As I continue my journey through hair school I am learning about all of the misconceptions that exist within the hair world in general. One conversation that I find myself having with many of my guests here lately is about the difference between seasonal dryness and true dandruff. It is not hard to mistake one for the other because the symptoms are identical.
Seasonal dryness or dry scalp can come from contact dermatitis which is when the scalp becomes sore after coming in contact with an irritant. This irritant could be a shampoo or conditioner, any number of hair products could also come from product build up on the scalp. Seasonal dryness can also be caused by sunburn, extreme age and can be made worse by cold or dry climates or changes in climate. Seasonal dryness is characterized by the teeny tiny small flakes that you can see more often than not. Most individuals have dry scalp and not dandruff.
Dandruff (or Seborrhea - technical term) is actually caused by a fungus called Malassezia. Malassezia is a naturally occurring fungus that is found in all human skin but it creates the symptoms of dandruff when it grows out of control. There are two types of dandruff:
1. Pityriasis capititis simplex which is classic dandruff defined by large flakes that attach to scalp and scatter loosely in hair. You may need to see a doctor for this depending on the severity but it is usually controlled by the regular use of dandruff shampoos, conditioners, ad topical lotions. Shea Moisture’s Black Soap Line would be an example of this.
2. Pityriasis steatoides is a more severe case of dandruff characterized by many greasy and waxy scales mixed with sebum ( a natural oil your scalp creates). That sebum causes the scales to adhere to the scalp like a crust. If it is accompanied y redness and inflammation it then become seborrheic dermatitis (can also be found in the eyebrows and beard). Persons with this version of dandruff should consult with a physician.
With seasonal dryness you should to re-evaluate what products you are using. If you are using anti-humectants (products that keep moisture from hair and scalp) this could be part of your problem. In addition, using heavy products filled with lots of alcohols, drying agents, and man-made chemicals could be a problem as well. A good clarifying/ balancing shampoo is great option when dealing with seasonal dryness. Just as the season’s change you may need to change the products you use with each season.
Aveda offers a great scalp balancing shampoo line called Scalp Benefits (this product cleans from hair follicle to scalp and removes excess sebum and is all natural) which also has an accompanying Scalp Remedy Botanical treatment which can be administered to you as a salon service. The Scalp Benefits line could be used for both seasonal dryness and Pityriasis Simplex. You many find that you only need to use this product as the seasons change or once every few months. I would recommend using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner as your staple product inserting your Scalp Benefits or balancing/clarifying shampoo as needed. If you’ve got any questions or concerns about your scalp let’s start the conversation here!