Is the Itch and Rash on your Scalp Dermatitis?

What is Scalp Dermatitis? The Simple Definition of Dermatitis is Inflammation of the Skin.

Is the itch and rash on your scalp dermatitis? Many people think of dermatitis as synonymous with eczema but this is actually not true. Almost any itch and rash on the skin or scalp can be thought of as a dermatitis based on this definition – including psoriasis, seborrhoea, or even skin cancer. Not every rash appearing on the scalp is dermatitis.

How to Treat it?

Once we know which type of Scalp Dermatitis a client is suffering from, we can then understand how best to treat it.

I have come across many different types, and causes of dermatitis during my time working with hair and scalp problems…

Irritant contact dermatitis

Can flare up after a few contacts with strong chemicals like bleach. More commonly it develops gradually through frequent wet working or working with milder chemicals like shampoo.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Can develop quickly after only a few contacts with a substance like shampoos or colours. Sometimes it can take months or even years for the allergy to develop. Once you are allergic, you are allergic for life and this could happen at any time, even if you have had no problems previously in your career.
With allergic contact dermatitis, the things you can become allergic to at work might well also be in things you use at home – like your shampoo, or your household cleaners. So if you become allergic to something in the salon it could well affect all aspects of your life.

How can you tell which form of scalp dermatitis you are suffering from?

Contact Dermatitis

Is a condition that can effect a scalp which has been chemically over-treated. It can also be caused by allergies to soap perfumes, washing powder or washing liquid, etc.  Recognised by a dampness or wetness, it is rather like a weeping eczema that congeals on the scalp making it feel tight. It will then begin to flake, rather like a dandruff condition.

Acute dermatitis

acute scalp dermatitis

Acute Dermatitis

Acute (atopic) dermatitis affects the skin’s ability to hold moisture. Skin becomes very dry and itchy with blisters – produces weeping, oozing plaques. Most likely people who have this condition have very sensitive skin, find it starts in childhood, and that it ‘runs in the family’ with other conditions such as hay fever and asthma.Sub-acute dermatitis

Sub-acute dermatitis is similar to acute dermatitis, but has scaling and crusting.


Chronic dermatitis

chronic dermatitis lichenification

Chronic Dermatitis

Chronic dermatitis (eczema) refers to a longstanding irritable area. It is often darker than the surrounding skin, thickened (lichenified).  Lichenification is the thickening and hardening of skin where it is constantly rubbed or scratched, and the skin then becomes leathery.




Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Is a common, inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, white to yellowish scales to form on oily areas such as the scalp or inside the ear. (see image) It gives the appearance of severe dandruff.  This type of dermatitis appears to run in families, and may be caused by stress, fatigue, oily skin, infrequent shampooing and use of alcohol-based lotions or shampoos.


If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from a severe dermatitis condition, you must seek advice from a dermatologist or your local doctor.  However, if you have a mild form you can also treat the condition yourself by bathing your scalp with a very dilute salt solution – 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 pint of distilled water, or a solution of cold milk and water diluted in equal parts.

Generally, dermatitis is diagnosed clinically, meaning based on the history and appearance of the rash. If possible, the exact type of dermatitis is defined, but sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between the dermatitis types. There are very few tests performed that help clarify the type of dermatitis.

Home treatments

Dermatitis is best treated at a clinic if the type is known. However, there are measures that can be taken to improve symptoms even if the exact dermatitis type is not known.
•    It’s important to keep your skin moisturised, as dry skin condition causes cracks in the outer layer, inhibiting the barrier function of the skin.
•    Try to reduce itching and scratching with topical medications or antihistamines.
•    Avoid using drying substances that cause irritation, such as harsh detergents, bleach, or perfumes.
•    Best to treat any other rashes, particularly fungal infections, even though they may not seem to be related.

Eucaderm Home Care Treatment Pack No 3 for dermatitisEucaderm Home Care Treatment Pack No3 will treat dermatitis conditions, and more info can be found in the Shop.  Please note that this pack does not include the Scalp Stimulator, which would be unsuitable for anyone suffering with scalp problems such as dermatitis.
Note: any of these products may be purchased individually.

An Important Tip

Scalp Dermatitis

Scalp Dermatitis

Since many people are now having their hair coloured, it’s as well to remember that hair dyes are more likely to produce a dermatitis condition than bleach, because they contain chemicals called diamines. As many more people are becoming sensitive to these chemicals, it is very important to do a skin patch test with each product you use.

The way to do this is to take a small amount of the hair dye, which is darker than the one you are hoping to use, and mix it with peroxide. Dab it on the skin, usually on the inside of the arm or behind the ear. It must be left undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours. If you have an allergic reaction to that particular preparation you will develop a mild inflammation, or feel the patch becoming slightly warm and starting to irritate.  If this happens do not have your hair coloured. If you find you have any facial swelling, shortness of breath, considerable pain or severe burning then you need to seek urgent medical help. Go to your GP or A&E straight away.

Remember that dermatitis is not catching. It cannot be passed from one person to another. It can develop at any time, or not.  Everyone is different.

Back again soon

David Satchell, Consultant Trichologist

David Satchell, Consultant Trichologist