Scalp eczema is just one type of eczema, in this case, causing inflamed, dry, and itchy skin to form on your scalp.
There are many other scalp problems, but eczema is one that is a common issue.
Among the types of eczema that can develop on your scalp, seborrheic dermatitis is the most common type.
The most unwelcome symptom of eczema is dandruff, and when a baby’s scalp gets this flaky skin, it is known as cradle cap.
Table of Contents
Is it different than dandruff?
Being that the most common symptom of scalp eczema is dandruff, we must make sure you know the difference between the two 1.
An irritated scalp is a sign of eczema, and the condition has several forms.
For example, as mentioned previously, seborrheic dermatitis is the most common scalp eczema, but it can also affect the face and back.
In addition to dandruff and flaking skin, you may also experience symptoms like:
- Swelling on scalp
- Scaly patches
- Burning sensation on your scalp
- Itchiness of your scalp
The condition develops most commonly during puberty 2.
However, it can sometimes develop well into adulthood.
In infants, cradle cap usually goes away on its own by the time the baby reaches 1 year of age.
Contact dermatitis is different than eczema on scalp.
It can occur at any time of life, and appear anywhere on the body.
The condition happens when a foreign object or substance causes irritation or allergic reaction on your skin.
Contact dermatitis may also cause rash or hives.
Atopic dermatitis is a condition that usually affects young children.
The symptoms are similar to seborrheic dermatitis, but the affected areas can also ooze and weep.
Another difference is atopic dermatitis usually develops on other parts of the body, but in some cases, it can occur on the scalp as well.
What are the causes of eczema on scalp?
At the moment, physicians around the world do not have a clear reason what causes seborrheic dermatitis.
However, they suspect several causes, including:
- Hormonal changes
- Atypical response from the immune system to something that comes in contact with skin
- Atypical response from the immune system to something that is eaten
There are also certain risk groups that are more susceptible to the condition:
- Patients with preexisting condition affecting the immune system, an organ transplant, or Parkinson’s disease
- Patients with another skin condition like psoriasis or rosacea
- People suffering from depression
- People taking medications containing psoralen, lithium, or interferon
Sadly, eczema on the scalp is a condition that lasts a lifetime 3 .
And to make matters worse, symptoms may worsen when they are exposed to certain triggers like harsh chemicals, stress, illness, and hormone changes.
On the other hand, contact dermatitis develops after your skin comes into contact with a toxic material.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment depends on the type of eczema you have.
The most important thing about treatment is to find the trigger for your eczema.
Once you do that, even simple lifestyle changes can reduce the symptoms.
The best way to make lifestyle changes is to talk with your doctor first.
This way, you two can find the trigger for the flare-ups.
Keep a notebook with you, and list whenever you had a flare-up.
What activities or environment you were that particular day.
For example, keep a record of what you ate, what the weather was like, what hair products you used, whether you were under any stress, when was the last time you washed or style your hair.
Simply avoiding the triggers is the biggest and most beneficial lifestyle change.
Shampoo and other hair products
Being that dandruff is one of the most common symptoms of eczema appearing on scalp, anti-dandruf shampoos are great for treatment.
Here are some ingredients that you should look for.
Check the label of the shampoo for:
- Coal tar
- Zinc pyrithione
- Salicylic acid
- Selenium sulfide
Use your dandruff shampoo every other day, and always follow the directions of the label.
On days you skip dandruff shampoo, use your regular shampoo.
Important note: coal tar can darker lighter hair colors, and make your scalp more sensitive to the sun.
In most cases, people turn to medications and over the counter drugs as a last resort.
Use these medications only when the condition has flared.
You do not want to get addicted to medications, no matter if it is for eczema or any other problem.
If your condition does not respond great to steroid creams, a physician might recommend topical medications as well.
If your eczema becomes infected, a physician will also prescribe an antibiotic to treat the condition.
You can take antibiotics in both tropical and oral form.
How to prevent flare-ups?
The best way to manage eczema appearing on scalp is to prevent the triggers that make matters worse.
As mentioned previously, there are certain triggers that cause flare-ups, or immediate worsening of symptoms.
Here are some tips how to prevent these flare-ups and keep your condition under control:
- Avoid exposure to any suspected allergens
- Avoid exposure to suspected irritants
- Clean your scalp thoroughly
- Avoid drying out your scalp by using only a quarter-size dollop of a gentle shampoo
- Always use warm, but not hot water for washing your scalp
- Find a way to keep the stress level under control
- Shampoo your hair after sweating heavily, be it a workout, or just exposure to warm weather
In most cases, eczema on your scalp responds to treatment positively.
However, it can also return.
It is best that you consult with dermatologist to get a constant treatment and prevention plan.
Are there any natural remedies?
The good news is that if you like to stay away from over the counter medicine and treatments, you can always go for something natural.
And yes, natural remedies have a long history of helping people with eczema, no matter where it appears.
Topical treatments for eczema include:
- Aloe vera
- Tea Tree oil
- Olive oil
Make sure to dilute tea tree oil if you want to use topically on your skin.
The oil is rather potent, and can cause burning sensation if not diluted.
You can take things to the next level by diluting it in carrier oil like olive oil, and get 2 in 1 solution.
Additionally, you can reduce symptoms of eczema by consuming foods and taking dietary supplements that provide benefits.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin D (some people have reported sun exposure helps)
- Omega-3 fatty acids