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Scalp Eczema: What Is It and How Do You Deal With It?

Eczema can be hard to handle on the skin but on the scalp? Scalp eczema can be very difficult and frustrating to understand, control, and keep at bay but the following article provides some insight on root causes and treatments to use to reduce discomfort.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition where the skin becomes inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and very rough. This term is usually used to generally describe common skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, and nummular eczema. Although there are several types of eczema, the most common type is atopic dermatitis. Along with the previously listed effects, the skin of those who suffer from eczema may start to blister if not treated properly. Some things that can cause such reactions are the consumption of certain foods like tomatoes, nuts, and dairy. The specific effects of eating such foods vary depending on the age of the candidate. Although this may be the case, most reactions result in red and itchy bumps that are very hard to resist scratching. Along with the consumption of certain foods, various environmental aspects, such as smoke and pollen, can cause the irritation of eczema. Despite the redness and itchy qualities eczema has, it is not contagious.

Scalp Eczema

What is Scalp Eczema?

Scalp Eczema is a more specific type of eczema that affects the scalp. It causes your scalp to become itchy, dry, and inflamed which can be very uncomfortable for the person experiencing these symptoms. The most common type of scalp eczema is seborrheic dermatitis. It’s a most visible symptom is dandruff. In conjunction, those who suffer from this form of eczema may also have redness, scaly patches, swelling, itchiness, and burning in the affected areas of the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis normally begins to develop during puberty or during adulthood. If these symptoms are seen in infants, it is genuinely referred to as cradle cap. Luckily, most cases of cradle cap tend to dissipate by the time the infant is one year old. 

Eczema and Dandruff

Just like regular eczema, scalp eczema can be made worse by the naturally occurring oils and fungus formed on the skin. The two main natural irritants are sebum (yeast that lives on the skin) and Malassezia (skin fungus). High levels of sebum on the skin cause greasy scales to develop on the scalp because of it’s waxy and fatty makeup. On the other hand, dandruff is caused when Malassezia fungus irritates the sebaceous glands on the scalp which triggers the body’s immune system to respond unnecessarily which causes scaly rashes.

Scalp Eczema

What Causes Skin Eczema?

Although the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis isn’t known, it is known to be caused by genetics, hormonal changes, or abnormal responses from the immune system. Anyone has the likelihood of having or developing this form of eczema. However, one may be more susceptible to getting it if you;

  1. Have depression 
  2. Have another skin condition (acne, rosacea, psoriasis) 
  3. Take medications that have interferon, lithium, or psoralen 
  4. Have a preexisting condition that affects your immune system (organ transplant, HIV, or Parkinson’s Disease) 

Along with the aforementioned likely causes or contributors to causing or developing seborrheic eczema, it also has a tendency to occur at specific times. Triggers consist of stress, contact with harsh chemicals, illness, or hormone changes. Because seborrheic eczema can be caused or irritated by contact, it has triggers or irritants that cause unbearable inflammation in affected areas. A study was conducted to determine the most common irritants for scalp eczema and it was concluded that Balsam of Peru, cobalt, fragrances, and nickel was the most frequent to blame. It is advised to stay away from making contact with these items to decrease the likelihood of causing inflammation.

How Is Scalp Eczema Treated?

Despite the fact that scalp eczema cannot be cured, there are ways to manage life with it. The most effective and combative thing to use to fight against scalp eczema is shampoo. If one suffers from this form of eczema, it is highly recommended to use a shampoo with the following ingredients; 

  1. Zinc Pyrithione 
  2. Salicylic acid 
  3. Selenium sulfide 
  4. Ketoconazole 
  5. Coal tar 

If the seborrheic eczema is in the mild stages, antifungal creams, sprays, and or ointments are quite effective. These remedies generally have coal tar or corticosteroids in them which help decrease irritation and slowly decrease flaking over time. Sometimes, doctors may find it necessary to prescribe non-corticosteroid medicines in the form of topical drugs that suppress the immune system. The most common one is called calcineurin inhibitors. This can be used for extended periods of time until improvements are seen. In cases of scalp eczema become extremely severe, doctors prescribe oral antifungal medications to provide quicker relief.

Scalp Eczema -


Scalp eczema thought to be difficult and frustrating to understand and control just got that much easier to control. Like any other eczema, treatments take time to work before physical results are seen but the relief is felt right away. Scalp eczema may be a pain, but once you’ve found the right treatments to use as well as the things to stay away from, life with Seborrheic Dermatitis becomes that much easier. 

Do you want more helpful eczema tips and tricks? Get Your FREE Eczema Handbook NOW! CLICK HERE: To Stop Itching & Start Living TODAY!

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Jeslyn Savage

Jeslyn is a contributor and content developer for Our Eczema Story. She is not a medical professional. Her articles, comments, and suggestions are not intended to replace any medical advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials.