What Exactly is a Scalp Condition
While dandruff is responsible for most itchy, flaky scalps, two less common
scalp conditions also cause persistent flaking and scalp irritation: scalp
psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.
Scalp psoriasis is a very common problem that occurs when skin cells grow too
quickly on the scalp, and causes red lesions covered with scale. It can extend
beyond the hairline onto the forehead, the back of the neck, and around the ears.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a disease that causes flaking of the skin, and usually
causes the skin to look a little greasy, scaly, or flaky.
While there is no magic "cure" for these conditions, most symptoms can be controlled and treated with over-the-counter medicated shampoos:
Shampoos with salicylic acid help break down scalp buildup and split flakes
into smaller, less visible pieces that can be washed away easily.
Shampoos with coal tar help slow the overproduction of skin cells on the scalp
and reduce potential inflammation.
Shampoos containing pyrithione zinc, ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide
remove yeast, a potential scalp irritant, from the scalp.
Try these simple tips to help control the itch:
If you consistently have an irritated scalp, you may be allergic to an ingredient in one of your
styling products. Try eliminating frequently used products one at a time to identify the culprit.
Menthol may help soothe scalp irritation. Look for this ingredient in anti-itch shampoos
Shampoo with lukewarm instead of hot water. Hot water may strip the scalp of the natural oils it
needs to keep it from drying out.
Resist the urge to scratch. Although scratching relieves the itch, scraping the sensitive skin on
the scalp may lead to infection. Aggressive scratching may also worsen existing seborrheic
dermatitis or psoriasis lesions.
If your current medicated shampoo isn't improving your symptoms, try switching to one with a different
active ingredient. Always follow the instructions provided with medicated shampoos and conditioners.
Once symptoms clear, weekly use will help prevent further flare-ups.
Occasionally, severe scalp conditions may require treatment with a
prescription-strength shampoo, cream, or ointment. Your dermatologist can
provide you with specific advice on treating serious scalp problems.