Your scalp often plays second fiddle to your hair. Until it starts begging for attention, that is. With several common conditions, your scalp may itch and get irritated.
You can’t catch dandruff from someone else, and it isn't dangerous, but it can be itchy and a bother. Luckily, there’s no redness or scabbing of the scalp.
There’s no cure, but it’s fairly easy to control by washing your hair more often with a medicated shampoo. Leave it in for 5 minutes before rinsing to give it a chance to work. Pick one with one or more of these ingredients:
- Coal tar (Neutrogena T/ Gel, Tegrin)
- Zinc pyrithione (Suave Dandruff Control, Pert Plus Dandruff Control, Head & Shoulders)
- Salicylic acid (T-Sal, Sebulex)
- Selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue)
- Ketoconazole (Nizoral A-D) available as a 1% over-the-counter shampoo or a 2% prescription-strength one
You may need to try two or three products to clear up your dandruff. If it doesn't go away after a few weeks of using a special shampoo, see a doctor. You may need a prescription-strength shampoo.
Dandruff is a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis. In more severe cases, you’ll see a reddening of the scalp and a lot of oil. The result is a greasy look and feel. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s common in those with oily skin or hair, acne, or psoriasis.
This form of seborrheic dermatitis affects infants, typically in the first 6 months. It causes greasy, yellowish scales or crusts on the scalp. Although it may frighten parents, cradle cap is not a sign of a more serious infection, and it will usually clear up by the baby's first birthday.
For treatment, try rubbing your baby's scalp softly with baby or mineral oil to loosen the scales. After a few minutes, wash your baby's hair with a gentle baby shampoo. Then brush the scalp very gently with a soft brush to loosen the flakes. If a regular shampoo isn't working, ask your pediatrician about a medicated one.
Lice are an unpleasant but all-too-common part of childhood. More than 12 million Americans get them every year, and most are between the ages of 3 and 11. Once lice find their way into a school or summer camp, they spread quickly as children share combs, brushes, and hats.
Lice are wingless insects about the size of a
To treat, parents can use an over-the-counter product with permethrin (Nix), pyrethrin (Rid), or spinosad (Natroba). Lice kits usually contain a special shampoo that is left on the hair for 10 minutes and then washed out, and a fine-toothed comb to remove any remaining eggs.
Another treatment is a lotion called
Clearing up lice also requires that you thoroughly clean house. Vacuum the rugs and furniture, and then wash all of the child's clothes, hats, bedding, and towels in hot water. Dry-clean items you can’t wash, like stuffed animals, or seal them in plastic bags for two weeks. Experts recommend that you continue to check the hair for two to three weeks to make sure that all of th
To kill the fungus, you must treat ringworm on the scalp with medications taken by mouth. Treatment may take up to 12 weeks. Using an antifungal shampoo may help reduce the risk of spreading the infection to family members and classmates. It's important for anyone who has ringworm to avoid sharing personal items like combs, hats, and towels.
If your child is taking an antifungal medicine, he’s safe to go to school. And you don’t have to cut his hair.
Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of the hair follicle, the sac that contains the root of the hair. It's usually caused by bacteria (usually staphylococcus) that find their way into the hair follicles from a nearby infection. The follicles also can be irritated from shaving, makeup, or clothing. Some people get folliculitis after taking a dip in a hot tub.
Look for small, pus-filled pimples. Some mild cases will go away without treatment, but an antibiotic can help clear up the bacteria quickly. If shaving, waxing, or plucking is the cause, you may need to hold off on these for a few weeks to allow healthy hair to grow. Be sure to keep the affected area clean, cool, and dry.
This skin condition can show up anywhere, but often happens on the scalp. It causes the body to make too many new skin cells. This buildup can form thick, crusted scales that can feel itchy or sore.
You usually treat psoriasis with steroid creams or ointments. Shampoos with tar or salicylic acid may also be helpful. Ultraviolet light therapy (shining UV light on the skin to slow the growth of skin cells) is another option. Severe cases may need medication taken by mouth or in an injection.
People who have lichen planus develop flat-topped, purple, or reddish bumps on their skin. And they usually itch. Other symptoms include redness, irritation, and (sometimes permanent) hair loss.
Although the bumps will eventually go away on their own, treatment or removal of the trigger can ease symptoms and clear up the rash quickly. The main treatment is steroid medications that are rubbed on, injected, or taken by mouth. Retinoid medications used for acne may also help. Antihistamines (such as Benadryl) or soothing baths can help the itching. Sometimes doctors use a type of ultraviolet light therapy called PUVA (psoralen plus UVA radiation), narrow band UVB phototherapy, or antibiotics.