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Sensitive scalp? Dandruff?

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Aug 022018
By Lisa Valentine
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What’s going on, exactly how can I tell which is which and what can I do about it?

Let me try and clear something up… Sensitive scalp? Dandruff? What’s going on, exactly how can I tell which is which and what can I do about it?

There is nothing worse than to glance down after a good old scratch to the head to see a shower of white float down and settle around your shoulders. I bet you are thinking YUCK as a first thought and secondly, oh my god how embarrassing! It is nearly impossible to miss on my clothes too due to the fact that as a hairdresser I tend to live in one colour of clothes, and that colour would be black!  So I have dandruff right? Well actually no I don’t but it is a common misconception that any type of flaky scalp means you have this condition, where in actual fact usually it is simply due to having a sensitive scalp. Keep reading and I will explain a little more about the differences and how to relieve each of them.

Symptoms of a sensitive scalp usually include redness, itching, tightness and in some cases it can be painful to touch. Often alongside this because of the irritation, your scalp can become flaky. This is a dry flakiness whereas dandruff is usually oily (I will cover more about that below). It is common to hear about sensitive skin on our hands and face so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our scalp is the next most common area to experience sensitivity. This can be caused by a number of factors for example stress, hormones, climatic conditions, food allergies and even the shampoo we use. Some shampoos can have harsh cleansers which can wash away the scalps acid mantle which is what we produce naturally to protect our skin. So how can I treat this and get some relief? Whilst there is no cure, small changes such as reducing your water temperature can help you pin point the cause and hopefully minimise the flare ups. Checkout my shampoo recommendations at the bottom which are my scalp saviours. 

Now let’s look at dandruff, so basically dandruff is the over growth of skin cells and what causes it can sometimes be unclear as there are many different factors that can contribute. As with a sensitive scalp, it can be itchy and flaky but in this case it doesn’t simply look like dry skin, it will generally be clumps of white oily flakes on your scalp and clothes whereas with a sensitive scalp the flakes can fall away easily. Skin cells are shed at a faster rate than normal and often the over production of oil causes the flakes to clump. Problems with your immune system, hormones and stress can also play a role here too. Although there is no cure for this condition there are numerous products out there on the market to help reduce the symptoms. Shampooing more frequently will remove the build-up of flakes and excess oiliness but in some cases you may need something more targeted. Things like Coal Tar and Zinc Pyrithione are often used in anti-dandruff products to help remove visible flakes.

All in all these two conditions are linked but they do have some visible differences so simply using one shampoo to fit both doesn’t generally work long term. If either of these cause you problems I hope I have managed to clear things up a bit more for you and do check out my tried and tested products underneath once you have identfied which one you need.

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Inspired by the Mint Leaf, Biolage ScalpSync Cooling Mint Shampoo has soothing and calming properties to cleanse excess oil whilst leaving the scalp feeling refreshed and cool.

Scalp Sync Anti- Dandruff Shampoo is also inspired by the refreshing and calming properties of the Mint Leaf but also contains Zinc Pyrithione to help target and control the appearance of visible flakes whilst soothing the scalp.


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