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What is Scalp Dermatitis?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Scalp dermatitis is an inflammation of the scalp which can lead to flaky skin, redness, ulceration, itching, and a variety of other symptoms. In addition to being physically unpleasant, dermatitis of the scalp can also be socially undesirable, as it tends to be very noticeable. A number of medical conditions can cause scalp dermatitis, and it is a fairly common condition, with many people experiencing a bout of dermatitis on their scalps at some point in life. This condition can be treated by a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in the management and treatment of skin conditions.

One common form of scalp dermatitis is seborrheic dermatitis, also known as seborrheic eczema, in which the skin becomes red and inflamed before scaly patches of white, yellow, or gray skin appear. This severity of this condition can vary from mild to extreme, and it can also include the eyebrows. Topical applications can be used to eliminate an outbreak of this type of scalp dermatitis, and careful scalp hygiene can prevent a recurrence.

Dandruff or pityriasis capitis is another form of scalp dermatitis, in which small flakes of skin are constantly shed from the scalp. Many people find dandruff very frustrating, because the flakes can accumulate on hair and clothing and look rather unsightly. Several conditions including seborrheic dermatitis can cause dandruff, and it can be managed with specialized shampoos and topical creams which can be adjusted, depending on the cause.

Psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder, can also cause scalp dermatitis, in the form of thick patches of scaly red skin. This condition can also lead to hair loss if it is not addressed, although the hair will grow back once the psoriasis outbreak is under control. People with psoriasis can use a variety of techniques to reduce the incidence of outbreaks and to cope with existing flareups. Outbreaks can occur anywhere on the body for psoriasis sufferers, and they can very in severity and duration.

Fungal infections like ringworm in the scalp may cause dermatitis, irritating the skin as the fungus grows and spread. Antifungal medications will need to be applied to kill off the fungi, and the scalp may require special care to help it recover. Other infections in the scalp may lead to dermatitis and the familiar symptoms of flaky skin, redness, itching, and hair loss. People can also develop contact dermatitis in their scalps by being exposed to allergens like hair dye, and individuals with alopecia areata often experience dermatitis.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By panda2006 — On Feb 25, 2011

Be careful of dandruff shampoos. Many of these dry out the scalp further, which can cause even worse dandruff down the road.

In fact, nearly all shampoos, even "all natural" varieties, include ingredients which dry out your scalp and hair follicle, such as harsh astringents. It is much better to clean your hair with baking soda, which removes buildup without removing too much moisture.

By mendocino — On Sep 06, 2009

Green tea can be helpful in controlling dandruff caused by fungi.

By pouring cool green tea and letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes on your hair; after that washing it of with shampoo, the dandruff can controlled in a natural way.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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