Do I Have Dandruff Or A Dry Scalp? [Guide]

Dandruff vs Dry scalp blog

This week I had a client come into the salon and ask me “do I have dandruff or a dry scalp?” I thought to myself – what a great question! It’s often hard to tell the difference because of how similar the symptoms can be for each. So I thought I would write a blog post to help you know the difference.

It is easy to confuse a dry scalp for dandruff but they are different from one another. Dandruff is a condition that is caused by the growth of fungus. It’s a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis that increases and decreases over time the most obvious form is noticeable white flakes that will never go away without proper treatment. Whereas a dry scalp is caused by excessive washing, sensitivity to hair care products, and a scalp struggling to maintain or produce moisture. A simple change in your washing routine and the products can often solve this. If it continues and white flakes are still prominent you know you have dandruff.


click to Skip to the good bits👇

Do you have the biggest dandruff flakes ever?

Dandruff is something a lot of us suffer with or have suffered with in the past but it is so easy to confuse dandruff with having a dry scalp! 

But don’t worry I have put together a guide to help understand the difference and how to deal with both!

(Also I added my favourite products to help treat both at the bottom!) 

Dandruff vs Dry scalp what’s the difference?

Having either a dry scalp or dandruff can be frustrating in its self, but not knowing which one you have and not being able to treat it properly is worse. First off let’s go into depth on which scalp problem you have.

What is dandruff? 

Dandruff is a condition often considered to be a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis that increases and decreases over time. Its most obvious form is noticeable white flakes. If this doesn’t quite sound like what you’re suffering with, then you may have a dry scalp instead. A dry scalp is often mistaken for dandruff. 

If you think you have a dry scalp click here to skip ahead

If you want to focus on dandruff let’s break it down… 👇


Dandruff: Causes and symptoms

The causes of dandruff are as follows:

  • 🛢Overactive sebaceous gland  
  • 🦠 Fungal growth 
  • 😰 Stress 
  • 🧴Irritation from hair products. 

The cause of dandruff is not completely understood. However, in most cases it is often associated with excess oil production and an overgrowth of fungus. The scalp has lots of hair follicles with sebaceous glands. These produce sebum hosting an ideal environment for fungi to grow in. Put all these together along with dead skin cells (that would normally shed off) and you’ve got yourself some flakes! 

Treatments for dandruff

Dandruff can be treated by using a medical shampoo that is specifically designed for dandruff. 

Introducing tea tree into your hair care routine can also help because tea tree is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. 

Also, in my personal advice as a hairdresser I recommend trying out different methods of de-stressing, as stress can make the problem worse. Maybe some meditation, an early night or a spa day perhaps? 🧖‍♀️

How to stop beard dandruff (For the guys🧔‍♂️)

Just like your head, your beard can get dandruff. But you can easily avoid this…

By following the same steps mentioned above for your hair but applying it to your beard. 

Such as using a shampoo on your beard that fights dandruff and making sure you condition it regularly. This will help you to get rid of that pesky beard dandruff. Make sure you follow up with a good beard oil afterwards to moisturise your facial locks. 

Dandruff shampoo for adults

The best dandruff shampoos for adults are always hard to find because so many brands use chemicals that strip the colour from your hair which isn’t what you want when you have just paid lots of money for new hair colour. Chemicals such as selenium sulphide have been seen to turn hair from silver to yellow.

The hair shampoos I recommend and personally use are: 

Maria Nila Head and Heal Shampoo 



The body Shop Ginger Shampoo

Dandruff shampoo for kids

Again choosing an anti-dandruff shampoo for children can be very difficult, I would definitely suggest choosing a very natural, fragrance-free shampoo because of how delicate a child’s scalp can be. 

      Childs Farm Shampoo Strawberry & Organic Mint 250ml | Sainsbury's


Childs Farm Shampoo  

dry Scalp

Preventing dry scalp

If your scalp struggles to retain moisture or produce it, it can cause an itchy flaking and irritated scalp. 

By washing your hair too frequently you are essentially washing away the scalp’s moistures and stripping your hair of its natural oils. But don’t worry by following the advice in this blog post, you’ll be able to prevent a dry scalp, or treat it!

My top recommendations to prevent a dry scalp are:

  • 🔥Reducing the temperature of the water when washing your hair 
  • ❌Do not shampoo every day
  • 🤠Wear a hat when it’s cold outside (preferably a silk-lined hat)
  • 💧Using hydrating moisturising hair masks regularly 

Treatment for dry scalp

To treat a dry scalp, try washing less frequently and swap your shampoo for a moisturising shampoo.

If this is not enough to bring back that moisture I would recommend using a moisturising scalp treatment before shampooing your hair. 

Reduce the use of any products on your hair that contain alcohol as the main ingredient – alcohol dries out your hair and scalp significantly, so eliminating these products should help. 

Best shampoo for dry scalp uk

I have made a list of the best shampoos for a dry scalp, I have chosen these shampoos based on my knowledge and training. 

Palmers cocoa butter shampoo 

 Maria Nila Head and Heal Shampoo 

So as you can gather from this blog post, both dry scalp and dandruff are easy to get rid of. If you suffer from any of these, try out the steps in this post and let me know how you get on! 

PS, Head on over to my Instagram account @heyimbeks where you’ll find product reviews, general chitchat and a welcoming community