Dandruff has been for a long time a problem many people have regardless of gender or hair type and most of the time it has been associated with dry scalp. Every other person has experienced it at some point. That’s how common it is. Is dandruff and dry scalp related in any way? Is one the cause of the other? Most people find it hard to differentiate them and it is also possible to have both. Let’s take a look at them side by side so we can get to deal with them correctly.

What is Dandruff and What is dry scalp?

Dandruff is actually a skin condition that affects the scalp. It is characterized by small pieces of flaky dead skin on the hair or scalp. You can see them on your shoulders or clothes when you comb your hair. A severe form of this condition is called Seborrheic Dermatitis. It has NOTHING to do with hygiene as you might have thought. We will get to this as we go on.

Dry scalp occurs when the skin is not well hydrated and does not have enough oil to lubricate it. This may in some cases lead to dandruff. People with dry skin are prone to experience dry scalp as well.

Similarities and differences between Dandruff and Dry scalp

Dandruff and dry scalp are related yet distinct such that in both conditions your scalp is irritated making it itchy and flaky and may sore in severe cases. The difference is best explained below.

          Dandruff                                                      Dry scalp

  • Oily but itchy scalp                                         – Dry and itchy scalp
  • Greasy hair                                                       – Dry hair
  • Large yellowish oily flakes                            – Small white dry flakes
  • Caused by fungal infection and may not    – May improve with less shampooing and moisturizing

improve without proper treatment

Causes of Dandruff and Dry scalp.


  1. First of all, lets get this clear. Dirty hair is NOT a cause of dandruff. However, if you don’t wash your hair regularly, product build up may add to the flakiness.
  2. That aside, the exact cause is unknown but it is believed that environmental and genetic factors increase the risk.
  3. Excess skin cell growth aggravated by a yeast called Malassezia (a single celled fungus living on our scalp and survives on sebum. It is normally harmless but causes dandruff to those sensitive to it.) which can happen due to age, hormones or stress.
  4. Personal care products that may react to the scalp.
  5. Over production of sebum (Natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands to lubricate the scalp).

Dry scalp

It is common for people who generally have dry skin to also have dry scalp. The causes include:-

  1. Age – The older we get, the thinner and dryer our skin becomes.
  2. Skin conditions like eczema.
  3. Climate – This can be very hot or cold temperatures that have dry air.
  4. Washing hair daily with shampoos containing sulfate.

Remedies for Dandruff.

In this section, i will cover both home and over the counter remedies that you can use to address dandruff.


1. Tea tree oilHas anti inflammatory properties that may help reduce the symptoms and severity of the condition. Because dandruff can be a result of sensitive skin and tea tree oil can cause irritation, you should dilute a few drops in a carrier oil like argan or coconut before applying.

Usage:- Apply directly to clean scalp.

2. Baking soda – Has anti fungal properties that can help in dandruff treatment. It gently exfoliates the dead skin and reduce scaling and itching.

Usage :- Apply it directly to damp hair and massage gently into your scalp. Leave it in for a few minutes then continue with your shampoo routine.

3. Apple cider vinegar – The acidity of apple cider vinegar is said to balance the PH of the skin which as a result reduces fungus thus deals with dandruff. However, there hasn’t been a research done to support this claim but the benefits are based on anecdotal evidence. You could as well give it a shot if you wish.

Usage :- Add 2-3 tablespoons to your shampoo and continue with your wash routine.

You can also put some in a spray bottle, add a few drops of essential oils and spray directly to your scalp. Massage into your scalp and leave in a few minutes then rinse off.

4. Coconut oil – Can help hydrate the scalp and this in turn reduces irritation and prevents fungal growth.

Usage :-You can use coconut oil as a carrier oil with tea tree oil or as a pre poo by applying on your scalp and hair before washing, leave for a few minutes then wash or as hot oil treatment whereby after applying on your scalp, cover your hair with a plastic cap and sit under a hooded dryer for 20-30 minutes then continue with your shampoo routine.

5. Aloe Vera gel Contains antioxidants and amino acids that may reduce dandruff by improving moisture retention in the skin promoting wound healing. It may also reduce inflammation which is helpful for people with itchy scalp, a symptom of dandruff.

Usage :- You can use the gel directly from the plant or purchase it. Apply directly on the scalp, let it sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse and continue with your wash routine.

6. Reduce stress – Stress affects your general health. It doesn’t directly cause dandruff but it may increase the occurrence of the symptoms like itching and dryness.

You can keep stress in check by practicing some relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation and regular exercise. If this doesn’t work, seek professional help from your doctor.

7. Aspirin – Has salicylic acid which is anti inflammatory in nature. Salicylic acid helps get rid of scaly skin by loosening it and this makes it easy to remove. It is also commonly found in anti dandruff shampoos.

Usage:- Crush a few aspirins and mix with some shampoo to form a paste. Apply onto your scalp and gently massage in for a minute or so then rinse off. Continue with your shampoo routine.

8. Onions – Have strong anti microbial properties that may help get rid of dandruff symptoms. It also increases blood circulation to your scalp which helps in the general health of your hair.

Usage :- Peel off the dry skin, cut into chunks for easy blending then blend into a thick paste. Apply on your scalp and massage gently. You can also apply some on your hair then let it stay for about 30minjtes to an hour then rinse off and continue with your shampoo routine.

9. Omega 3 fatty acids – A deficiency in Omega 3 fatty acids may cause symptoms like dry scalp and dandruff. Omega 3 also helps in the production of sebum and hydration of the skin which in turn supports wound healing and relieves dandruff symptoms.

You can get these by incorporating fish like trout, salmon and mackerel in your diet. If you can’t get these regularly, you could take a fish oil supplement. Other foods rich in omega include Walnuts, chia seeds, soybeans flax seeds, Sardines among others.

10. Lemon grass Just like tea tree oil, lemon grass has anti inflammatory and anti microbial properties that help reduce symptoms and severity of the condition.

Applied directly to the skin can cause irritation. For this reason, just like tea tree oil, add a few drops to a carrier oil and use it to pre poo your hair or for hot oil treatment. Alternatively add a few drops in your shampoo then use your shampoo for your routine wash.

11. Rice water rinse – Rice water contains Allantoin which helps speed up healing of wounds which may be a result of scratching.

Here is how to prepare and use it.

12. Clary Sage – This oil helps balance sebum production for both dry and oily scalps and hair. Clary sage has anti-inflamatory compounds that have a cooling effect on itchy and wounded areas of the scalp hence good for controlling dandruff.

Usage :- Put a few drops in a carrier oil like coconut, almond or jojoba oil and massage directly to clean scalp.


These are basically shampoos and conditioners known to help reduce flakes, itching, dry scalp and dandruff. For a good anti dandruff shampoo, you wanna look for one that has at least one of the following ingredients.

  1. Zinc Pyrithione – helps control the growing of bacteria as well as sebum. It also has anti inflammatory properties that help relieve itching. You can get this in shampoos like Head and shoulders anti dandruff or Jason Dandruff relief 2 in 1.
  2. Ketoconazole – Is said to kill the fungus that causes dandruff. Check out Nizoral.
  3. Coal tar – Tar based shampoos slow down the shedding of skin cells on the scalp. It may also change hair color for blondes and gray hair.
  4. Salicylic acid – Is an active ingredient in anti dandruff shampoos like Matrix Biolage salicylic acid and Vichy Dercos. It helps exfoliate excess dandruff flakes, prevent oil build up, and reduce itching and inflammation of the scalp.
  5. Selenium sulfide – Is an anti fungal property that helps relieve scaling, itching, flaking and overall dandruff. It is also a common ingredient in anti fungal shampoos like Head and shoulders clinical strength and Vichy Dercos Technique.

When to see a doctor.

Normally, dandruff do not require you to see a doctor and will usually go away with home and over the counter remedies. However, if those do not seem to work, and the condition gets worse with the scalp starting to sore, becoming red and swelling, you might need to consult a dermatologist because you may have a skin condition that resembles dandruff.

Remedies and tips for dry scalp.

HOME REMEDIES for dry scalp are more or less the same as those for dandruff and the usage is the same.


  1. Use a milder shampoo than what you are currently using preferably sulfate free moisturizing or hydrating shampoo.
  2. Shampoo less frequently. Skip a wash day or two depending on how often you shampoo your hair.
  3. Drink plenty of water. This will generally hydrate your skin inside out.
  4. Use a moisturizing conditioner.
  5. For Afro hair, oil your scalp regularly with a hair food rich in moisturizing oils like coconut, argan, olive, avocado, castor, tea tree just to mention a few.


Researchers cannot really point a finger to the cause of dandruff and for this reason, it isn’t clear whether it can be prevented or not. Some people have severe dandruff cases which come and go but reasons are still not clear. However, dry scalp could be prevented when you try out the tips mentioned earlier in your routine.

Bottom line.

Dandruff and dry scalp are harmless but can be annoying and affect self-esteem. The good news is that now you know what you can do at home to get rid of dandruff and control dry scalp every time you experience it. Bad news is that there is still no conclusive research on if dandruff can permanently gotten rid of. But hey, you can rock your lovely dandruff free hair by trying the tips and remedies earlier discussed.

For severe cases you will need to see a dermatologist because it might not be just dandruff you are trying to deal with but a skin condition with dandruff as a symptom.

We all have different hair types and scalp sensitivity and what works for one may not necessarily work for another. That said, there are no guarantees with any dandruff treatment. The items linked are based on the quality and reviews of the products.

Anything left out or would you like to share your experience with dandruff or dry scalp and what helped you? Feel free to contact me or leave a comment and i will gladly get back to you.

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I didn’t know the difference between dry scalp and dandruff so that was certainly something I learnt. Also, I didn’t know that they were so many home remedies to try so I’ll definitely be adding some of these to my list. I think the only one I have tried is using apple cider vinegar which did help a little but I really hate the scent of vinegar so looking forward to trying another treatment option.

    • Hi Tamika, nice to read from you, Thanks for taking your time to read and comment and i am glad you learned something new.
      Best of luck in your endevours and best results as you try out something new.

  2. Fantastic article Janet! I used to have dandriff when I was in the having children stage. I had it all the time, through the change of the seasons or perhaps changing diapers lol just kidding.

    As I grew older my dandriff has stopped completely. I started eating healthier as I approached my 50’s and that may very well have helped me a lot!

    You have a lot of great info here and pretty useful! Thank you for sharing and talk to you soon.
    Donna Rayne

    • Hi Donna,thanks for taking your time to read and comment on my article.Glad to read that dandruff doesnt bother you any more!It could have been the hormonal changes and parenthood `stress`lol …who knows. But its great that its past tense now. Happy to have shared the information. I hope it helps someone out there struggling.
      Blessings to you too and best of luck in your endevous.

      • Wow this is so thorough and insightful. I’ve had psoriasis since I can remember and am always looking for new ideas and treatments to try on my scalp. Now I have several to get busy with! Many thnaks for the in depth article.

        • Hi Sam, thanks for reading through and I’m glad you found useful information and tips here. I hope this helps your sclap eventually. I will be glad to get a feedback after you try some.

  3. Hi dear…
    Heads up for the article…learned something and going to try some of the remedies for dry scalp

    • Hi Phidel, thank you for finding time to read through. I am happy to have shared with you helpful information. It would be great to know how it goes with the remedies you will try.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *