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What Is The Best Treatment For Eczema On The Scalp

What Are The Symptoms Of Atopic Dermatitis On The Scalpand What Does It Look Like

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Once again, all three conditionsatopic dermatitis, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitiscan all present similarly with itchy, dry patches of skin. Here are some of the symptoms most closely related to atopic dermatitis on the scalp, specifically.

  • Extreme itchiness: This is the hallmark of any form of atopic dermatitis, says Dr. Guttman-Yasky. “The patients with eczema on the scalp, they will itch it,” to the point of leaving wounds that bleed on their scalp, she adds. “If it doesn’t itch, it’s unlikely to be eczema.”
  • Skin flakes: Like seborrheic dermatitis, Dr. Guttman-Yasky says, atopic dermatitis on the scalp can cause skin flaking. This can be due to the dryness of the skin there or from people scratching at the itchy skin for relief.
  • Temporary hair loss: This can sometimes happen with scalp eczema, says Dr. Guttman-Yasky. “But usually when we treat them well, should come back because the follicles should still be there,” she adds.
  • Darker red patches: This is a common symptom of atopic dermatitis no matter where it occurs on the body, per the AAD. It might be trickier to spot on your own scalp if covered by lots of hair.

What Can I Expect If I Have Seborrheic Dermatitis

Cradle cap happens in most babies. Its generally a harmless condition that doesnt cause pain, itching or discomfort. It appears within the first weeks to months of life and is rarely seen after 12 months of age in most babies. It can be easily managed with simple at-home care.

In adolescents and adults, seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp or the face and body is a condition that comes and goes throughout life. Fortunately, it can be controlled with treatment. The condition improves quickly with regular treatment.

See your healthcare provider if your condition doesn’t respond to self-treatment, or if the affected area becomes painful, forms crusts, or drains fluid or pus.

What Causes Or Triggers Atopic Dermatitis On The Head


Like Atopic Dermatitis, Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition which is likely also to be genetic and linked to a compromised immune system. Rare in babies and children, Psoriasis most commonly effects adults and appears on the scalp. It is distinctive in appearance with inflamed skin overlaid by silvery scales. In severe cases it can cause hair loss. Find out more in Psoriasis.

Contact Dermatitis:

Contact Dermatitis is caused by skin reacting to something external that it is, or has been, in contact with. Contact Dermatitis on the scalp is caused by a reaction to the chemicals in some shampoos, hair dyes or other hair grooming products. It may be that you are allergic to those ingredients or that they just irritate your skin.

Though not a skin condition, another common cause of an itchy scalp in children between the ages of three and twelve is head lice. Extremely contagious, lice are easy to treat and, once diagnosed , your pharmacist will be able to recommend an appropriate treatment.

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Antihistamines And Pain Relievers

Atopic dermatitis , the most common form of eczema is part of whats known as the atopic triad . In fact, people with AD have a greater chance of developing comorbidities or related health conditions, namely asthma, hay fever and food allergies.

To help combat itch and curb inflammation if you have allergies, a healthcare provider may suggest antihistamines. Some antihistamines also contain sedatives that can help people sleep.

Examples of OTC oral antihistamines include:

  • Diphenhydramine
  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Cetirizine
  • Loratadine
  • Fexofenadine
  • Doxylamine

To address common eczema symptoms such as burning, pain and inflammation, a healthcare provider may also suggest OTC pain relievers such as:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen

or naproxen

Moderate To Severe Psoriasis Treatments

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Your doctor may prescribe steroids, lotions, solutions, sprays, or foams to treat moderate to severe scalp psoriasis. Some topical treatments are applied directly to the skin, then shampooed and rinsed out, including:

  • Anthralin . Apply this cream once a day for 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Calcipotriene . This is a prescription form of vitamin D. Apply it at night and cover your scalp with a shower cap. Leave it on overnight. Don’t get it in your eyes.
  • Calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate . This is a combination of a type of vitamin D and a strong steroid in a suspension or ointment. You use it once a day. Don’t get it in your eyes.
  • Tazarotene . This vitamin A treatment comes in a cream, foam, or gel form. If using it at night, put it on clean, dry skin, and let the medication dry before you go to sleep. Applying a moisturizer after the medication may help prevent drying.

Follow your doctor’s directions for all medications. Don’t use stronger steroids for more than a 2-week cycle without your doctor giving you the OK.

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How To Help Prevent Scalp Eczema Flare

The severity of seborrheic dermatitis may be lessened by controlling risk factors and triggers, and taking care of the skin.

To manage scalp eczema and help prevent flare-ups, do your best to follow these recommendations:

  • Avoid exposure to any suspected irritants and allergens.
  • Clean your scalp thoroughly, but avoid drying it out by using only a quarter-sized dollop of a gentle shampoo and warm, never hot, water.
  • Manage stress well.
  • Shampoo your hair after sweating heavily, such as after a workout, since perspiration can be a trigger.

Scalp eczema often responds to treatment, but it also often returns. For some people, exposure to the sun may improve symptoms.

Be on the lookout for signs of a flare-up and start treatment right away.

Can I Dye My Hair If I Have Scalp Eczema

Many hair dyes contain ingredients that may irritate the scalp or cause an allergic reaction. If you want to dye your hair, choose a product that is free of phenylenediamines, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide. If you already have a flare-up, wait for a few days for it to subside.

Remember to do a patch test before you begin the hair-dyeing process. Deep conditioning your scalp with a hydrating conditioner at least two days before dyeing your hair ensures that the scalp does not become dry and flaky.


Hair does not react to dye, but sensitive scalps do. Consult with your doctor if you want to dye your hair.

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When To See A Doctor Or Healthcare Provider

Scalp eczema may be chronic, but patients can successfully manage symptoms with the proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

If your condition is disrupting your life or causing you to be uncomfortable, embarrassed, or anxious, call your primary care provider or a provider specializing in skin conditions and make an appointment to be evaluated.

If your scalp begins to display red streaks, ooze pus, or crust over, that may be a sign of an infection that requires immediate medical intervention to address.

Also, if you have itchy skin and begin to develop a fever, tightness in your chest, cough, wheeze, begin to lose your voice, or have swelling or tingling in your face, tongue, lips, or throat, you are experiencing a medical emergency.

What Treatment Options Are Available

Scalp Eczema Treatment

Treatments for scalp eczema will vary based on the type you have. You may be able to treat it at home with different hygiene practices and by changing hair products, or you may need to see a doctor to clear up and manage your symptoms.

Keep in mind that seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis can be lifelong conditions. Contact dermatitis should go away once you remove the element causing your symptoms.

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Etiology Of Adult Seborrheic Dermatitis

Although the etiology of adult SD is not definitely known, there are three principal factors that appear to play a role: sebaceous gland secretion, alteration in colonization and metabolism of cutaneous microflora , and individual susceptibility and host response.

The role of Malassezia spp in the pathogenesis of adult SD remains controversial. However, the correlation between use of ketoconazole shampoo, reduction in Malassezia spp, and clinical improvement of scalp AD has caused researchers to suspect that these commensal yeasts play an important role. Although proliferation of Malassezia spp has been associated with exacerbation of SD, some reports have refuted this association.,, As Malassezia spp are not only present on the skin surface, but also within layers of the stratum corneum, variations in technique in obtaining specimen and quantifying the organism likely explain the differences in findings among available studies. The Malassezia spp that have been most commonly associated with SD are M. globosa and M. restricta, both of which are commensal yeasts that require an exogenous source of lipids.,

Light Therapy For Scalp Eczema

About 70% of people get treated for eczema with light therapy or phototherapy. The most common type of light therapy used for scalp eczema treatment is a narrowband ultraviolet B light, which is present in natural sunlight in small amounts.

Broadband UVB phototherapy, PUVA, and UVA1 are other forms of light therapy used to treat some cases of scalp eczema.

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Risk Factors And Triggers: What Are The Causes Of Eczema On The Scalp

Although the exact causes of eczema arent fully known, there are a number of risk factors and triggers that can increase your risk of developing scalp eczema or exacerbate the condition.

Here are the risk factors of scalp eczema:

  • Genetics
  • Neurological or psychiatric conditions
  • Immune system conditions or weaknesses
  • Stressful medical conditions
  • Other existing skin conditions

Here are the triggers of scalp eczema:

  • Illness
  • Harsh chemicals in products like soap, shampoo and conditioner
  • Irritants in these products such as nickel or cobalt
  • Exposure to something youre allergic to
  • Medications such as psoralen , interferon, and lithium
  • Extreme sweating

Scalp eczema may also be caused by an overproduction of sebum , which can encourage a natural skin fungus called Malassezia to multiply. This fungal overgrowth can cause the scalp to become irritated, which can lead to scalp eczema.

Clinical Presentation Of Adult Seborrheic Dermatitis

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Adult SD presents most often on the face and/or scalp as ill-defined erythematous patches associated with fine scaling, involving one are more sites of predilection. These commonly affected sites include scalp, anterior hairline , eyebrows, glabella region of the forehead, nasal alar creases, melolabial folds , ears , central chest , and genital region. Pruritus is not a mandatory feature of adult SD, but is often present, especially with scalp involvement. It has long been debated whether or not dandruff , which is defined as fine scalp scaling without the visible presence of inflammation, is part of the spectrum of adult SD, with more recent evidence suggesting that in most cases dandruff is a mild form of SD., The scalp scaling associated with SD and dandruff is often bothersome as flakes, which are shed from the scalp and are often visibly apparent on darker clothing . In some cases, SD may produce thicker more confluent areas of involvement, sometimes with oval, discoid plaques .

Discoid, waxy, fine, scaly plaques of medallion seborrheic dermatitis on the face of a 50-year-old Filipino woman

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Best For Sensitive Scalps: Exederm Eczema And Dermatitis Shampoo

Yes, its fair to say that anyone dealing with scalp eczema has sensitive skin, but if any little thing seems to trigger a flair, this pick is for you. Another crazy gentle formula, Shaurya calls this, one of the most hypoallergenic shampoos on the market, with minimal ingredients that will cause irritation. It too boasts the National Eczema Associations seal of approval and is good not only for eczema but any kind of scalp dermatitis.

What Is Scalp Eczema

When defining scalp eczema, Dr. Awan explained, Eczema is not actually one single condition. Its an umbrella term that may be used to refer to different types of eczema and dermatitis, chronic skin conditions that cause inflammation, irritation, dryness, and itching. While different types of eczema may impact the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis is the most common type of scalp eczema. This type of eczema most often occurs on parts of the body with oil-producing glands.

Some of the types of eczema that may impact the scalp include:

While the cause of scalp eczema is unknown, certain factors increase the risk for developing this form of eczema, including:

  • Having excessively oily or dry skin
  • Dealing with poorly managed stress
  • Regular contact with irritants, allergens, or chemicals
  • Living in cold, dry environments
  • Being male

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Eczema Risk Factors Causes & Symptoms

As a matter of fact, there is a wide range of causes and risk factors associated with eczema. And, eczema symptoms can manifest widely differently between those affected. While a singular cause of eczema has not been established, there are certain common causes leading to the onset and flares. In addition, a wide range of risk factors has been identified.

Risk Factors for Eczema

  • Temperature changes

Symptoms of Eczema

While many will experience a lessening of symptoms and fewer flares as they age, some will continue to experience eczema symptomsthroughout adulthood, such as atopic eczema rashes. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and change from one outbreak to another. Common symptoms include:

  • The appearance of small, raised bumps which may ooze liquid and develop a crust
  • Thick, dry, scaly skin that cracks
  • Red, brown or grayish patches of skin on hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, in skin folds, and on the face and scalp of infants
  • Sensitive skin that is swollen and raw from scratching
  • A recurring rash that causes intense itching, often disrupting sleep patterns
  • Rashes due to atopic eczema

How Is Seborrhoeic Dermatitis Diagnosed

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Seborrhoeic dermatitis is diagnosed by its clinical appearance and behaviour. As malassezia are a normal component of skin flora, their presence on microscopy of skin scrapings is not diagnostic.

Skin biopsy may be helpful but is rarely indicated. Histological findings specific to seborrhoeic dermatitis are superficial perivascular and perifollicular inflammatory infiltrates, psoriasiformhyperplasia, and parakeratosis around follicular openings.

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How To Use Topical Corticosteroids

Do not be afraid to apply the treatment to affected areas to control your eczema.

Unless instructed otherwise by a doctor, follow the directions on the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.

This will give details of how much to apply.

Most people only have to apply it once a day as there’s no evidence there’s any benefit to applying it more often.

When using a topical corticosteroid:

  • apply your emollient first and ideally wait around 30 minutes until the emollient has soaked into your skin, or apply the corticosteroid at a different time of day
  • apply the recommended amount of the topical corticosteroid to the affected area
  • continue to use it until 48 hours after the flare-up has cleared so the inflammation under the skin surface is treated

Occasionally, your doctor may suggest using a topical corticosteroid less frequently, but over a longer period of time. This is designed to help prevent flare-ups.

This is sometimes called weekend treatment, where a person who has already gained control of their eczema uses the topical corticosteroid every weekend on the trouble sites to prevent them becoming active again.

Best For Thin Hair: Nioxin Scalp & Hair Leave

Often recommended by both dermatologists and hair stylists, Nioxin products are formulated to keep hair from shedding by treating the scalp. Dr. Tareem says while using hair-growth treatments, its important to rub the product in deep. To make sure of this, she recommends giving yourself a deep scalp massage with the product.

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How Can I Treat Eczema On My Scalp

Eczema is a common skin health concern that can affect just about any part of the body, but when an eczema flare-up happens on the scalp, it may be especially uncomfortable and potentially difficult to treat. According to Dr. Sam Awan of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Plano and McKinney, Texas, Eczema on the scalp can be very painful, itchy, and uncomfortable. The good news is, with proper daily care and quick treatment during flare-ups, most people can manage and minimize the adverse effects of scalp eczema. In this blog, Dr. Awan will review the basics of scalp eczema and the potential treatment options.

Is It Time For A Prescription Eczema Shampoo To Help Your Itchy Scalp

Best Conditioner For Eczema Of The Scalp

Your doctor or dermatologist will usually suggest that you try over-the-counter remedies for your eczema first. These tend to be cheaper and are often available at the drugstore.

If you find that over-the-counter products arent working well for you, a prescription treatment may be appropriate.

Prescription remedies for persistent and stubborn seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp can take several forms. Medicated shampoos for seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp may have higher concentrations of the same active ingredients in the best over-the-counter shampoos for scalp eczema. They may also contain other active ingredients, like ciclopirox. Some prescription remedies may also take the form of gels or creams that you apply between shampoos or even medication that you take as a pill.

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Eczema Coping Tips Reducing Skin Irritation

People with eczema have sensitive skin. Irritants such as heat or detergents can easily trigger a bout of eczema.Suggestions for reducing skin irritation include:

  • Avoid overheating your skin. Wear several layers of clothing that you can remove, as required, instead of one heavy layer. Dont put too many blankets on your bed and avoid doonas.
  • Dont use perfumed bubble bath or bath products labelled medicated.
  • Wear soft, smooth materials next to your skin, preferably 100% cotton. Avoid scratchy materials, such as pure wool, polyester or acrylic. You could try a cotton and synthetic mix material this is fine for some people with eczema. Remove labels from clothing.
  • Always wear protective gloves when using any type of chemical or detergent. You may want to wear cotton gloves inside rubber or PVC gloves.
  • Avoid chlorinated pools. If you have to swim in a chlorinated pool, moisturise your skin well when you get out.


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