What is a problematic scalp? Problematic scalp can range anywhere between having itchy, dry and flaky scalp. Many people use all three of these to describe their scalp in one sentence. While all three usually go hand in hand, however, they are not all the same. The reality is that these are all unique conditions with varying symptoms, caused by different effects.

What are The Differences?


Dandruff refers to the dead skin cells that flake off of the scalp and appear around the scalp and in hair as white flakes (2,3). This usually happens when the scalp is irritated, or you are suffering from a skin condition like seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a common and chronic form of eczema/dermatitis that mainly affects the sebaceous, gland-rich regions of the scalp, face, and trunk (4).  Dermatologists consider dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis to be similar (2).

Dry scalp:

Dry scalp is what results when a scalp lacks oil and moisture. The oils on a scalp help condition hair and skin, however when a scalp is dry, it tends to flake off and in some cases cause irritation.

Itchy scalp:

Itchy scalp, also known as scalp pruritus, is a common condition where the scalp gets incredibly itchy.

What Contributes to Their Causes?

There is a common misconception that dandruff is caused by dryness; contrary, it is usually due to an overgrowth of a harmless yeast (1, 2).  Dry skin may result in an itchy scalp and flaking skin but does not always mean dandruff.  Although the most common causes of scalp itch are dandruff and psoriasis.  Psoriasis is a common scalp condition that causes the skin cells to grow faster than usual, thus causing a buildup of skin called plaques (3).

 Dandruff can be a result of many causes which include but not limited to;

  • Malassezia; a type of fungus that is found on the skin surfaces of both animals and humans and feeds on the oils of the skin
  • Oily skin/scalp as may be related to Malassezia; inflamed oil glands
  • Under washing; which can increase scalp oil production.
  • The wrong hair products; as some hair products may contain irritants, leading to an inflamed, itchy scalp.

 Dry scalp, just with dandruff, can be a result of using the wrong products for your hair. If your scalp is already prone to dryness, using products that strips more oils out of your scalp, will cause further dryness and scalp irritation. Additionally others causes of dry scalp can include; climates, skin condition such as eczema, overwashing even if the right hair cleanser is used.

Itchy Scalp

Itchy scalp also identified as scalp pruritus can arise from a variety of conditions including dermatologic, systemic, neurologic and psychogenic diseases (5). Scalp pruritus is most commonly associated with seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis but appears often without any noticeable skin lesion or obvious diagnosis (3,5).  Additionally, itchy scalp can be a result of many other conditions such as sensitive skin, general irritation or an allergic reaction.

Get Some Relief

Scalp conditions can be relieved by some over the counter medicated treatments. However if you want the natural route you can try some DIY (Do it yourself) home remedies or try some of these natural base products below! Follow on our social media channels for some DIY recipes.



  1. Surprising Facts About Dandruff. By Jennifer Benjamin. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/surprising-facts-about-dandruff/
  2. What Is Dandruff? By Erin Archer Kelser, RN Medically Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD https://www.everydayhealth.com/dandruff/guide/
  3. Best home remedies for an itchy scalp. Medically reviewed by Gerhard Whitworth, RN on January 8, 2019 — Written by Charlotte Lillis https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324126
  4. Seborrhoeic dermatitis. A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 1997. Latest update by Dr Jannet Gomez, October 2017. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/seborrhoeic-dermatitis/
  5. The Itchy scalp – scratching for an explanation. Ghada A. Bin saif, MD, Marna E. Ericson, PhD, and Gil Yosipovitch, MD. Exp Dermatol. 2011 Dec; 20(12): 959–968.


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