If your dandruff isn’t going away, you might have this more serious condition instead

Ready to learn something you didn’t even know you didn’t know? There’s a difference between dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. The reason we didn’t know that has nothing to do with the differences between the two, it’s just because we’ve never even HEARD of seborrheic dermatitis. Because dandruff, or the symptoms thereof, are a pretty common experience, you’d think that we’d have come across it before. Don’t worry, though. We’ve got you.

If you’ve been treating your dandruff with special shampoos, but it’s not going away, you might actually have seborrheic dermatitis.

The two conditions need different treatment. So, first and foremost, visit a dermatologist if you can.

Even if you just have dandruff, a pro will have better advice than your average denizen of the internet. That said, if you notice that your scalp isn’t just flaky, but inflamed, that could be a sign of seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis also makes your scalp feel scalier than regular dandruff. The condition is caused by an overgrowth of a (naturally occurring) yeast on the scalp, called malassezia furfur. (We have more questions about that name than we do about the condition…)

Your first instinct might be to try and hydrate your scalp, but that instinct could do more harm than good.

Oils, hair sprays, and gels can just exacerbate the issue, since at the root (ha!) of the problem is actually an excess of oil as opposed to a deficit.

Instead, make a point to shampoo daily with an anti-microbial shampoo, and follow that up with an anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory scalp toner. The toner needs to contain an astringent (something that causes the skin to contract), such as witch hazel, to help and relieve the excess oils on your scalp. And an exfoliating scalp mask to top it all off isn’t a bad idea, either.

Since the treatment is different, if you’ve been suffering from dandruff for what seems like too long, even if you’ve been treating it, go talk to a dermatologist about seborrheic dermatitis! It might be the answer you’re looking for.