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Seborrheic Dermatitis Vs Dandruff


When it comes to beauty woes, our scalp-related concerns get the least bit of attention as we do not consider them as important as those unwanted zits or annoying premature signs of aging. 

But, what we fail to realize is that our scalp is an extension of our skin and the most significant element that helps keep our locks silky, smooth and vibrant. 

If you’re also embarrassed with your itchy scalp and failing to understand whether it’s just plain old dandruff that’s bothering you or something entirely different, then dive in to get all your answers. 

Keep reading ahead to understand all about your scalp issues and ways to take care of your mane and have them shiny and bouncy every day. 

Table of Contents:

  • Difference between Seborrheic Dermatitis And Dandruff
  • Causes Of Dandruff
  • Causes Of Seborrheic Dermatitis
  • Tips To Prevent Dandruff And Seborrheic Dermatitis

Difference between Seborrheic Dermatitis And Dandruff

Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff are the two conditions that your scalp might be suffering from, and you might be failing to understand which one is bothering you. 

Anabel Kingsley, a hair and scalp expert, states that several scalp conditions tend to feel the same, and diagnosing each type requires careful knowledge. 

Here are a few key differences between dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis that can help you understand your condition better:

White flakes vs. Inflammation

While dandruff is the formation of itchy, white flakes that appear on your scalp, the presence of sticky and slightly yellow flakes stuck on your scalp leads to inflammation, and redness is often a sign of seborrheic dermatitis. Patricia Wexler, a New York-based dermatologist and founder of Wexler Dermatology, states that while dandruff tends to appear flakier, seborrheic dermatitis is scaly. 

Affected area

Dandruff always affects only the scalp, while seborrheic dermatitis can affect not just your scalp but other body parts as well, including the face, eyebrows, ears, and chest. As per a study, seborrheic dermatitis affects about 42% of babies and causes adverse effects on their face as well as the diaper area. Also, cradle cap, an extremely common skin condition that affects little infants, is caused by seborrheic dermatitis. 


While seborrheic dermatitis mostly strikes at infancy and is more common in men, dandruff usually begins at puberty and can happen at any age.

Causes Of Dandruff

Here are the nitty-gritty details of dandruff and all the symptoms that can help you understand if your scalp is dealing with dandruff: 


Overproduction by sebaceous glands

As per Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified dermatologist based in Midtown, Manhattan, excess oil production and secretion of sebum by sebaceous glands along with an overgrowth of fungus, especially Malassezia. She further states that excess sebum produced by the glands creates a favorable environment for the growth of fungus. 


Our hormones tend to go for massive fluctuations owing to stress and anxiety. Both physical stress caused due to your body fighting disease or having undergone surgery or long-term illness, or psychological stress owing to work-related or personal issues tend to take a toll on your scalp and lead to dandruff.

Reaction to chemical infused products

William Gaunitz, a certified trichologist specializing in scalp health and hair growth, states that aggravating scalp and hair care products infused with certain chemicals can have a severe reaction leading to the presence of white flakes on your skin. He also believes that other factors such as genetic history, scarcity of Vitamin D3, and an imbalanced diet can often cause dandruff. 

Causes Of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis

The most prevalent causes of seborrheic dermatitis are: 


The presence of a yeast called Malassezia in your scalp in significant amounts can lead to inflammation and itchiness, further causing seborrheic dermatitis.

Weak immunity

A compromised immune system is prone to catch infections quickly. If you suffer from a weak immune system, your scalp tends to suffer from skin inflammation called seborrheic dermatitis.


You might be at higher risk of suffering from seborrheic dermatitis if there is a family history of the disease. 


The presence of Malassezia yeast can lead to a breakdown of triglycerides in the blood, further causing high cholesterol. Further cholesterol can be a cause of seborrheic dermatitis.

Tips To Prevent Dandruff And Seborrheic Dermatitis

If your scalp situation has got you all distressed and panicky, then here are a few tips that can ease you and help soothe your scalp:

Rinse your scalp with cold water

Hot showers feel pretty amazing but can be a bit harsh to your scalp. Wash your hair with cold water or lukewarm water, irrespective of the weather. 

Stock your hair care essentials with a soothing oil

Hair oils are known to rebalance the pH level of your scalp and provide intense nourishment and hydration to your locks. Look for a soothing and gentle hair oil enriched with natural and chemical-free ingredients and add it to your hair care regimen. 

Go for an ACV infused shampoo

A research demonstrates that owing to its antifungal and antibacterial properties, ACV works quite well against dandruff as well as seborrheic dermatitis. If making a DIY recipe feels overwhelming to you, go for a mild ACV infused shampoo to cleanse your scalp and let it work its magic on your infected scalp. 

Try Tea Tree Essential Oil

As per a study conducted in 2002, tea tree oil-infused products are effective against dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Opt for tea tree essential oil and dilute it with some other oil; apply it to your scalp to get rid of dandruff. 

tea tree oil, tea tree essential oil

Vitamin D supplements

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, Vitamin D supplements slow down the rapid growth rate of skin cells that often lead to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Taking Vitamin D supplements is quite an effective way to soothe your suffering scalp. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What foods trigger seborrheic dermatitis?

Meat and processed food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, dried, or packaged might trigger seborrheic dermatitis.

Should you oil your scalp if you have seborrheic dermatitis?

If you suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, applying hair oil too often might be a bad idea. Make a habit of applying gentle hair oil to your scalp but not regularly. 

Why did I suddenly get seborrheic dermatitis?

Excess growth of the Malassezia yeast, an organism that lives on the skin's surface, is the most common cause of seborrheic dermatitis.

Though different scalp problems such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis might appear the same on the surface, they have their own unique traits when carefully observed. 

These issues might get you all anxious but following the right treatment and remedies along with proper care and love can do wonders. 

However, it’s always advisable to consider your dermatologist if your scalp’s been troubling you too much.

Combat the underlying scalp conditions that you’re dealing with by following the best tips and tricks. 

Geetika Kapoor

Deeply passionate about writing, I’m a freelancer and have been working on several writing projects for several domains across the globe since last three years. I love reviewing different products ranging from skin care products, perfumes, body lotions, feminine products, hygiene items and several others. An English teacher by profession, I love interacting with kids and discovering different personalities as well. When I’m not writing I spend most of time reading novels, listening to songs, solving tricky puzzles and travelling around the world to my favourite destinations. Collen Hoover and Nicholas Sparks are my all time favourite authors. Their writing leaves a deep impact and stays with me for long.

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