Scalp Eczema: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Scalp Eczema?

Eczema, also known as dermatitis is presented by a group of conditions that makes the skin itchy and inflamed and give it a rash-like appearance. When it occurs on the scalp, it is termed scalp eczema. Scalp eczema is known to affect 5% of the general population.(1) It affects men more than women.

Eczema can appear anywhere on the body. The symptoms of eczema depend on the type. Sometimes it can be easily treated while in a few it may require long-term management and treatment.

Scalp eczema can be stubborn and stay for years. It might also come and go on its own. It is important to speak with a doctor for a diagnosis and proper treatment.

Types of Eczema

Eczema on the scalp can be of different types.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis occurs in the oily places of the skin, such as the face, scalp, and back. Just like psoriasis, it is a common condition of the scalp.

It requires continuous care and management as the symptoms can flare up.

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a type of seborrheic dermatitis that occurs in infants as their skin is oily and greasy.

The cradle cap clears up on its own within a year or so.

If the condition bothers the child, consult a doctor.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic type of eczema that can occur on the scalp and any other part of the body.

It can be a lifelong condition and is diagnosed in children and young adults.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin reacts to coming in contact with something around.

The active rash can be treated but you may need to be cautious of the trigger causing the reaction and avoid it.

Risk Factors and Triggers of Eczema

There are a few medical conditions that can make people more prone to scalp eczema, which include:

Other risk factors include:

  • Irritants
  • Greasy hair
  • Sweating
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Dry and cold weather

A study found most common irritants for contact eczema of the scalp were nickel, cobalt, fragrance, and balsam of Peru.(2)

Symptoms of Scalp Eczema

Scalp eczema leads to patches on the skin that become red, flaky, and itchy. It may also affect other oily areas of the body.

It also affects the ear canal and lead to the discharge of fluid from the ear.

Scalp eczema can lead to greasy and oily skin that is even blistered. There may also be a discharge of yellow fluid from the skin as it gets infected.

There may also be a change in the color of the affected area of the skin.

Treatment of Scalp Eczema

The most effective treatment for scalp eczema is shampoo that may contain zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, and coal tar.

A few medical treatments, although cannot treat, can give relief from the symptoms of eczema and prevent them from flaring up.

For mild eczema antifungal creams, ointments, and sprays can be effective. These products may contain coal tar or corticosteroids that may calm the irritation and reduce flaking.

For severe cases, mild corticosteroids may help calm the inflammation. But, corticosteroids cannot be used for long periods.

Sometimes, non-corticosteroid creams are prescribed to suppress the immune system. These are called calcineurin inhibitors. These can be used for extended periods.

Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Scalp Eczema

There are some natural remedies that have anecdotal evidence of relieving symptoms of scalp eczema. These include some topical remedies such as tea tree and olive oil. It may also include dietary supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin B, zinc, probiotics, Omega 3 and water.

To prevent scalp eczema it is important to reduce stress and avoid exposure to irritants. Keeping the skin clean and using shampoo can help.

Consult a doctor if the condition worsens or gets infected. The symptoms of infection include:

  • Excessive itchiness
  • Fluid drainage
  • Blistered skin
  • Skin swelling
  • Burning sensation
  • White and yellow pus
  • Painful, warm and tender skin
  • Skin blistering.

The doctor may help examine the skin and look at the medical history and symptoms in detail, look for the underlying cause and give proper treatment.