What is Scalp Eczema?

Treating Scalp Eczema

What is Scalp Eczema?

Is scalp eczema common?

These three scalp eczema conditions are very common so we see this all the time in the dermatology office. Many times, patients don’t even realize that their scalp has a rash. They assume it is a problem with hair products or “dry scalp.”

What does scalp eczema look like?

dermatologist guide to treating scaly scalp eczema

When the eczema is caused by dandruff, you may have redness, scale and rough skin on your ears, behind your ears, in your eyebrows, and along your nose. Men will have it in the beard and mustache, too.

When the eczema is caused by atopic dermatitis (the classic inherited eczema), you may have itchy, red, rough, and scaly skin in the folds of your elbows and behind your knees. This type of eczema can involve your entire skin surface, too, depending on the severity of your eczema.

Allergic contact eczematous dermatitis of the scalp is an allergic reaction to hair care products so any portion of your skin that the offending product touches can be involved. Usually, this includes the back and sides of the neck and behind the ears.

How do you know if you have scalp eczema?

Scalp eczema is scaly. If your scalp itches, and you find matter in your fingernails when you scratch it, then you have eczema of the scalp.

How do you treat scalp eczema?

The treatment is based on the cause of the eczema:

Treatment for scalp eczema caused by dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis)

2% pyrithione zinc treats scalp eczema from dandruff

Use dandruff shampoos such as Foaming Zinc Cleanser. The full 2% concentration of pyrithione zinc fights Pityrosporum yeast that plays a role in causing dandruff. Most dandruff shampoos have lower concentrations of active ingredients. Foaming Zinc has the maximal allowed concentration to work fast. Add a scalp scrubberto loosen scale so it can be removed when you shampoo, and rinse your hair clean. Scrub the lather down to your scalp skin in the shower, allow lather to sit for 5 minutes then rinse well. Medicated shampoo will stay behind to treat scalp eczema.

really good scalp brush to lift scalp eczema flakes


Read more dermatologist information on dandruff, including facial and body dandruff. 

Treatment for scalp eczema caused by atopic dermatitis

eczema scalp treatment from dermatologist

Some dandruff shampoos help, such as Foaming Zinc Cleanser or Ketoconazole products, because scalps prone to atopic eczema demonstrate increased Pityrosporum yeast. These ingredients help control the yeast. Often, doctors also prescribe cortisone lotions to apply to eczema prone skin

Treatment for scalp eczema from allergic contact dermatitis to hair care products

Try Vanicream shampoo to treat scalp itch.

This is much more common than you might expect! The itch and flaking often is worse at the base of your scalp and even behind your ears and down your neck. Hair care products are filled with allergens. Hair treatments also involve strong products filled with allergens. It's just what is needed to get good performance when it comes to hair styling and care.

The treatment of allergic scalp eczema hinges on figuring out which product you are allergic to. The ingredients are usually the fragrance or preservatives in a product. VaniCream's Free and Clear Conditioner is my go-to solution to help scalp eczema due to hair care products. It is hypoallergenic and doesn't contain the most notorious allergens in hair products. You will see why those allergens are normally in shampoos and conditioners for performance! If you have allergic scalp eczema, you just have to get off the allergens to heal the eczema. 

Once your scalp eczema has healed, then you can test your old products one at a time, giving your skin a week or two to react. Once you find the product that caused the eczema, avoid it! Even natural ingredients such as botanical oils can cause allergic reactions.

I need to tell you that hair dye is also a notorious allergen. Yep, para-phenylenediamine (PPD) hair dye causes rashes, including where your hair touches your skin. Allergy to hair dye is complicated and best handled with a trip to the dermatologist.    

Doing a scalp oil treatment can soothe scalp eczema

Oil helps skin heal scalp eczema regardless of the cause. Use hypoallergenic oils like coconut oil, mineral oil or olive oil. My favorite is coconut oil because it has antimicrobial activity and makes your hair wonderfully moist and shiny.

Dermatologist's 4 steps for how to do a scalp oil treatment for eczema:

dermatologist's tips for coconut oil treatment for scalp eczema

  1. Warm the oil to skin temperature and apply the oil to your scalp for 30 minutes before washing your hair.
  2. Comb through your scalp gently to help lift scale into the oil (the scalp scrubber is ideal).
  3. Then shampoo as normal until all the oil residue has been removed.
  4. If you have dandruff, use your medicated shampoo as the last lather and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.

Repeat these treatments until your scalp is comfortable and scale-free.

As a benefit, the oil will condition your hair - especially if you use coconut oil.

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