Monday, May 28, 2012

Flaky (and/or itchy) scalp causes and treatments

The main reasons (I found) why someone can get a flaky or itchy scalp: psoriasis, seborrhea (dandruff), dryness and fungal infections. I am going to separate the symptoms for each and then offer treatment options both natural and unnatural. Keep in mind that skin conditions should always be directed to your doctor or dermatologist and self-treatment should be considered (after a diagnostic) if the treatment your doctor offered is not working. Alternatively if you can't afford a doctor then you can just experiment and see what works (that's what I did and why I wrote this entry/did this research).

"The flakes of seborrhea are usually yellow or white, whereas those of psoriasis are a silvery-gray. And plain-vanilla dandruff produces dry, powdery white flakes of scalp skin" (source). I assume "plain vanilla dandruff" means fungal infections because seborrhoeic dermatitis is often referred to as dandruff and here they are mentioned as different.

This is a very interesting entry by someone else on the subject of dandruff: WHY DANDRUFF COULD BE CAUSING HAIRLOSS

Seborrhoeic dermatitis (a form of eczema, source)

Causes: 
- increased oil production
- hormonal changes
- stress
- neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease
- recovery from chronic conditions such as stroke or heart attack
- suppression of the immune system
- infrequent shampooing
- believed to be a fungal overgrowth (malassezia, a type of yeast, potentially contagious because yeast infections can be contagious)

Symptoms: 
- excessive dandruff accompanied by intense itching and patches of flaky skin on the face or elsewhere,
- yellow or white flakes
- occurs in parts of the body with high oil (sebum) production (like the scalp, ears, face, chest, and folds of skin, such as the underarms or the skin below breasts or overhanging abdominal folds)
- thick, flaky, localized patches of scale
Treatment: 
- shampoo with: tar (T-Gel Shampoo - this worked for me after one months use everything cleared up), salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione (like Head & Shoulders), selenium sulfide Selsun Blue), ketoconazole (Nizoral). These are to be used while you are experiencing problems once or twice a week and once the symptoms subside non-medicated shampoo should be used
cortisone creams and antifungal creams (1% clotrimazole cream and miconazole cream 2% - applied once or twice a day
- cortisone-based cortisone-based liquid , gels , and foams that you can apply to the scalp that won't leave your hair limp and matted. Nonsteroid cream like tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel) can also help
- natural options at the end of this entry

Psoriasis (not contagious, genetic, source)

Causes:
- no known cause.
- tendency toward developing psoriasis is inherited in genes

Symptoms:
- chronic inflammatory skin disease
- gets better and worse spontaneously and can have periodic remissions (clear skin)
- produces red, dry plaques (scaly) of thickened skin
- typically looks like red or pink areas of thickened, raised, and dry skin
- dry flakes (silvery-gray)
- commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees, and scalp
- may be small flattened bumps, large thick plaques of raised skin, red patches, and pink mildly dry skin to big flakes of dry skin that flake off
- on the scalp, it may look like severe dandruff with dry flakes and red areas of skin

Treatment:
- is currently not curable, but outbreaks can be treated
- topical (skin applied) medications include topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogue creams calcitriol, topical retinoids (Tazorac), moisturizers, topical immunomodulators Tacrolimus and pimecrolimus), coal tar, anthralin, and others
- moisturizers, especially with therapeutic concentrations of salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, and glycolic acid, some available preparations include Salex (salicylic acid), AmLactin (lactic acid), or Lac-Hydrin (lactic acid) lotions immunomodulators (tacrolimus and pimecrolimus)
- bath salts or bathing in high-salt-concentration waters like the Dead Sea in the Middle East, Epsom salt soaks (available over the counter)
- coal tar is available in multiple preparations, including shampoos, bath solutions, and creams
- Anthralin is available for topical use as a cream, ointment, or paste, may be applied for 10-30 minutes to psoriatic skin


Natural treatments (for Psoriasis, Seborrhoeic dermatitis, dry scalp and fungal overgrowth):
Dry scalp, dehydration, drinking water and shedding.
- coconut oil (anti-fungal, moisturizing)
- Apple Cider Vinegar (anti-fungal) can be used as a post wash rinse, one tea spoon of vinegar to one 8oz cup of water is is the most often recommended concentration
- honey (anti-fungalmoisturizing) -> article on how to use itother article on how to use it
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (moisturizing)
- flaxseed oil (anti-fungalmoisturizing)
- primrose oil (anti-fungalmoisturizing)
- salmon oil (moisturizing)
-  healthy diet: organic food, green fruits, veggies, sea food, 40-75 % raw food; avoid: dairy products, fried foods, white flour, non-dark chocolate, peanuts (and other known allergens, like wheat); add antioxidants to your diet, like selenium (skin health)
- going SLS-free (to avoid drying the scalp)
- going silicone free (to avoid silicone build-up on the scalp)
- glycerin (moisturizing)
- aloe vera gel/juice (moisturizing)
- jojoba oil (moisturizing, very similar to natural sebum)
- henna and cassia (anti-fungal)
- conditioner only washes (moisturizing)
- tea tree or rosemary essential oil (anti-fungal)
- scalp scrub (to remove scalp build-up) mix granulated sugar or (preferably) salt with a light oil like Extra Virgin Olive Oil and use it to exfoliate your scalp
- scritching  (to remove scalp build-up) holing a comb parallel to the scalp, gently move it back and forth to exfoliate the scalp
- chamomille tea rinses (anti-fungalmoisturizing) can be used as a final rinse after washing hair
- Neelibhringadi Oil (anti-fungal - contains coconut oil, moisturizing)
- herbal washes (to avoid drying the scalp)
- increasing fatty acids in diet : flax seed oil, walnuts, fish, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to avoid drying the skin)
- mineral oil/baby oil (moisturizing, but may be used to preserve fungus, so avoid if you suspect fungal infection)
- vitamin E, A, C, B12, B6, raw food in your diet can help skin health
- thyme essential oil (anti-fungal)
- mustard oil (anti-fungal)
- lime/lemon juice (anti-fungal)
- white vinegar (anti-fungal)
- egg (has protein so if your hair is sensitive to protein be careful, if your hair is damaged by chemical dyes it will help, anti-fungal, read more)
- yogurt (has protein so if your hair is sensitive to protein be careful, if your hair is damaged by chemical dyes it will help, anti-fungal, read more)
- combs, hair brushes, towels, pillow covers, hats, hair accessories, etc (can hold the fungus and put it back in your scalp after it's been cleared, so keep them clean)
- soaps (have a basic ph while skin has an acidic ph, so if you use shampoo bars or soaps to clean your hair, make sure you follow it up with an acidic rinse made with vinegar, lemon or lime juice - one tea spoon to a 8oz cup of water should work fine, but if you're using lemon be careful it can lighten your hair so do not use more than a half a tea spoon to an 8oz cup of water)

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