Scaly Scalps: Tips for Dealing with Seborrheic Dermatitis

Tips for dealing with Seborrheic Dermatitis

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If you’ve noticed an excessive amount of white flakes or dandruff build-up resulting in intense flaking and itching that you just can’t get rid of, visit your dermatologist to find out if the real root of your problem is seborrheic dermatitis. Read this article to learn what this condition is and how to manage and control its symptoms.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common problem for many people of brown skin and appears as thick, greasy yellowish flakes or as fine, thin whitish flakes on the hairline, scalp, eyebrows, corners of the mouth, ears and/or around the nose. Due to the amount of melanin in African-Americans, the areas affected by this condition will either end up lighter (hypopigmentation) or darker (hyperpigmentation) than your normal skin tone.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition attributed to the presence of yeast called malassezia, in which your sebaceous glands overcompensate in oil production. In Black communities, a flaky scalp is commonly associated with dandruff or dry scalp and common practice is to oil or ‘grease’ the scalp, however, in people with this condition, greasing the scalp will only agitate the condition. Thankfully there are several things that can be done to provide relief.

The first step should be visiting a dermatologist. A doctor will tell you if what if you have is dandruff, eczema or seborrheic dermatitis. After being diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis, the dermatologist will prescribe you a medicated shampoo or over-the-counter shampoo.

Follow these tips to help you control and manage seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Try a hot oil treatment before you shampoo. Apply a hot oil treatment to your scalp and cover your hair with a shower cap. Sit under a hooded dryer or with a warm towel for 10-15 minutes. You can also substitute the hot oil with tea tree or coconut oil. This treatment will loosen the flakes from your scalp before you wash your hair.
  • Typically the shampoo prescribed have to be used once or twice daily however, for women with curly, tightly coiled, pressed or relaxed hair, shampooing that often is not realistic. But an increase in how often you wash is essential to reducing the accumulation of flakes and dissolving the excess sebum from your scalp. Because of African-American hair types, the shampoo prescribed or used should be gentle, fragrance-and-dye-free with no harsh ingredients. The shampoos prescribed contains pyrithione zinc, tar, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide and ketoconazole, corticosteroid, anti-fungal, ketoconazole, and ciclopriox medication and focus on killing the fungus so they are successful.
  • If for some reason, you can’t go to a doctor or cannot use the shampoo prescribed, you can try an over-the-counter anti-fungal shampoo, like Neutrogena or natural tea tree shampoo, and rinse with 1 part apple cider vinegar to 2 parts water or with Seabreeze.
  • Wash your scalp with a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo according to a recommended schedule. If you’re not seeing results, try a shampoo with a different active ingredient.
  • When using these shampoos, contact with the hair should be minimized by applying the shampoo to the scalp, ears and areas behind the ears, allowing the shampoo to stay in contact for 5 minutes. Then, a conditioning shampoo should be applied to wash the actual hair. This should be followed by the application of a moisturizing conditioner to the hair for 10 minutes. With this method of washing, avoidance of contact of the medicated shampoo with the hair will minimize the drying effect of the shampoo on the hair.
  • Follow up with a deep conditioner to reinforce and seal in moisture. Remember to stay away from additional oils on your scalp to avoid irritation and inflammation.
  • Use an anti-fungal cream. In addition to shampooing, the addition of ketoconazole may be effective.
  • Apply an anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area. A hydrocortisone cream or liquid containing at least 1 percent hydrocortisone can temporarily relieve itching.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and detergents. And make sure you rinse soap completely off your body and scalp.
  • Avoid scratching if you can help it. We know it itches, but scratching can increase irritation, making you more uncomfortable and heighten your risk of infection.

Get your seborrheic dermatitis under control

Are you dealing with Seborrheic Dermatitis? Share your tips and experiences with us below.