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.

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.

Dear Eleanor, Teresa and Ashley, I just wanted to thank you all first and foremost for the hospitality. The warmth from the moment one walks in to meet Ashley to then commencing the treatments with Eleanor and Teresa is unmatched. Eleanor and Teresa, I can't thank you enough for the confidence you instilled in me. I came to you when I was at my wit's end. But gently and slowly, you educated me about my hair and treated me back to a place where I started wearing my hair out for first time in over 10yrs, I can wear it out. Thank you for the treatments Thank you for the care Thank you for the education Thank you for the words of encouragement
Whitney Koranteng
Whitney Koranteng
Hi came across Fulham and scalp through a talk they did. My hair was in desperate need as it was dry with patches. I had a consultation and I found out that along with my dry hair I had traction alopecia due to back to back braiding styles along with CCA due to PCOS. The consultation was amazing. I did not realised how inflamed my scalp was due to hair practices but my lifestyle. I was recommended treatment in the clinic and a treatment to take home. I have been coming back for the past 8 months to receive treatment and trims and I have seen such an improvement in my hair. They have helped me with having a consistent hair routine. I would highly recommend as I was losing hair foicles and had no reason why.
Trichologist’s Teresa and Eleanore are absolutely lovely, friendly and approachable. Super lucky to have found this Clinic, especially one that specialises in my Afro hair. I’ve taken on all the advice that they’ve given me and my hair has been improving in under 2 months. Naturally, I am feeling 100% confident with my hair. I’m still going on the journey. Their products are absolutely stimulating, and my hair loves it! Ashley is a star. The GREATEST compliments cannot even define the magic these ladies have worked so hard to help me accomplish. Thank you!🌟 Looking forward to my next appointment.✨
Swiss Note
Swiss Note
Unbelievable place, Magical, I’m so thankful for YOU “Hair & Scalp clinics” work‼️‼️ The treatments you can purchase have worked wonders daily, weekly or monthly use depending on preference, what you can offer, scheduling. It has been so beneficial for me, I can’t lie I came into this unassuming and sceptical as I had scalp issue all my life now it’s all CLEAR UP FROM ME. THANKs to this amazing family run Afro all sorts of hair treated establishments
Ifẹ A
Ifẹ A
This place has genuinely changed my life! I went from relying on the daily use of wigs to finally being able to understand and appreciate my natural coils. I would never have been able to wear my natural hair out a year ago (mostly due to the fact that I had so many bald spots and basically no hairline!) so I am shocked daily at how far I’ve come in such a short space of time. If you decide to visit, please do listen to the advice of these wonderful experts, it really does work! I’ve also realised how much we over complicate black hair, healthy black hair is actually super simple to achieve. Thank you everyone at Fulham Scalp & Hair Clinic! Each day I wear my hair out, I’m appreciative of the day I discovered this wonderful place!
Beth L
Beth L
I’ve been getting desperate with my 4C hair situation, so I’m so glad I found this clinic. Eleanore and Ashley were so accommodating and nice! I learned a lot of new things. Now, my hair has improved a LOT after following Eleanore's advice. Highly recommend.
Judith Worrell
Judith Worrell
I feel and look confident after my treatment and trim from Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic and recommend anyone struggling with traction alopecia to confront the issue and contact the clinic as I did I have no regrets just new hair growth and a great look.
Booked a consultation and the information I received was life changing. Didn't realise how badly I was maintaining my hair. Since getting my hair treated and trimmed, I have been given a healthy hair routine that has given me confidence and happiness. For anyone thinking about it definitely do it. Your not just paying for the treatment but also the knowledge. Customer service and attention to detail was 5*
Cabir TOPO
Cabir TOPO
My hair was damaged from keratin treatments. After doing some research I found this place online. I was nervous about contacting them for fear of judgement and blame. In May 2022 I got in touch. Even before I arrived the receptionist really reassured me and was very kind. Eleanor did my consultation. Her and Teresa are professional, empathetic, warm, supportive and knowledgeable. I didn't really know how to look after natural hair. However this has revolutionised things for me. My hairs unrecognisable to before. Its grown a lot and is the healthiest it's ever been. I'm so glad I found this place. I attend regularly for treatments. I can't recommend this place enough!!
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