jojob oil for dry scalp
photo credit: mashuk - Getty Images

Dry scalp, often confused with dandruff, is a common problem that affects many people. The terms are mistakenly used interchangeably to describe shared symptoms, but there’s a difference between these two scalp disorders.

What is dry scalp?

Dry scalp causes skin to feel tight. You’ll also notice that skin will have a white, silvery gray color, feel tender, and itch. When you scratch a dry scalp, you may see skin that has peeled or flaked off your scalp.

Dry scalp is caused when the pH of sebum, the scalp’s natural oil, is disrupted. Sebum is responsible for keeping proper moisture balance on the top layer of the scalp. It shields the skin from bacterial and fungal infections. This is why it is important to use shampoos that have a pH range of 4.5 to 5.5, the same pH range as sebum, and that cleanse without removing too much moisture from the scalp. I recommend Wild Naturals Eczema & Psoriasis Shampoo.  It contains cocamidalpropyl betaine, a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your hair, and organic aloe barbadensis gel, which helps sooth the scalp and reduce inflammation.

What is dandruff?

Dandruff occurs when the skin flakes; this can be mild, moderate, or severe. Although the causes of dandruff are unknown, several theories suggest that dandruff may be caused by too much Malassezia globose, or yeast, living on the scalp. Malassezia globose lives on the scalp normally but may cause flakes for some people if it lives on the skin in abundance.

Dry scalp and dandruff can exist on the scalp together and it can be difficult to determine if you have one or both.

Don’t be alarmed if you see some dandruff when you shampoo, comb, or brush your hair. The scalp naturally sheds hardened layers of skin off the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. This process is called desquamation and is normal.  However, diet, nutrition, hormones, stress, allergies and autoimmune issues can affect the normal process of desquamation, causing flakes to shed fast and in excess. Infrequent shampooing may also be a factor.

So, what’s the difference?

Think of dry scalp as something you can feel occurring on the scalp, while dandruff is what you see because flakes are falling off the scalp. With dry scalp you may feel the need to scratch your scalp. Your scalp may feel sore from scratching and may bleed if you scratch your scalp excessively. If hair loss or bleeding takes place as a result of scratching, you may need to see a dermatologist or trichologist to help the problem.

If you feel that you are experiencing dry scalp, you can try to massage your scalp before you shampoo with this jojoba oil scalp treatment.

Jojoba oil is similar to the scalp’s sebum. It penetrates the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling on the scalp. It also helps loosen up flakes, which can then be removed once you shampoo your hair. You can add a few drops of chamomile essential oil to the jojoba oil, which will help relax the scalp, while soothing and healing dry, irritated skin. A few drops of tea tree oil can be added to the mix to combat itch and reduce fungal and bacterial infection.

What scalp treatment have you used for your dry scalp? How did these products work?