The Different Types of Scalp Dermatitis

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Dermatitis is a general term that refers to various disorders of the upper skin layers, resulting in an itchy and red-colored rash, blisters, swelling, scabbing, oozing and scaling. While specific types of dermatitis can only affect a particular part or parts of the body, other types can affect any part of the skin.

The scalp is characterized by high production rates of sebum and large hair follicle density, which are features that make the scalp skin prone to developing dermatitis. The common symptoms of various types of scalp dermatitis are scaling or hyperkeratosis, alopecia, pruritus and signs of inflammatory activity.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a non-harmful and very common dermatitis of the scalp that primarily affects the scalp skin, but can also occur in other oily parts of the body such as the back; face areas such as the eyelid margins, eyebrows and nasolabial folds; the ear areas, and the upper chest. The inflammatory changes that characterize seborrhic dermatitis are covered by greasy and yellow-coloured scales that form a crust as a result of their accumulation with itchy and scaly red skin and dandruff.

Seborrheic dermatitis commonly occurs in infants not more than 3 months old and is referred to as cradle cap. In adults, seborrheic dermatitis can affects those who fall within the 30- to 60-year-old age bracket. Reported cases show that men are more prone to having scalp dermatitis than women.

For patients with AIDS and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease are also, there is also an increased occurrence of seborrheic dermatitis, although the links remain unknown.

Pityriasis capitis

Pityriasis capitis, more commonly known as dandruff, is a very common skin disorder. Nearly one-half of the world’s population is reportedly affected by dandruff.

Dandruff commonly occurs in where the highest activity of post-pubertal sebaceous glands is found. As such, dandruff most commonly occurs in people who fall within the age bracket of 15 and 50.

Symptoms include white-like flakes that can easily be shed off from scalp skin. According to data from Procter & Gamble, roughly 49 percent of individuals with dandruff experience scalp flaking, 66 percent experience pruritus, 25 percent experience irritation and 59 percent experience dryness and tightness in the scalp. Evidence points to psoriasis, an inflammatory disease that also affects the scalp, and heredity to cause scalp flakiness. Similar to seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff normally does not pose severe problems.


Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis can be treated through employing shampoos that have salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, or zinc pyrithione. Frequency of usage can be twice on a weekly basis. Those with coal tar can be used on more frequently, such as thrice within a week. Dandruff may warrant daily usage up until the time that the dandruff becomes controlled, and then succeeding frequency can fall to the staple twice or thrice a week. If the shampoo alone fails to yield results, doctors may suggest employing a prescribed steroid lotion to complement the shampoo. Usage will be generally one to two times in a day.


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