8 Scalp Problems You Shouldn't Ignore
It's fairly easy to keep track of the condition of your hair. Feeling greasy? Give it a wash. A little bit dry? Apply a nourishing hair mask. But what about the skin under your tresses? What about your scalp?
If you're not taking care of your scalp, evidence suggests you could experience skin conditions that affect how your hair looks and feels. Read on to find out more, plus discover the clinically proven products designed to keep the scalp healthy and happy.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that often runs in families. It affects 8 million people in the U.S. and anyone can get it at any age. It's an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the skin. Sufferers experience periods of remission when the symptoms go away and relapses when the symptoms return. Half of those who have psoriasis on different parts of the body will also experience scalp psoriasis.
Scalp psoriasis triggers a buildup of cells on the skin's surface that often manifest as thick, scaly, itchy patches that can be red and inflamed.
- Those with lighter skin tones will likely notice redness and silvery-white plaques.
- Those with darker skin tones will likely see purple or dark brown patches with white scales.
- Someone might also experience bleeding or temporary hair loss if they scratch too hard and remove the patches on the scalp. The hair follicles can be damaged if this happens too often.
- Topical medications and steroids can help decrease inflammation.
- Biologic injections can help suppress flare-ups in severe cases.
- Laser treatments might target scaly patches that aren't responding to other treatments.
- Severe scalp psoriasis may require systemic medications such as cyclosporine or methotrexate.
- Medicated shampoo or shampoo made with salicylic acid may help relieve symptoms.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anna Chacon told VEGAMOUR, "Nothing beats good hygiene, and that includes doing a scalp health routine. It's recommended to remove both dead skin cells and lingering products before applying your scalp shampoo and conditioner to ensure a healthy scalp. Before you enter the shower on wash days, try to complete this procedure."
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease, so you must check in with a dermatologist for the best advice.
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Androgenetic alopecia is a hair-loss condition that can strike both men and women. In men it's often called male pattern baldness, as the hair loss begins around the temples and forms a characteristic M shape. On the other hand, female pattern baldness usually presents as thinning hair over the entire scalp with less receding around the temples.
- Balding at the crown of the head.
- Balding around the temples.
- Thinning hair across the scalp.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an effective treatment for androgenetic alopecia. It can also help regrow hair strands lost from telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a common cause of temporary hair loss, which usually occurs after the body has been through a change or shock to the system.
- Sufferers might want to discuss medical treatment with their dermatologists to try and get hair growth back on track.
Folliculitis involves inflammation of hair follicles across the entire body — including the scalp. Sufferers might experience acne-like breakouts that look and feel sore. A bacteria or fungal infection causes the skin condition, but you might also get symptoms from shaving, using potent hair dyes or sweating excessively.
- Scattered sore bumps that are full of pus.
- On light skin tones, the bumps might be red.
- On dark skin tones, bumps might have a dark red or light purple hue.
- Skin lesions might also have a red ring around them and feel itchy.
This type of bacterial infection can develop from bacteria found in showers, swimming pools and hot tubs. Often symptoms will clear up on their own, but talk to your doctor about an antifungal medication if you're concerned. You might also be prescribed topical or oral antibiotics to prevent further discomfort.
Head lice are as unpleasant as they sound. Tiny insects crawl under your hair, feed off your blood and cause itchy red bumps along the neck, shoulders and scalp. They're highly contagious and you can catch them:
- sharing hair brushes
- using the same fabric item as someone with head lice
- touching the head of someone with head lice
They can also live on upholstered furniture items and in bedding. Children are most at risk of sharing head lice, and, of course, if your child has them, they may bring them home.
- An extremely itchy scalp.
- Feeling like something is scrawling over your scalp.
- Sores and skin rashes from excessive scratching.
Prescription medication and specific shampoos will help remove lice, as will a fine-toothed comb. "Without medical attention, an itchy scalp brought on by lice, a fungal infection, or other diseases won't go away," confirmed Chacon. To prevent head lice from returning, wash clothes and bedding at a high temperature, soak all brushes, combs and hair accessories in boiling water and avoid sharing personal hygiene items.
Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the more common scalp conditions, and in babies it's often called cradle cap. It isn't contagious, but it can be an ongoing condition that's tough to get rid of.
- Red rashes and dry skin.
- Dandruff flakes and greasy scales.
- Yellow crusts on the scalp.
Seborrheic dermatitis isn't curable, so a good dermatologist will help by alleviating the symptoms. Medicated shampoo might help, as will antifungal medications and, in some cases, steroids. Cradle cap usually clears up on its own, but baby shampoo can help.
Alopecia areata is a chronic autoimmune disorder that leaves sufferers with patchy bald spots across the scalp and body. Approximately 6.8 million people in the United States have this skin condition where the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles.
Common symptoms include:
- Hair thinning and difficulty re-growing hair.
- Severe hair loss all over the scalp.
The severity of the alopecia areata depends on the strength of your immune system, which is why it often gets worse as you age. In some cases, there's an underlying cause to ongoing hair loss, so always check in with a medical professional for expert advice.
Depending on the severity of the condition, someone might be prescribed oral or injectable medications. Unfortunately, scalp treatments don't always work if you're struggling with alopecia areata, so you must reach out to a medical professional to tend to the affected skin as soon as possible.
Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis)
Tinea capitis is a contagious infection of the scalp's outer layer.
- Red rashes that have a circle- or ring-like appearance.
- Itching and discomfort.
- Hair loss and damage to the hair follicle.
Ringworm is often spread through animals or by touching someone who has it. Antifungal shampoos and prescription medications will help relieve the symptoms.
Lichen planus is a less common autoimmune disease that may cause itchy, small patches of hair loss, also known as scarring alopecia. If the hair follicles are damaged, it could impact the density of the hair shafts. Experts don't know the exact cause of the condition, but it's believed to be triggered by specific genes, medications and environmental stressors.
- Dry skin
- Small bumps
Lichen planus isn't curable, but antihistamines, retinoids and steroids can help in some cases. Often symptoms go away on their own without treatment, but they can persist for years first.
Scalp conditions are common, but knowing what condition you're suffering from requires further investigation. Make sure you do a patch test on your skin using a medicated shampoo to avoid a potential allergic reaction. If you are worried about your scalp, use clean products made from natural ingredients to help your scalp look and feel healthy.
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