Dry Flaky Skin on Your Head
If you find yourself scratching your head more than normal, you may notice dry, flaky skin on your scalp. In most cases, dry skin on the head is harmless and easily treatable at home. But in some cases, it is a sign of a fungal infection or chronic condition that requires medical treatment.
One of the most common causes of dry, flaky scalp skin is dandruff, which can result from simple dry skin, psoriasis, eczema or a reaction to hair care products. Seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis are other common conditions that can lead to itching, scales and dry scalp skin. In some cases, dry skin on the head can be a sign of a fungal infection, such as ringworm.
The symptoms of many scalp conditions are similar, so it may be difficult to determine exactly which condition is causing the problem. Dandruff flakes are typically oily and white and your scalp may appear red and inflamed. Flakes from scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis are generally thicker than dandruff flakes and fall from thick scales attached to the hair shaft. Psoriasis may extend beyond your hairline, while seborrheic dermatitis is usually confined solely to the scalp. Ringworm infections appear as small sores on the scalp, which eventually flake off, causing some people to confuse the infection with dandruff. If you have a scalp problem that does not clear up with home treatment, talk to your doctor or dermatologist for a proper diagnosis.
You can treat most cases of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis at home with medicated shampoos and proper hygiene. Shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione help fight bacteria and fungi on your scalp to clear up dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Other shampoos contain coal tar, which helps prevent skin cells on your scalp from dying and flaking. Shampoos that contain ketaconazole act as an antifungal to combat many scalp conditions and often work for people who do not see improvement from using the other shampoos, according to MayoClinic.com.
Your doctor or dermatologist can prescribe you stronger medicated shampoos than you can buy over the counter. Most of these prescription shampoos contain the same ingredients as over-the-counter treatments but in higher doses. If your doctor determines you have scalp psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, he may prescribe an ointment or gel containing coal tar or corticosteroids to help minimize your symptoms. Doctors treat ringworm and other fungal infections with prescription oral or topical antifungal medications.
While you cannot prevent certain chronic conditions, such as scalp psoriasis, you can keep your scalp and hair healthy and thus avoid many problems that lead to dry, flaky skin. Shampoo your hair often and gently rub your fingertips into your scalp to cleanse the skin when you shower. Consider purchasing a moisturizing shampoo if you are prone to dry skin. Use a humidifier in your home if you use central air or heat. Limit your use of hairspray and other hair products if your scalp is dry---many of these products contain alcohol and other drying ingredients. Avoid sharing brushes and other hair care products to prevent spreading ringworm and other fungal infections.
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