference Between Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp

The first step to having a flake-free scalp is to determine what’s behind it. When the skin can’t retain moisture and oil, it dries and breaks into a scurf. This dryness can also cause itching, which is why it’s easy to mistake it for dandruff. That’s a different thing altogether.

Dandruff is a scalp condition caused by . It inhabits the skin of most adults and is usually harmless until it lives on an . The yeast feeds on the excess sebum, which triggers inflammation. The skin sheds faster to try to get rid of the irritant, causing flaking, itching, and redness. 

Now that you know the basics, use this vs. Dry Scalp Checklist to determine which one you have.

Check the size and shape of the flakes.

Take a closer look at the flakes that fall from your head. When Malassezia is involved, dead skin cells pile up and fall in large, waxy chunks. The oil build-up also makes them look yellowish and smell sour. On the other hand, a dry scalp produces smaller flakes that look like table salt.

Run your fingers through your hair.

Do you feel oil on your fingers? If yes, you’re dealing with oily dandruff, not a dry scalp. Factors contributing to the condition include genetics, high levels of testosterone, and stress. These set off excessive oil production, .

Aside from oil, , and dirt can also exacerbate dandruff. Cleanse your scalp after a long day with CLEAR Cool Sport Menthol Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Men, which removes any traces of grime, grease, and skin flakes with its Triple Anti-Dandruff technology. Say goodbye to your itchy scalp with this menthol-infused shampoo, no matter how hot and humid it is outside.

Check other areas of your skin.

If you have a dry scalp, it’s likely that the skin on other parts of your body is also dry. Aggressors like sun damage, exposure to harsh soaps or shampoos, and vitamin deficiencies can cause the scalp and the rest of your skin to lose too much moisture. So, to differentiate dandruff vs. dry scalp, check for rough or scaly areas on your face, arms, and legs. 

What You Can Do to Stop Flaky Scalp

Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can arm yourself with the necessary products to address your condition. For dandruff, stock up on shampoos with anti-inflammatory and antifungal ingredients like pyrithione zinc and tea tree oil. These two flake-fighting heroes are in Dove Men+Care Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, which fights the Malassezia yeast and regulates sebum production. This shampoo also stimulates hair growth and improves scalp health with .

If you have dry hair, vitamin D and omega-3 supplements can help, along with using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner two to three times a week. In the meantime, take a break from to give your scalp time to recalibrate.

Telling dandruff vs. dry scalp apart can be tricky. For severe symptoms, it’s best not to self-diagnose. Consult your doctor immediately if the itching becomes unbearable or if you notice any bleeding on your scalp. In any case, be patient and diligent with your routine – scalp health doesn’t happen overnight.