November 23, 2023 4 min read
Even if you do not have symptoms of eczema anywhere else on your body, you can get it on your scalp. Scalp eczema, also known as seborrhoeic eczema, is a type of eczema where dry, red, scaly patches develop on your head. You might also get patches on parts of your face, including the nose, eyebrows and ears. This can result in dandruff, as well as patches of itchy dry skin, inflammation and discolouration.
In adults, scalp eczema tends to start during late adolescence. It most often affects adults between the ages of 30 and 60, but even babies can get scalp eczema. Cradle cap, as it is commonly known, tends to affect babies under the age of 3 months and usually clears up between the ages of 6 months and 1 year.
As with other types of eczema, we have some insight into the causes of scalp eczema, but we do not really have the full picture. Genes, environmental factors, hormones, illness and stress are all known triggers. Medical conditions can also make people more prone to an attack, including allergies, diseases that affect the immune system, and skin conditions such as proriasis, rosacea and acne. Other risk factors are lack of sleep, sweating, cold weather, dry skin, greasy hair and irritants.
Dandruff is just one type of scalp eczema. It occurs when too much sebum is expelled by the sebaceous glands, causing the overgrowth of an otherwise normal skin fungus called Malassezia. Dandruff occurs when this fungus irritates the sebaceous glands and triggers the body’s immune response to cause a scaly rash. It can cause social or self-esteem issues and is often stubborn and hard to resolve.
Flare-ups can occur when your skin is injured or through stress triggers
Psoriasis can also cause red patches on your scalp which can be raised, silvery and scaly. The skin is thicker and more inflamed than with eczema and it may sting or burn. Psoriasis can show up in a lot of the same places as eczema and shares some of the same triggers, like stress and infection. But you can also get flare-ups when your skin is injured, for example by vaccination, sunburn and scratches, and it can also be a side effect of some medications.
It is important, as with all skin conditions, to consult your GP or dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. You may need support in the form of corticosteroid or non-corticosteroid medications, or an oral anti-fungal medication. Scalp eczema can be a stubborn condition that lasts for years, or it can come and go. As is the case for all types of eczema, there is no cure - but you can look out for triggers and learn to keep symptoms at bay.
Your scalp is especially vulnerable to ingredients in your shampoo, conditioner and hair styling products. You may find that particular products worsen your condition. That is because many contain harsh ingredients that irritate and inflame your scalp. Shampoos are typically formulated with up to 30 ingredients including ‘surfactants’ for cleansing and lathering, ‘conditioners’, ‘active ingredients’ to soften the hair and scalp, ‘additives’ to stabilise the formula – and fragrance!
If you scratch your head, brush your hair aggressively, wash your hair too frequently, or heat-style your hair often, these could also aggravate dry skin on your scalp or trigger eczema symptoms. Avoid over-washing your hair if you have what looks like an especially bad case of dandruff as this can actually make things worse by stripping the hair and scalp of natural moisturising oils and contributing to dryness and irritation.
Avoid taking long, hot showers and let your hair dry naturally
Cleanse the scalp with a gentle shampoo, particularly after heavy work or exercise, as sweat can be a trigger in some cases. Avoid taking long, hot showers - bathe in lukewarm water and limit your sessions to 10-15 minutes. Do not scrub at your scalp or rake it with your nails, which will damage the delicate skin barrier and just make matters worse. Rinse your scalp in tepid water and make sure it is completely clean. Let hair dry naturally, if you can, or blow-dry on a cool setting to minimise irritation. Comb or brush gently, to avoid scratching.
Elave Sensitive’s ‘free-from’ formulations contain no sulfates, phthalates, lanolin, parabens, MIs, formaldehyde, alcohol, dyes or scents, to offer the purest, gentlest products for dry, sensitive and irritated skin. Our shampoo and conditioner aregentle enough to use daily until your symptoms begin to subside, then one to three times a week as required. Used in combination with our body washes, balms and intensive body creams, they offer excellent protection against dehydration, irritation and flaking.
Elave Sensitive Shampoo is an extremely gentle sulfate-free shampoo suitable for all hair types including dry, damaged, coloured and heat processed hair. The formula combines soothing camomile, conditioning polymers and natural glycerin to cleanse and repair hair. It protects the scalp against dryness and flaking and provides immediate and lasting scalp comfort. Elave Sensitive Hair Conditioneris a rich hydrating formula which restores shine and softness, to leave hair strong, manageable and silky smooth.
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