Other scalp issues
As stated above, there are many other scalp issues with symptoms that mimic dandruff’s excessive dead skin cell shedding. So, you want to look to other things like color and odor, to determine whether what you have is dandruff or something more serious.
Dandruff flakes tend to be yellowish or gray and itchy. Dandruff does not typically have an odor. It’s is simply the skin cells which have lifted from your scalp. If you are experiencing scalp odor, that may be caused by a buildup of oils*, fungal growth or bacteria on your scalp.
Just remember that dandruff is a straight forward issue. It’s excessive flakes. That’s all. Those flakes can buildup and lead to other issues, but those other issues are not dandruff.
Identifying the issue
Diet, hair products, lack of hydration and medication could all contribute to an overgrowth of cells and flakes on your scalp, which is not dandruff. If you aren’t sure where to start, in terms of identifying if your scalp issue is dandruff, start at the end then move backwards. In other words, don’t try to eliminate any one particular thing from your lifestyle to ID the problem. Instead, look at things in reverse.
If you detect an odor on your scalp, that’s a sign of something more significant. Bacteria and fungal growth can both be accompanied by a foul odor.
The buildup of flakes on your scalp may cause your glands to become clogged. The glands are designed to excrete oils*. Any foreign materials in those glands can cause buildup and throw off the natural cycle of oil production on your scalp. Mix that with the warm and moist environment of a scalp and you have the perfect breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.
Signs of more serious issues
Look for odor and odd colored flakes. Also, if your scalp has buildup within 24 to 48 hours after a good wash, you may be looking at something more serious than simply dandruff.
Bleeding and scabbing are also very clear indicators that you need to seek out the advice of a licensed dermatologist who can put together a treatment plan with you.
Dandruff is simply dead skin cells flaking off your scalp. Anything more than that, and you may be dealing with some more serious.