Scalp Inflammation: What is it and how to treat it?

    Scalp Inflammation: What is it and how to treat it?

    Scalp Inflammation: What is it and how to treat it?

    by Zheelana Cottam


    Many people suffer from skin inflammation and usually it isn’t very hard to spot. It can come in the forms of breakouts and blemishes, redness such as rosacea, or even flakiness from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. These signs of skin inflammation are relatively easy to spot especially once you look in the mirror. But not all inflammation manifests itself on the face or in other places that are easy to see. For example: scalp inflammation. Sometimes this affected area goes unnoticed due to its position atop of your head and the fact that it is usually covered by lots of hair. Meaning it’s very easy for an irritated scalp to go untreated. However, it is just as important to treat an inflamed scalp as it is to treat an inflamed face. It is still your skin after all, and it requires the same amount of TLC as the rest of your body. 

    It’s very easy to overlook scalp inflammation for many reasons and not just because it is hard to see, although that is the top reason. Basically, people often overlook their symptoms. Itchy scalp? That’s normal, right? It’s just a touch of dryness as the seasons change. Everybody experiences that. Or do they? This dismissive attitude could be causing your scalp to suffer, and you could be ignoring a much more serious issue that is hiding just beneath the surface. 


    What Exactly Is Scalp Inflammation?


    Scalp Inflammation: What is it and how to treat it?
    Credit: Getty Images. 


    “Scalp Inflammation” isn’t a medical condition. Instead, it is a broad term used for multiple types of skin related inflammation that manifests itself on the scalp which specifically refers to the top, back and sides of the head. When you are suffering from scalp inflammation your scalp becomes itchy, red, swollen, flaky, scaly, bumpy, patchy, inflamed, and uncomfortable. Oh, and in a worse case scenario it can result in hair loss. Common causes of scalp inflammation are seborrheic dermatitis, folliculitis, scalp pruritus, psoriasis, and others. 

    Seborrheic Dermatitis: 

    Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes a red, scale-like rash to develop on your scalp. The infected area on your scalp can look greasy, swollen, and develop white or yellow scales. Seborrheic dermatitis is often itchy, and when you itch it bits of dry skin will flake off causing dandruff. If your scalp irritation looks like this we suggest booking an appointment with your GP. 


    Folliculitis is a type of infection of the hair follicles. It results in small sores developing on your scalp that look very similar to acne bumps and can even develop a crusty texture that doesn’t heal. Folliculitis isn’t a painful condition but can cause itching and discomfort. It most commonly shows up on your scalp but can move to other parts of the body. If your scalp irritation looks like this we suggest booking an appointment with your GP.

    Scalp Pruritus: 

    Scalp pruritus is a common problem that can cause itchy scalps and discomfort. It is usually a symptom of underlying conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis as well as psoriasis. However, there are cases when there are no signs of flaking or scabbing which means the scalp pruritus could be caused by stress. 


    Psoriasis is a skin disorder that causes inflammation and the growth of thick silvery-like scales on the skin. It is caused because the immune system increases the rate at which your skin produces new skin cells. Psoriasis doesn’t just appear on the scalp and can occur anywhere on the body. It can cause redness, rashes, itching, silver scales on the skin, and severely dry skin which is prone to cracking and bleeding. If your scalp irritation looks like this we suggest booking an appointment with your GP and they will give you something to manage the symptoms.


    What Are The Common Signs Of Scalp Inflammation? 

    Scalp Inflammation: What is it and how to treat it?
    Credit: Getty Images. 


    1. Build Up On The Scalp 

    Build up on the scalp is one of the most common causes of scalp inflammation. This can be caused by natural build up such as an overproduction of oil or sebum, a build-up of dead skin cells, dandruff, a build-up of sweat, or even a build up of the products that you use on your head such as shampoo or hair styling products. When there is a build-up on the scalp it ends up suffocating the hair follicles and causing inflammation. 


    2. Pain On The Scalp 

    Scalp tension is a real thing and people hold a lot of stress in their scalps. However, not all scalp pain can be simply classed as scalp tension. Sometimes those feelings of discomfort and pain mean that you are experiencing follicle damage. When the follicles are damaged it causes swelling and that swelling can cause a tightness which inevitably affects the nerves in your skull. There is very little space between your skull and the outer surface of your skin. This would then cause pain, itchiness, and overall discomfort. In cases where you are experiencing discomfort or pain on your scalp it is always best to book an appointment with your GP or a dermatologist to get everything checked out. 


    3. Redness On The Scalp 

    Redness on the scalp is caused by many different things such as over-washing your hair, using harsh chemicals in your hair products such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, or having skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. All these things can cause scalp inflammation. There are two types of inflammation when it comes to redness. The first is a deep-rooted redness surrounding the hair follicle which is called perifollicular erythema. This is a rare condition, but you don’t want to leave it untreated as it causes hair loss and scarring on the scalp after long periods of time. The second is a superficial surface-level redness accompanied by scaling that tends to look like a rash. This is often psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis which are not harmful and can be kept under control with over-the-counter medicines from the pharmacy or a prescription from your GP. 


    4. Flakes & Patches On The Scalp 

    Sometimes you will feel no pain and experience no redness when suffering from scalp inflammation. Sometimes you will only experience flaking which is a different type of inflammation. This could mean the inflammation is starting underneath the surface and the only side effect you see is flaking on the scalp. Many people associate a flaky scalp with dryness and usually blame it on the changing weather without looking into things further. However, it is most likely because you are over-shampooing your hair (washing it every day) or opting for that can of dry shampoo every week instead of just scheduling in a hair wash. If you find that you have finally got your hair wash schedule down but there is still a lot of flakiness happening then you might need to treat your scalp with anti-inflammatory topicals prescribed by your GP.


    How To Treat An Inflamed Scalp? 


    Scalp Inflammation: What is it and how to treat it?
    Credit: iStock. 


    1. Investing In A Good Shampoo For Your Hair 

    When shopping for your shampoo it is important to buy one that will help minimise any scalp build up. This is best when you choose an all-natural shampoo that has natural anti-irritation properties such as the NO GUNK Fig Barbary Shampoo. This shampoo contains aloe vera which contain enzymes that help soothe scalp irritation and redness and is also anti-fungal which helps to reduce dandruff and the itching that comes along with it. There are also no harsh chemicals such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, silicone, or parabens so there should be no scalp irritation. 


    2. Regular & Thorough Washing 

    It is important to wash your hair regularly to get rid of any build up that is plugging up your follicles or irritating your scalp. However, it is also important not to wash it every day as this can cause drying. Specialists suggest washing your hair every 3-4 days. To thoroughly wash your hair, you need to completely dampen your hair before adding shampoo so that it can lather up properly. Only use the amount of shampoo stated on the back of the bottle. Focus putting the shampoo on your scalp and massage it in to get the circulation going. Try to avoid rubbing the shampoo into the length of your hair. Use warm water to help activate your shampoo and conditioner better. And always remember to be gentle so you do not aggravate your scalp or damage your hair. 


    3. Investing In Hair Products That Don’t Leave Behind A Residue 

    Lots of people's scalp inflammation is caused by the types of products that they use. Simply because they are full of harsh chemicals or because they are too heavy for their hair. This will cause your hair to weigh down, plug your hair follicles and cause a buildup which all leads to a bad case of scalp inflammation. In this case it is best to use products from brands such as NO GUNK as they guarantee that their products are completely natural from their Styling Funk to their Matte Lava Clay and leave no residue behind in your hair. If you don’t believe us you can test it out for yourself. All their products, especially their Funky Flex Cream, are extremely light in consistency and are nourishing enough that you can sleep in them overnight without worrying about them plugging up your hair follicles and causing any irritation. 


    4. Apple Cider Vinegar Treatments 

    There is research proving that apple cider vinegar can kill bacteria so we see no reason why you cannot give yourself an all-natural at home treatment to help your scalp inflammation. If you particularly suffer from a bacteria build up on the scalp apple cider vinegar might be the answer you are looking for. Make up a solution using two parts water, one part apple cider vinegar and periodically rinse in through your hair and scalp. 


    5. Booking An Appointment With Your GP

    If you have tried all the tips above and have noticed no change in the condition of your scalp then it is time to book that doctor's appointment. 

    Zheelana Cottam
    Zheelana Cottam


    Zheelana is a writer based in Cardiff. She has a BA Honours in English and Creative Writing and is a certified TESOL teacher. When she isn’t out hiking in the lush Welsh countryside, she fills her days with reading, journaling, and going out for food.

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