Scalp Dermatitis, Symptoms and Treatments

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

When dermatitis develops on the scalp, hair loss can often follow. While hair tends to regrow once the scalp clears, there are things you can do right now to prevent further hair loss.

Scalp dermatitis, commonly referred to as seborrheic dermatitis, is a form of chronic eczema. Medical research has not been that helpful in placing a steady pointer on what might be the cause, but it is believed that genes and hormones have a role to play in this recurring form of eczema.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a form of eczema commonly associated with parts of the body where there are lots of sebaceous (oil-producing) glands, such as the nose, upper back, scalp, etc. In this article, our focus will be beamed on its occurrence on the scalp.

Infants: Seborrhea affects babies that are below 3 months, at which point it is referred to as cradle cap. Most times, it lasts up to 6 to 12 months, only disappearing to come back as dandruff during puberty.

Adults: It is not uncommon for adults between 30 – 60 years. Though mostly referenced to adults within this age bracket, it can be experienced by other adults on rare occasions. Also, men have a slightly higher chance of having this condition than women.

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Symptoms of Scalp Dermatitis

It appears as rashes on the scalp; rashes that anyone could easily guess to be a source of significant discomfort to babies. Surprisingly, the rash is hardly itchy to infants, and babies barely seem to bother about it. Seborrhea appears on infants as some form of scales, flakes or yellowish greasy patches/crust on a baby’s scalp.

There are a few symptoms that indicate the imminent occurrence of scalp dermatitis, or an already established presence in adults. They include –

  • Itchy scalp
  • Dandruff (skin flakes) appearing on your scalp
  • Formation of greasy patches on the scalp spotted with whitish or yellowish scales/crusts/flakes.
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Common Triggers

While the condition recurs naturally, a few factors can catalyze its appearance. Some of such triggers include –

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Extremely cold or dry weather
  • Medical conditions such as psoriasis, epilepsy, acne, AIDS, rosacea, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep deprivation


No treatment promises to eliminate scalp dermatitis, permanently. So, to the question, “Can seborrheic dermatitis be cured?” The answer is “No.” Fortunately, it is a condition that clears up by itself after a while, sometimes after appearing steadily for years. Although it does clear up naturally, it doesn’t mean you should wait for it to run its course. Medications prescribed by your doctor or over the counter can help with reducing the itches, inflammations, swelling, and as well as loosen the scales. Common at-home treatments include the use of –

  • Topical antifungal cream with ketoconazole
  • A medicated shampoo which contains any of the following active ingredients; coal tar, ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide. Shampoos should not be overly used, and the quantity used should decrease as the flakes start to clear up. Or application stopped totally
  • Natural remedies like olive oil, aloe vera, or tea tree oil as topical applications.

Also, you can improve treatment by adopting some lifestyle changes and self-care habits such as avoiding the use of –

  • Sprays and other styling products during treatment
  • Hair care products containing alcohol as they flare up irritations
  • Caps/hats made from fabrics that don’t have a smooth texture. This will aid in air circulation, thus reducing irritation. Wear silk instead; it is hypoallergic.
  • Harsh soaps – opt for moisturizers. Also, ensure that you rinse your scalp thoroughly to remove soap remnants.

Scalp dermatitis or scalp eczema can make individuals feel very uncomfortable, but being aware of its triggers, you shouldn’t make it a cause of anxiety. If as an adult, none of the suggested home remedies provides you with relief from the symptoms, you should visit a doctor for diagnosis and prescription-strength treatment.

Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.