Eczema on the Scalp: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Eczema can appear on many parts of the body, and the scalp is no exception. Even though it may seem less visible than eczema on the face or hands, experiencing it on the scalp can be truly difficult to manage. If you’ve been suffering from scalp eczema, don’t give up hope - there are ways to minimise the itchiness and heal your scalp naturally. Let’s take a look at what scalp eczema is and what you can do to manage and reduce your symptoms.

Understanding Scalp Eczema

Scalp eczema, also called seborrhoeic dermatitis, shares many characteristics of eczema on other skin parts. This scalp condition results in a lot of inflammation, which can cause itchiness, flakes, and even scales and crusts around the scalp and hairline. Unfortunately, these symptoms can become worse when combined with triggers like weather changes, hormonal fluctuations and certain shampoos or conditioners. Also, some eczema on the scalp can be chronic, with periods of flare-ups and remission. 

Woman itching scalp with eczema

Causes of Scalp Eczema

Although there isn’t an exact cause of eczema, most researchers agree that a combination of factors can contribute to this condition. For example, overgrowth of certain funguses, such as Malassezia, environmental stressors and genetics can all play a part in developing scalp eczema. Further, if you have a family history of skin conditions, you may find that you’re more susceptible to things such as scalp eczema. As we mentioned earlier, your environment can play a crucial role in scalp eczema. As a result, some start to develop symptoms because of prolonged low humidity, harsh weather conditions and strong chemicals in their hair products. 

Still, other factors may also cause eczema patches on your scalp, such as a weak immune system, hormonal changes, and high levels of stress. Even certain medical conditions like Parkinson’s might increase the chances of developing scalp eczema. All these potential causes may seem overwhelming, but understanding them can help you make small lifestyle changes that could start to minimise your symptoms. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Scalp Eczema

As with many skin conditions, scalp eczema symptoms and severity vary from person to person. Still, a common effect that most individuals face is redness and itchiness, ranging from mild to extreme. Often, this persistent itchiness leads to increased scratching of the hairline, head and scalp, which can lead to a vicious cycle of flakiness. Even without scratching, flaky patches are another hallmark sign of scalp eczema. These flakes can be yellowish or whitish and may appear greasy or oily. And in more severe cases, the affected areas may become scaly or develop crusts. In some instances, hair loss or thinning can also occur due to inflammation and scratching.

A dermatologist will usually diagnose a person with scalp eczema through a series of examinations and tests. For instance, they may take a sample of the affected area to perform a microscopic examination or a fungal culture test just to rule out other scalp conditions with similar characteristics. In most cases, your dermatologist will ask about lifestyle elements, medical history, frequency of flare-ups and family history to determine any possible causes or triggers for your symptoms.

Since eczema on the scalp can sometimes be confused with other conditions, it’s important to get the right diagnosis before trying any treatments. That’s why seeing a dermatologist is an essential first step that can help you choose the right way to soothe your scalp going forward. 

How to Treat Eczema on the Scalp

Once you understand what condition is affecting your scalp, there are natural steps you can take to start calming your symptoms and preventing more flares. Here are some simple treatment suggestions that can help your scalp start to heal:

Aloe Vera: The gel from aloe vera leaves is a typical natural treatment for burns, inflammation and soreness. Applying this to the affected areas can cool and soothe the itchiness on your scalp, and its anti-inflammatory components can help reduce redness.

Gentle Cleansers: Mild and non-perfumed shampoos are a good option for sensitive and irritated scalps. Strong chemicals and fragrances are often a culprit for worsened scalp eczema symptoms. So, opt for natural cleansers that won’t aggravate your skin further. 

Regular Moisturising: Keeping your scalp well-moisturised is crucial in managing eczema. So, you can apply natural oils such as coconut, olive, or jojoba oil to your scalp to lock in moisture. All these can help reduce itchiness and flakiness while soothing the skin.

Tea Tree Oil: This essential oil is well-known for its antifungal and antibacterial capabilities, which can be especially helpful if your scalp eczema is caused by fungal overgrowth. In this case, you can dilute a small amount of tea tree oil with a carrier oil and apply it to your scalp when needed.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Using this vinegar as a scalp rinse after washing your hair can help target redness and flakiness. This is because apple cider vinegar helps balance your scalp’s pH, which may alleviate some of the itchings and lessen inflammation.

Aloe Vera gel on wooden spoon

Managing and Preventing Scalp Eczema Flare-Ups

These are some natural tips that can help you minimise flare-ups and benefit your overall scalp health:

Avoid Excessive Washing: With scalp eczema, it’s crucial to maintain good scalp hygiene to prevent any bacterial or fungal growth. However, washing your scalp and hair too much can take away your skin’s natural oils and lead to more dryness and flakiness. That’s why it’s important to find a balance and use gentle shampoos when washing. 

Nutrition: Some find it beneficial to keep a food journal and keep track of their intake to eliminate potential triggers. After discovering that certain foods worsen symptoms or flare-ups, cutting back on them may be a good idea. On the other hand, foods rich in nutrients and fatty acids can health the skin from the inside and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the scalp. 

Avoid Irritants: It’s best to stay away from shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products that contain high amounts of alcohol, perfumes and harsh chemical substances. All these things can worsen your symptoms and cause more redness, inflammation and itchiness.

Manage Stress: Stress can have a detrimental effect on the entire body and can contribute to flare-ups on your scalp. Practising relaxing activities such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation helps some to lower their stress and anxiety levels and improve their skin’s well-being. However, managing stress looks different for each individual, and many prefer to engage in a hobby, spend time in nature or engage in deep breathing exercises to help their body calm down.

Masks and Rinses: alongside apple cider vinegar, you can use many other natural remedies on your scalp before and after washing. For example, colloidal oatmeal hair masks and chamomile tea rinses may alleviate itchiness and help calm your symptoms.

Avoid Scratching: Even though it’s challenging, scratching the scalp can worsen eczema symptoms and even lead to infections. It’s best to keep nails trimmed short and consider wearing gloves at night to minimise scratching during sleep.

Although scalp eczema can be tough to deal with, these natural preventative tips and treatments have helped many control their symptoms and completely restore their scalp health. For more chemical-free haircare solutions, browse the collection on our website.

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