So many people deal with itchy scalp issues around this time of year and because of the flakes, they assume that it's dandruff and reach for the Head and Shoulders or other such products. However, dandruff and dry scalp are two totally different things, and treating one when you actually have the other can exacerbate the problem.
Here's the deal
In my experience, far fewer people actually have dandruff than those who think they do. The vast majority actually just have a dry scalp, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's totally understandable because the most recognizable symptoms are so similar -- itchiness and flaking.
Dandruff is actually a fungal condition and rather than small, white flakes, yellowish clumps of tissue form on the scalp. If you're not sure which you're experiencing, don't hesitate to ask your hairdresser -- seriously, I understand why you might be embarrassed but it's so not a big deal.
Everybody's got their stuff; bodies are weird. If you've actually got dandruff, then by all means use something to treat it -- preferably containing tea tree oil, which is anti-fungal and a natural exfoliant, meaning that over time it will treat the dandruff as well as gently sweep it away from your scalp.
I love and work with Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo, but be aware -- if you color your hair, tea tree shampoos are best used right before you'll be getting color done again, as they can cause fading. Sometimes we gotta pick our priorities, and I'd personally pick not waking up in the middle of the night scratching my scalp.
But if you've just got dry scalp, using something meant for dandruff can really work against you -- it will clear away flakes but also dry your skin further, only making things worse. Most people don't realize this and create a cycle where they have a dry scalp, they try to help it but dry it out further, and on and on.
But you don't have to! You're smart, and also you're pretty. Here's a plan you can customize based on whether you've learned you have a dry scalp or dandruff. It's super easy and cheap, and when done regularly (try once a week) you'll be able to ruffle your hair again without worrying about a gentle snowfall.
All the steps are the same for either situation except that if you have dandruff, add a few drops of pure tea tree oil into the mix.
Find any oil you have around the house -- olive oil works great, as do coconut and grapeseed oil. Heat it up a few tablespoons of it in the microwave, just until it's warm. It helps the oil absorb a little better but it also just feels nice and spa-y, even if it's in a thrift store coffee mug.
Bring it into the bathroom with you and over the sink, start applying it to your scalp. I find it a little less messy to press in with a sponge brush, the kind you can get at any craft store, but your fingers work just as well. Start at your natural part, then keep making parting parallel to that and applying the oil to them going all across your head. When you get to the back, honestly, just do the best you can -- my technique gets dicey once things are out of my field of vision, but so far I've lived.
Now wrap your hair in a towel, put on a shower cap, wrap your head in saran wrap or in a Target bag (I've done both) and go do your thing around the house for at least 20 minutes. It could really stay on forever, you could binge on a season of a TV show everyone's been telling you about!
When you're tired of going to play with your hair and remembering it's full of oil, hop in the shower and shampoo a couple of times until you get your usual lather and condition your hair as normal.
I promise you that your situation will improve. If you guys ever have any hair questions for me, please feel free! I love to spread the gospel of good hair.