Beauty

Why is your scalp flaking and itching?

It could be due to one of three common skin conditions. Here’s how to identify and tackle each one.
 

Anna Sui New York Spring 15

#1 Large flaky patches of skin on your scalp

YOU COULD HAVE: PSORIASIS
“This is caused by accelerated cellular turnover on the scalp,” says Dr Eileen Tan, dermatologist at Eileen Tan Skin, Laser & Hair Transplant Clinic. It can be hard to differentiate from seborrhoeic dermatitis, which is also characterised by flaky patches of skin. However, psoriasis flakes are larger than the usual dandruff flakes, and often stick to the scalp.

TRY: A medicated shampoo that has anti-infective and anti-fungal ingredients such as selenium sulphide, ketoconazole and ciclopirox – it’ll reportedly help slow down skin cell renewal, and relieve inflammation and itching. You can buy these shampoos over the counter, or visit your dermatologist for prescription-strength formulas.

#2 An itchy, oily scalp with small flaky patches of skin

YOU COULD HAVE: SEBORRHOEIC DERMATITIS
It’s an inflammatory skin disorder that can affect both the scalp and face. Dr Tan explains: “It affects areas of the skin where sebaceous glands are most prominent – like the scalp – and is aggravated by stress or a genetic predisposition.” It looks similar to psoriasis, but areas affected by seborrhoeic dermatitis are also red and inflamed.

TRY: A medicated shampoo to calm the inflammation and soothe the itch. Your doctor can also prescribe a corticoteroid solution to improve the condition. In extremely severe cases, your doctor might test for an underlying disease that may be affecting your immune system, such as HIV, says Dr Tan.

#3 Itchy, red pimples on the scalp

YOU COULD HAVE: FOLLICULITIS
“This condition presents itself as pimples on the scalp – they tend to be itchy and even painful,” says Dr Joyce Lee, senior consultant dermatologist at the National Skin Centre. It can be caused by an adverse reaction to hair dye, as the chemicals in the dye can irritate the scalp and clog hair follicles. Other causes include bacterial and fungal infections.

TRY: A shampoo with anti- fungal ingredients like ketoconazole and ciclopirox. For more severe cases, or if the symptoms don’t improve, Dr Lee recommends a course of oral or topical antibiotics.

WHAT IF IT’S NOT ANY OF THESE CONDITIONS?
In some instances, an itchy, flaky scalp can be a symptom of a contagious fungal infection. In rare cases, it can be caused by autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus – a chronic disease characterised by joint pain and swelling; it affects the skin, the joints, the organs and the nervous system – or lichen planopilaris, a rare inflammatory condition that can cause hair loss. Always consult your doctor to be on the safe side.

This story was originally published in Her World Magazine, March Issue, 2015.

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