Healthy Hair Ideas from a Dermatologist
Achieving healthy hair depends upon having a healthy scalp, because our hair arises in skin glands called hair follicles. Scalp conditions can cause itching, scaling, flaking, and even hair loss or alopecia. Fortunately, in 2020 Dermatologists like myself have many effective therapies to help improve scalp conditions.
So let’s take a look at some of the more common causes, and their therapies:
Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of scalp eczema or dermatitis causing redness, itching and burning, dandruff, and sometimes even hair loss or alopecia. Many Dermatologists feel that seborrheic dermatitis is due to a type of scalp yeast infection, so we can often manage it with antifungal shampoos and prescription steroid lotions or foams.
Psoriasis is another common cause of flaking and scalp itching, with about 1/3 of scalp psoriasis patients developing arthritis or pain in certain joints –psoriatic arthritis. Scalp psoriasis can be distinguished from seborrheic dermatitis by its clinical features, often responding to steroid lotions and oils, oral tablets, and certain prescription shampoos.
Sometimes fungal infections arise in the scalp, often from contact with other people with the same problem. Fortunately, we Dermatologists now have several effective oral medications to manage fungal infections, to help to avoid scarring in the hair follicles and hair loss.
And another prominent cause of scalp itching is what’s called contact dermatitis, meaning the person came in contact with a chemical that either irritated his or her scalp, or a chemical which he or she was actually allergic to causing allergic contact dermatitis. Dermatologists have developed a type of skin testing – called allergy patch testing – which allows us to check for allergy to certain culprit chemicals that can cause contact dermatitis. We test for reactions to certain fragrances, preservatives, and mixing agents, such as propylene glyol, common ingredients within toiletries, shampoos, and conditioners. To find a Dermatologist in your area who offers allergy patch testing, go to the American Contact Dermatitis Society web site, ACDS.org, and plug your zip code into the physician finder.
And there are many other conditions that can provoke scalp itching, including skin lupus and what’s called dermatomyositis. So sometimes Dermatologists take a skn test called a scalp biopsy, looking for features in the skin to help diagnose the root cause of the scalp issue. Sometimes these conditions lead us into using scalp steroid injections, or certain oral tablets, such as prednisone, hydroxychloroquine, or methotrexate.
My own Dermatology practice is in Cordova, Tennessee, but if you or a family member is suffering from scalp itching, or hair loss or alopecia, you can find a Dermatologist member of the American Academy of Dermatology close to you by going to AAD.org, then plugging your zip code into the “Find a Dermatologist” tab. Never itch in silence!
George Woodbury Jr. M.D.
Board-certified Dermatologist at Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates PC
8143 Walnut Grove Road
Cordova TN 38018