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  5. Scalp Eczema - Signs, Causes, Prevention And Treatments

When you think of eczema, the first thing that comes to mind is the skin condition. But, did you know that eczema can also affect the scalp?

The most common symptoms of scalp eczema are dryness, itchiness, chronic irritation, swelling, burning, and redness. However, itchiness and dryness in the scalp may also occur due to other reasons such as a fungal infection, lice, or psoriasis.

Read on to find out more about scalp eczema and the best ways to treat and manage it.

What Is Scalp Eczema?

Scalp eczema is a condition that causes itchy, inflamed, and dry skin to form on your scalp. One of the most common forms of scalp eczema is seborrheic dermatitis, and usually, its most prevalent symptom is dandruff. Since it typically develops on oily areas of your skin, it may also affect your face and back.


Remember, scalp eczema is not contagious.

Scalp Eczema Symptoms

Eczema symptoms

The common symptoms of scalp eczema include:

  • Dryness
  • Itchiness
  • Flaky scalp
  • Burning
  • Scaly patches
  • Dandruff
  • Redness and inflammation

What Causes Scalp Eczema?

The exact cause of scalp eczema is unknown, but different factors are often associated with triggering scalp eczema. These include hormonal changes, genetics, stress, and chronic illnesses.

How Can I Get Rid Of Eczema On My Scalp?

Your doctor may propose different treatments for you, depending on your condition. This may include a combination of medicated shampoos, moisturizers, medicines, and light therapies.

1. Medicated Shampoos, Lotions, and Creams

Just like your skin requires regular moisturizing, your scalp needs it too. You can use medicated products such as shampoo, lotion, or cream to massage your scalp regularly.

Since it can be tricky to work the moisture through your hair so it reaches the scalp, it is essential to part your hair into sections before application. With this step, the medicine is absorbed effectively into the affected areas.

Medicated emollients lotions [1] and spray-on oil can also be used to keep the scalp moisturized and hydrated.

If your scalp is too scaly, you can use a combination of salicylic acid and tar preparation [2]. Apply the formula and leave it on overnight, or at least for four hours and shampoo your hair in the morning.

Don’t forget to cover your hair with a shower cap or a cotton turban if you leave the medicine on overnight as the process may get messy.

2. Light Therapy For Scalp Eczema

Light therapy for scalp eczema

About 70% [3] of people get treated for eczema with light therapy or phototherapy. The most common type of light therapy used for scalp eczema treatment is a narrowband ultraviolet B light, which is present in natural sunlight in small amounts.

Broadband UVB phototherapy, PUVA, and UVA1 are other forms of light therapy used to treat some cases of scalp eczema.

Phototherapy helps reduce the itch, controls inflammation, and boosts vitamin D production in the body.

3. OTC Medicines

OTC Medicines

Over-the-counter medicines that contain zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, and selenium sulfide are used to treat scalp eczema.

Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medicines such as desonide, clobetasol, fluocinolone, and hydrocortisone to reduce inflammation. [4]

Word Of Caution:

While these medications work, you should refrain from using them for more than a week to avoid side effects. Skin thinning is a common side-effect.

4. Home Remedies

Some people have benefitted from topical application of essential oils like tea tree oil, olive oil, and aloe vera gel, along with dietary supplements like vitamins A, D, and B, Zinc, omega-3, probiotics, and water. [5]

5. Eczema Diet

Foods To Eat:

You can control your eczema symptoms by eating certain foods such as fatty fish with fish oil, a rich source of omega-3. Since omega-3 is anti-inflammatory, it helps provide relief from the pain.

fatty fish oil and supplements

Foods like apples, berries, broccoli, and spinach are rich sources of quercetin, a plant-based flavonoid. Quercetin has antioxidant and antihistamine properties, which help reduce inflammation and offer considerable relief from eczema.

Foods To Avoid:

While no particular food causes eczema, certain foods may flare up or trigger eczema. In many people, eczema has some connection with food allergies. However, this varies from patient to patient.

Remember, it is important to consult your physician to identify foods to avoid. Common food allergies usually associated with eczema include:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Gluten
  • Eggs
  • Soy products
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Nuts

Preventive Tips & Risks

If you are prone to scalp eczema, here are some preventive measures for you:

1. Reduce your stress levels.

2. Reduce your exposure to irritants.

3. Avoid washing your hair with hot water as this can dry out your scalp further.

4. Keep your scalp clean by using a mild shampoo to wash off dirt and sweat especially after workouts.

People Who Are At Risk:

People who have pre-existing skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, acne, or diseases that weaken the immune or nervous systems such as Parkinson’s disease and HIV are at risk of developing scalp eczema.

Allergic conditions like hay fever and asthma can also trigger scalp eczema.

How Do I Know If I Have Scalp Eczema?

Don't confuse scalp eczema with dandruff. Scalp eczema is characterized by flaky and greasy or a waxy scalp. Additionally, it may also have weeping lesions and some oozing. However, your doctor would be the right person to diagnose scalp eczema.

Can I Dye My Hair If I Have Scalp Eczema?

Many hair dyes contain ingredients that may irritate the scalp or cause an allergic reaction. If you want to dye your hair, choose a product that is free of phenylenediamines, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide. If you already have a flare-up, wait for a few days for it to subside.

Remember to do a patch test before you begin the hair-dyeing process. Deep conditioning your scalp with a hydrating conditioner at least two days before dyeing your hair ensures that the scalp does not become dry and flaky.


Hair does not react to dye, but sensitive scalps do. Consult with your doctor if you want to dye your hair.

How Long Does Scalp Eczema Last?

In babies, scalp eczema usually clears up between six months and a year. However, in adults, it may last for years, as it comes and goes intermittently. Treatment can help control your symptoms significantly. In some people, it may clear up without any treatment.

Does Scalp Eczema Cause Hair Loss?

Although scalp eczema or seborrheic dermatitis is not a direct cause of hair loss, itching and scratching can injure the scalp while damaging hair follicles. This, in turn, leads to brittle hair, resulting in some amount of hair fall and hair loss.

Wrapping Up

Scalp eczema is chronic and may last for years, but it is possible to manage your symptoms effectively. While home remedies are a boon for some, it is strongly advisable to consult your doctor to identify the nature of your scalp eczema and follow a suitable course of action.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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