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Particular skin conditions affecting the scalp, such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, and dandruff, have overlapping symptoms. It goes without saying that the untrained eye won’t easily identify which is which. There are also differences in how you treat each one, so it’s best to be familiar with each of them.

What Is Dandruff?

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when you experience or someone in your family experiences scalp itchiness is dandruff. It also leads to oily scalp, greasy-looking hair, and large, yellowish flakes in the scalp, hair, and/or clothing. Depending on the cause, it will come and go, even without treatment.


By nature, the human skin sheds dead cells. When the scalp skin sheds at a faster rate, you’ll have dandruff, and there are many reasons why this happens, including:

  • Increased Oil Secretion
  • Fungus
  • Bacteria


The good thing about dandruff is you can treat it with anti-dandruff shampoo. Make sure you follow the specific instructions and the recommended frequency of use:

  • Africans and African-Americans: Once a week
  • Asians and Caucasians: Twice a week

If your current dandruff shampoo only has minimal effect on your dandruff, try alternating various products with different active anti-dandruff ingredients. Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid purchasing shampoo with coal tar if you have light-coloured hair.

If you’re not into dandruff shampoo, you can opt for a more natural remedy: 5% tea tree oil shampoo. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties and smells better than the active ingredients of anti-dandruff shampoo. If none of the home remedies works and for severe dandruff, consult a doctor.

What Is Scalp Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a condition that will make your scalp itchy, red, and dry. It also sometimes produces small white flakes that won’t fall off unless you scratch your scalp.


Scalp dermatitis will develop once your skin gets exposed to or irritated by particular haircare product ingredients, such as fragrance and balsam of Peru, as well as hair dyes and perming solutions. Hair accessories, combs, and brushes with rubber, cobalt, or nickel can also trigger scalp dermatitis.


One of the best ways to manage your scalp dermatitis is to alternately use a moisturising and anti-dandruff shampoo to deal with the dry scalp that can cause flaking. Just make sure the products don’t have any irritants and allergens. You may also opt to use the two together, wherein you apply the anti-dandruff shampoo on the scalp, wash it off, and then use the moisturising shampoo to wash your hair.

Also, stay away from conditioners and hair blowers unless you use cool settings. The itchiness is most likely an allergic reaction, so your doctor can prescribe oral anti-histamine medicines. Thus, have a diary where you can record your scalp dermatitis flare-ups and what you were exposed to before they happen.

What Is Scalp Eczema?

Atopic or scalp eczema not only produces itchiness, redness, and flakiness but can also sometimes give you a burning sensation. Your scalp becomes inflamed and painful during the acute stage while scaly during its chronic stage. The scalp can also get infected when you scratch it intensely and break the skin.


As a type of eczema, the cause of scalp eczema is also still unknown. That said, genes and environmental factors, such as sweat and heat, play a significant role.


Like the last two conditions, you can treat scalp eczema using the right kind of shampoo, something mild and free of irritants and allergens or medicated ones containing:

  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • Coconut Oil and Tar (Especially for Scales)
  • Mild Antiseptics
  • Salicylic acid

Just make sure you rinse the product well. Other options are emollient bath oil or baking soda paste (water + baking soda).

For scalp eczema flares, you can apply scalp eczema cream. Just part the hair and then massage a good amount of the product on the affected area.

Severe eczema will also require you to apply a topical prescription steroid and salicylic acid before applying the scalp eczema cream for intense flare-ups. In certain cases, the doctor may also prescribe oral steroids and antibiotics.

What Is Scalp Psoriasis?

The hallmark of this condition is the appearance of purplish or silvery-red scaly patches or plaques with well-defined edges or borders. These can also spread or extend to the forehead, hairline, nape, and back of the ears.

Scalp psoriasis can also manifest yellow or white flakes, itchiness, dryness, and burning sensation. Some may also experience bleeding and temporary hair loss due to frequent and harsh scratching.


Like scalp eczema, the exact cause of scalp psoriasis is still unknown, but professionals suggest that it may be due to a malfunctioning or weak immune system. Genetics and lifestyle factors also play a significant role.


Some home remedies that can help manage its symptoms include the use of apple cider vinegar solution, aloe vera gel or cream, baking soda paste, avocado and coconut oil, tea tree oil, and turmeric. Some experts also suggest oatmeal and Epsom or sea salt bath. Regarding shampoo, it’s best to use medical-grade, prescription shampoo.

There are also several medical treatments for scalp psoriasis, such as betamethasone-calcipotriene, calcipotriene, and tazarotene cream, oral prescription medicines, injectable biologics, and light therapy.

Scalp Eczema, Scalp Dermatitis, Scalp Psoriasis, or Dandruff: In Conclusion

Although you already have an idea of how different these four scalp conditions are, it’s always best to consult a doctor to be 100% sure. They’re easy to treat at home during the initial stage, but severe and chronic cases require prescription topicals, oral medications, or injectables and other medical-grade treatment methods.