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Portrait of woman in 30s looking at her reflection with horrified nervous expression as she notices scalp dandruff and product build up

Flakes are annoying. But before we can solve the problem, we’ve got to determine what you’re dealing with: dandruff or product build-up. There are specific treatments for each to get you back to flake-free hair. While flakes look similar, there are some subtleties that can help tell them apart.

Three Ways to Tell Dandruff Apart:

Shape of Flakes

Look closely. Are the flakes you see on your scalp all the same size? If so, this is a good sign this may be build-up. If upon closer inspection you find the particles vary in size or have an irregular shape, it’s probably dandruff.

Color of Flakes

Most people are more familiar with the white, or dry variety of dandruff. Oily dandruff or Seborrheic Dermatitis, tends to have a yellowish hue. If your flakes have a yellowish tone, you can probably rule out build-up as the culprit. While harmless, Seborrheic Dermatitis is a more severe source of dandruff, so be sure to get a proper diagnosis to understand how to treat it best.

Texture of Flake

If you run your fingers through a few strands of hair all the way to the tips, what does it feel like? If it feels a bit greasy, it may be build-up still clinging to your hair. If your hair feels clean and smooth but there are still flakes at the top, it’s most likely dandruff.

If you still can’t tell the difference, try this quick test:
Give your hair a shake. If you witness the snow globe effect and see flakes floating around, it’s dandruff. Product build-up specs are sticky, so they’ll mostly remain on your hair even after a vigorous shake.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s find a solution!

How to Deal with Dandruff or Product Build-Up

Dandruff in Scalp

Half of the population lives with dandruff. Because of this, there are a variety of ways you can find relief and reduce unwanted flaking in a way that works for you. You can begin by finding a shampoo and conditioner that contain pyrithione zinc (ZPT), an active ingredient found to work against dandruff. We recommend Head & Shoulders Deep Moisture Anti Dandruff Shampoo for up to 100% dandruff protection* without drying your hair – and it smells amazing.
*visible flakes; with regular use

Product Build-Up on Scalp

Hair products can accumulate on your scalp along with dirt and oils. But before you go throw away your favorite styling products, check out the ingredients. Products that contain too much silicone can’t be broken down by water alone, which is how they accumulate on your scalp in the first place. Try switching to a silicone-free alternative or better yet, using a clarifying shampoo to get a deeper clean if you’d like to avoid retiring your favorite styling products. Our Head & Shoulders Bare Clean Sulfate-Free Dandruff Shampoo covers both bases; it cleans and clarifies scalp and hair, leaving it refreshed and looking vibrant – even if you don’t have dandruff!

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