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Is it dandruff, cradle cap, or something else?

POV: Your scalp is itchy, dry, flaky.

(Warning: Pictures of the conditions included)

That doesn't mean you have to run straight to the store and get dandruff shampoo. Often when we have clients in the salon thinking they have dandruff it's actually dry scalp and the dandruff shampoo will make it worse. It's important to be able to tell the difference.

Often, as seasons change, our clients experience dry scalp, and the treatment is much different than one would use for dandruff.

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is often caused by seborrheic dermatitis triggered by malassezia. Malassezia is a fungus that lives on the scalp naturally, but when there is an over abundance it will cause dandruff. In kids, dandruff is referred to as cradle cap.

What does it look like?

In adults it is red scalp, often oily, itchy, and the flakes are large and oily and often white or yellow.


To treat dandruff you will want to wash more often and use shampoos with ingredients that kills the malassezia like:

  • Pyrithione zinc

  • Selenium sulfide

  • Ketoconazole

  • Salicylic acid

  • Coal tar


Work an anti dandruff shampoo into your routine to keep flakes at bay. Avoid oily hair products that could be contributing to build up at the scalp.

What is dry scalp?

Dry scalp is when your scalp is lacking in moisture, although often caused by seasonal changes, can be due to contact dermatitis caused by products, or age.

What does it look like? Small dry flakes, itchy scalp, often dry skin on other parts of the body.


Wash less often or use a more gentle shampoo and hydrating conditioner, we love Spruced Nourish Shampoo and Conditioner.

You can also use oil treatments to help lock in moisture, we love Spruced Everything Oil. If you use an oil treatment it can make your hair look greasy, so you will want to do it on days when you don't care about that. Then shampoo the oils out after you complete the treatment.


Avoid over using products that can dry out your scalp like hair bleach (applied directly to your scalp, and dry shampoo. Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner regularly or as part of your routine. Do occasional oil treatments to super hydrate the scalp.

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