Dry vs. Oily Scalp

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Scalp conditions can be attributed to two main culprits. Oily scalp and dry scalp wreak havoc on your delicate hair follicles, causing damage to your tresses. Everything from split ends, dry or oily hair and frizziness can be traced back to your individual scalp condition. Despite the differences between both scalp problems, a slew of similarities also exist. Knowing the condition of your scalp and how to care for it will help you prevent chronic problems that can cause discomfort and physical marks on this delicate area of skin.

Dry Scalp Signs

Dry scalp is signified by symptoms, such as itching and skin flaking. What causes dry scalp can be identified through your body's natural hormone production. Androgen hormones that are secreted by your adrenal glands are responsible for regulating oil production within your hair follicles. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, exposure to the sun's rays and chemical processing dries up oil production, damaging the scalp and hair shaft. Chemical processing refers to coloring using bleaches and other colorants as well as processes to introduce curls to your hair.

Oily Scalp Signs

Oily scalp refers to overproduction of the scalp's natural oils, also known as sebum. Hormonal fluctuations are also responsible for this scalp condition that leaves your hair looking greasy, flat and lifeless. Although these oils are designed to protect your hair and moisturize your scalp, excess oil is also responsible for secondary scalp conditions that may be associated with dry scalp as well. Oily scalp requires frequent washing and special grooming directed at drying excess oil to avoid secondary infection and conditions.

Secondary Conditions

Secondary scalp conditions that result from too oily or too dry hair range from irritation to actual scalp skin damage. According to CareFair.com, dandruff and acne are two of the most common secondary skin conditions that can occur. Dandruff is known to cause flaking of the scalp and itching, leaving your clothes and hair spotted with white flakes of skin. Scalp acne occurs around the hairline when your hair follicles become clogged with shed skin cells, bacteria and oil. A more severe case of acne type skin eruptions is known as scalp folliculitis, disguised as acne breakouts and sometimes requiring medical intervention.


Treatment for oily and dry scalp will decrease your chances of developing uncomfortable secondary scalp conditions. The important thing to remember is that oily hair is not treated with the same products as dry hair. Shampooing would be the first step to controlling either problem. Oily hair requires daily shampooing with warmer water while dry hair only requires shampooing two to three times a week. Medicated shampoos are available for use when dealing with dandruff and itchy scalp as a result of these scalp conditions.


Although oily and dry scalp are easily treated at home, there are times when it is best to let a physician examine your scalp for stronger treatment course. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis affects all ages and is identified through inflammation and scaling of your scalp. Normally caused by oilier scalps, seborrheic dermatitis may require use of corticosteroid creams and prescription or non-prescription medicated shampoos, based on your doctor's recommendation.