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Daily Question: What Can I Do at Home for a Dry Scalp?

Posted Aug 18 2011 2:41pm
Dry, Flaky Scalp? by Jim Barter
Dry, Flaky Scalp? , a photo by Jim Barter on Flickr.

Dear Nicki,

My hair is falling out, and I’m really upset about it. I went to the derm, and he found that I have eczema! He gave me some cream, and I have another appointment next week. Is there anything I can do at home in the meantime?

-Fabulous Friend O’Mine

Dear Fabulous Friend,

Eczema on the scalp, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is nothing to be ashamed of, with millions suffering from dry scalp and its manifestations every year ( FDA Consumer , 1988). Luckily, it is usually more easily treated than eczema on the skin:

The scales of dry scalp are not as greasy or as abundant as in dandruff, but it has been shown the common fungus M. furfur plays a role in dry scalp as well as dandruff ( MedicineNet.com , 2011). Many dandruff shampoos treat M.furfur, rendering them effective against some forms of dry scalp as well as dandruff.

As Dr. Marta Rendon, M.D. , a celebrity dermatologist, recommends, “ Head and Shoulders shampoos and conditioners can be used until the symptoms dissipate, and then you can return to your other chosen formulas.” Since you’re only using the product temporarily, I love a 2-in-1 product, like Head and Shoulders 2-in-1 with Zinc Pyridoxine .

If the head and shoulders doesn’t work for you, then it is possible your problem is not M. furfur, but P. ovale. A 1994 study in Praxis found 0.65% climbazole shampoo improved symptoms of dry scalp/seborrheic dermatitis in over 80% of 30 volunteers over the course of just 4 weeks. Considering P. ovale is a less likely cause of dry scalp than M. furfur, I would use climbazole only if Head and Shoulders with Zinc Pyridoxine didn’t work for you first. At any rate, climbazole is available in DS Laboratories Dandrene: High Performance Dandruff Shampoo .

Hot water, blow dryers, and UV rays can be drying to the scalp, so avoid them as much as possible. Rinse your hair with cool or lukewarm water, dry your hair with a terry towel (the Turbie Twist is easy), and wear a hat with airholes so your head can still breathe, or better yet, avoid the sun altogether between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm.

Although it sounds hokey, it’s true: Eating the right foods can make all of the difference. Eczema exacerbation has been tied to elevated levels of inflammatory factors such as C-reactive protein in children and infants ( Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology , 2005). Although a number of foods are anti-inflammatory, I think the best list comes from , a book by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, M.D. Ph.D. Dr. Servan-Schreiber was diagnosed with cancer not once, but twice. Having a strong scientific background as an M.D./Ph.D., Dr. Servan-Schreiber turned to research to learn about nutrition in order to defeat his cancer. Amongst the top of his priorities? Reducing levels of inflammation with the following foods:

  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Green tea, white tea
  • Richly-colored berries (i.e., raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli

Carrying on the assertion eczema exacerbations are linked to inflammation, finding ways to combat stress is crucial. Although one’s mental health also falls by the wayside in light of achieving more concrete goals, it is vital to one’s overall well-being to make managing stress a priority now and then. Two of my all-time favorite stress management books are Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson and Finding Your North Star by Martha Beck. While Finding Your North Star is not marketed as a stress management book, some of the methodologies Beck gives to accomplish tasks easily, such as breaking tasks into easily-accomplished parts (“turtle steps”) and then rewarding yourself nicely afterwards and fun and ground-breaking as you discover how much progress you can make doing tiny bits here and there.

Many different ailments are often mistaken for eczema; ringworm is the most common. The diagnosis is essential not only because ringworm is resistant to the methods described above, but also because ringworm is easily removed, whereas eczema requires more force ( Introduction to Dermatology , 2010).

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