If you’ve experienced the discomfort of scalp contact dermatitis, you’ll understand the painful frustration of dealing with itching, burning, and inflammation on your head. 

Those who choose to treat these symptoms later rather than sooner may find themselves dealing with crusty sores, blisters, or even hardened skin sections leading to hair loss. 

We can safely assume that nobody wants to venture into a worst-case scenario, so we’re taking a closer look at the causes, symptoms and treatment of scalp contact dermatitis. Here’s what you need to know, and the best course of treatment if you’re already suffering from this unfortunate condition.

Is Dermatitis The Same as Eczema?

The terms dermatitis and eczema are often used interchangeably, but there are differences to note. Strictly speaking, dermatitis is inflammation of the skin, whereas eczema is a particular skin condition characterised by dry, itchy and inflamed skin. Dermatitis can occur anywhere on the body, including the scalp.

It’s important to talk to a professional to get an accurate diagnosis when tackling skin conditions, especially those that occur on the scalp, as these can cause long-term damage to the delicate hair follicles. 

For example, seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition that most often occurs in oily parts of the skin (scalp, underarms , back) and requires different treatment than contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs as a reaction to a specific irritant or trigger; therefore, it can be treated successfully once the irritant is identified.

Symptoms of Scalp Contact Dermatitis

Those who have suffered from various skin disorders will know first-hand that many conditions share several of the same symptoms, making it difficult to self-diagnose. Healthline tells us that contact dermatitis symptoms will display as:

  • Redness
  • Hives
  • Blisters or sores
  • Pain and burning
  • Itchiness
  • Inflammation
  • Stiff, thick, or leathery skin
  • Flaky skin

These symptoms can come on gradually over a period of time, or appear quite suddenly. It depends on what the irritant is and how your body reacts.

What Can Cause Scalp Contact Dermatitis?

As we’ve noted, contact dermatitis occurs as a direct reaction to a particular irritant, although it can be a cumulative effect of repeated exposure to a mild allergen.

The most common triggers of scalp contact dermatitis are:

  • Chemical hair dyes and straighteners
  • Fragrances
  • Hair products including oils
  • Hairbrushes

Our experience in the clinic highlights the use of oils on the scalp as one of the most common triggers for contact dermatitis observed in our patients. The illusion that a product is natural and therefore harmless needs to be addressed. 

Signs of hair or skincare product allergies will show up as irritation on your scalp, ears, and neck, and possibly your face and eyelids. Sadly, hair care manufacturers are very much aware of the potential issues that these ingredients can cause. 

One study notes, “​​A number of known contact allergens are used as ingredients in shampoos, and contact allergy due to shampoos is a well-known entity.”

Treating Scalp Contact Dermatitis

By now, it’s clear that the first step to treating dermatitis is to stop using whatever product is causing the reaction. This can be difficult to do at times; for example, your body may suddenly react to a shampoo that you’ve used for years, which means you automatically disqualify it as a potential trigger. 

Your next step should be to talk to a qualified trichologist who can assist in diagnosing your scalp condition accurately and offering the correct treatments and advice. They may suggest anti-inflammatory hair care products or other topical products which will assist with the fastest and safest healing process. 

They may suggest lifestyle changes that will prevent flare-ups, and home care products to provide gentle, daily care to your hair and scalp. (Remember, it’s not just shampoo that can irritate your skin; conditioners, gels, hairsprays and some hair accessories can all contribute to a skin reaction.)

Talk to the Professionals

We understand that skin conditions can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. However, our professional team deal with these conditions daily, and we know exactly what to look for when it comes to matters of the hair and scalp.

If you suspect that you or a family member may be suffering from scalp contact dermatitis, please book a consultation with us as soon as you can. The earlier you get an accurate diagnosis, the sooner we can get you back on the road to recovery.

leena solimanleena soliman
06:19 17 May 23
Came here when I had some issues and they were able to help massively! They are not like other claimed trichologist that want to scare you and take your money, they are backed up with their qualification and experience. Reasonably priced consultation, treatment and products!
zoe Innzoe Inn
17:24 15 Feb 23
From my first consultation, I knew this was the right place for my hair.Teresa and Eleanore are very caring. The treatments are also very relaxing and my hair adores their products!
19:01 01 Dec 22
Thank you so much Fulham scalp and hair clinic for restoring the health of my scalp and my hair.Straight talking, no nonsense, friendly and professional advice and if you follow it you’ll see results.They really know their stuff and I highly recommend.
Nico PopNico Pop
18:42 13 Jan 22
Booked the initial appointment as I have damaged hair due to bleaching and I had an itchy scalp on a very small region at the back of the scalp. As a healthcare professional myself I did not expect the trichologist to have a magic wand and cure me in one session. 3 appointments ( almost 3 months) in and buying all products recommended (7 of them - the calming scalp cream is missing in the picture) , my scalp became extremely flaky and itchy to an extent that It kept me awake at night. When informed the trichologist my experience, the only recommendation was to trial the Cade oil shampoo... which caused me further discomfort and irritation.I had to stop using all their products as I couldn't stand the itchiness and inflammation anymore (although used the cade oil shampoo several times). Who would've thought that going to a trichologist you will end up with and super irritated and itchy scalp?!Very disappointed with the overall experience, I felt the focus was mainly on selling their products, booking for treatments and not necessarily helping me with my concerns, especially that the professional did not have any concers re my condition, 400£ later I ended up booking an app with the Dr in order to solve the issues caused by their products.
03:56 06 Jun 19
I really hated my experience at Fulham Scalp & Hair Clinic and I would not recommend it at all. The reason why I visited was because I had concerns about changes I saw in my hair, particularly the amount of hair I was losing at the sides (edges).I booked an appointment which comprised of a consultation + 1st treatment. I had the consultation with the owners daughter who asked me about my hair routine, health, products and also took a sample of my hair to look at underneath a microscope. During the consultation the main points she explained to me were that blow drying my hair was bad, the hair needed to be washed more often and hair grease and oils were very bad for my hair despite the fact I have been using them my whole life and I had a good amount of hair. After the consultation she then washed it with their own branded hair products, steamed it did some light therapy and then braided it. She then told me that I would have to come back at some point for a trim and that her mother (the owner) was the only one that could do it. At the end she gave me some basic instructions about using the hair products, and I also purchased some of their products.A few days using their products I experienced a very high level of dryness to my scalp even though I was using A LOT of products everyday my hair would be extremely dry after a couple of hours. When I called them about it the receptionist answered and said the clinic was really busy and that I should try and use coconut oil despite not even being a qualified trichologist, and the trichologist warning that oils were bad for the hair! At my next appointment for the trim I was treated by the owner, she made remarks about how dry my hair was (even though I was following the instructions and using ONLY their products), and how as a black person I should be proud of my hair and wear more natural hair styles, and throw away the blow dryer. She washed my hair and then trimmed it! Which I had never heard of in my life especially with afro hair because it can shrivel up to virtually nothing so when you cut even what seems like the tiniest bit it is actually a lot, but she insisted that it was the "correct" way. During the trim I found it really humiliating and embarrassing because in the styling room I was sat next to another lady who was also having her hair treated and I just really hated every moment of the owner trimming my hair and also lecturing me in it's damaged state like that. Over the course of 3 months following the instructions, steaming my hair everyday, and washing it once a week and using the products my hair just got worse and also breaking, knotty,shedding, weaker, thinner, and shorter than it was originally at my first consultation. I was really upset, especially as when I contacted them about my concerns they kept saying my hair was just "adapting".I eventually discontinued their advice and products,It didn't happen overnight but my hair eventually gradually got back to how it used to be, by doing the "bad" things such as blow drying, using greases and oils and washing it less often. I feel that Fulham Scalp & Hair clinic are not very knowledgeable in a wide variety of hair types particularly Afro hair. They preach and say blow drying, greases and oils, weaves,wigs and not washing your hair often are bad for the health of your hair yet there are thousands of videos on YouTube which contradict these "theories". I feel they cater more to people with looser hair types and not coarser hair types, the products they sell are also very expensive especially as they do not even contain a lot in them mostly comprise of menthol and water. They also seem to care more about their old customers and do not even ask for feedback from new customers, are really hypocritical of your hair choices even though they wear their hair pin straight. Don't waste your money here, if you are having hair problems think closer to home...diet, lifestyle change, stress etcI wasted almost £300 here with no results, think carefully before visiting this clinic, do your own research first!!!

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