It's December. Winter is here, temperatures are dropping, snowflakes are falling outside....and on your shoulders?!
When flakes start appearing in hair, it's usually due to one of two causes: dandruff or dry scalp. They have the same main symptoms of falling flakes and itchy scalp, but the root causes are opposite. With a dry scalp, skin is dry and irritated and flakes off. With dandruff, however, skin is too oily which causes build up of the shed skin cells that then flake off. It is important to know the root cause of your symptoms because treatment is different in each case and often the treatment for one can increase symptoms of the other.
So how do you tell if it's actually dandruff or just a dry scalp brought on by the change in season? See below for some quick comparisons.
Causes: often a result of cold/dry air brought on by change of season or indoor heating/cooling conditions. If your other skin is dry and flaky (think arms and legs), your scalp probably is too. It can also be the result of contact dermatitis which is a skin reaction to shampoo or other products being used on the scalp. Over-washing is another contributing factor.
Flake appearance: often smaller, white, dry
Treatment: switch to a moisturizing shampoo, shampoo less frequently, drink more water
Recommended products: R&CO Atlantis moisturizing shampoo/conditioner. Colorproof SuperRich. R&CO Acid Wash (calms scalp)
Causes: usually related to a skin condition or fungal overgrowth. The two main causes are seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that turns skin oily, red, and scaly, and malassezia, a fungus that lives on the scalp.
Flake appearance: larger oily flakes that appear yellow or white
Treatment: sulfate-free, paraben-free, dandruff shampoo which contains anti-fungal ingredients such as Zinc pyrithione, coal tar (although this can affect blonde and gray hair colors) or tea-tree oil; a natural anti-fungal. Shampooing more frequently can also aid in clearing up dandruff, as it will remove the buildup of dead skin cells and reduce oil build up on the scalp. Over-the-counter products such as Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue are not recommended due to their stripping effect of color and natural oils on the hair from unnatural chemical ingredients.
Recommended products: Malibu Scalp Wellness shampoo/conditioner controls fungal activity with a natural wellness treatment infused with vitamin C and reduces inflammation. R&CO Oblivion shampoo/conditioner which contain tea-tree oil. R&CO Acid Wash which calms the scalp. R&CO Crown scalp scrub which exfoliates dandruff build up on the scalp.
*Please know that skin flakes can also be caused by more serious conditions like psoriasis or other chronic illness or autoimmune diseases. In these cases, it is recommended that you work with a doctor or dermatologist to handle treatment.
Written by Lindsay