Itchy Scalp Diaries

Hi, I’m Victoria, and I suffer from scalp eczema. Sometimes it manifests as just itchiness, sometimes, actual scaly, waxy dandruff that drives me crazy.

I write this because as I’ve journeyed throughout adult life, when I mention this condition to friends, I’ve actually found a HUGE number of people (both men and women!) in turn light up and admit that they also suffer from dandruff or some other scalp condition, and have been battling it for years. I think it’s more common than anyone realizes. In fact, my hair stylist told me a huge number of women she sees ask about scalp health, and mention their dandruff. Maybe it’s stress related, maybe it’s the water, but experience has taught me many of us have it—so don’t be embarrassed if you’re in the same boat (because it’s a very full boat, as it happens).

So in my quest to tame my scalp, I recently picked up a bottle of this Cake: Restorative Scalp Tonic by Reverie. I’ve only used it a few times, but so far, so good: no itchies even a day after a wash my hair. Reviews talk about how it rebalances the scalp so as to kill off the fungus that causes dandruff in the first place, and it’s also just really soothing generally. However, it’s expensive (which should tell you how desperate I am to address the issue!).

So while I’m at it, I thought I’d share some other products and tips that have immensely helped scalp eczema, as well as things that cause flareups so you can avoid, too:

Diet

  • I definitely notice a correlation between what I eat and how itchy things get. For me, dairy and lots of carbs can certainly trigger scalp eczema. It doesn’t mean I avoid them completely—what would be left to live for?—but I keep it in mind if things are already irritated.
  • On the flip side, omega-rich foods are great for calming flareups. Feeling itchy? Try salmon for dinner.
  • I haven’t tracked this scientifically, but I’ve been drinking less alcohol lately, and it just occurred to me that while there have been itchies, that haven’t been nearly as bad. So…file that one away.

Shampoos

There are all types of shampoos on the market with different chemicals that are meant to treat the yeast/fungus that causes the eczema in the first place. So if you find Head & Shoulders doesn’t work for you, try something like Nizoral, or T/Sal (or anything with salicylic acid as the active ingredient), or Selsun Blue. These products all have different active ingredients to treat the problem—your particular itchies might respond better to one versus another. (If you really want to nerd out about malassezia, a common yeast on our scalp and skin, check out this blog.) Oh! A friend of mine recently switched to this super affordable, ACV-based shampoo and swears by it.

Other Treatments

If there’s a “scalp treatment” on the market, I’ve probably tried it. Let’s run down a few:

  • ACV treatments: in general, I find these calm my scalp, but don’t have a great long term effect on curbing the eczema. If your itchies are mild, you might try dpHue’s ACV rinse. Alternatively, you can make your own by mixing ACV with water in a squeeze bottle.
  • Tea tree oil: I do not find this effective, no matter how many natural beauty blogs swear by it.
  • Christophe Robin’s Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt: this stuff is great when I’m feeling inflamed, and just want a clean, fresh scalp. I find it does calm itchiness and irritation for about a day, but since there’s no actives in here to treat the source of the fungus, it doesn’t have a long term treatment effect. However, even as a clarifying treatment, this stuff is amazing and a staple in my shower! It comes in a mini size too, if you wanna try it out first.
  • Briogeo’s Scalp Revival Charcoal Treatment: Feels like a cool drink of water going on, and is pretty good to use pre-styling to prevent dandruff throughout the day. However, if you have moderate to severe eczema, it won’t save you. I did not find it to be a good long term solution given my condition.
  • Head & Shoulders 2 Minute Scalp Strengthener and Treatment: I myself have not tried this, but a friend who also suffers from scalp eczema told me this was the only thing that’s ever worked for him.

Physical Treatments

I’ve also found that how I physically care for my scalp makes a difference. To wit:

  • I bought this scalp scrubber several years ago to keep in my shower. It’s SUPER intense — so use it with a light hand. If your scalp is very inflamed, skip it, because it’ll just irritate it further. But if you’re looking to get rid of any scales, it can help loosen them very well.
  • Wearing my hair in a high ponytail or high bun seems to exacerbate symptoms on my crown. I hypothesize it’s because there’s less air flow, and/or the scalp oils can’t naturally move down my hair strands, so you get build up which feeds the natural yeasts on your scalp and makes things worse. If you’re like me and often throw your hair up into a bun but also suffer from scalp issues, try styling your hair and wearing it down more often. It does seem to help.
  • For me, the jury’s out on air-drying vs. blowdrying to manage scalp eczema. At some parts of the year, air drying seems to make symptoms worse; at others, I do just fine. Generally speaking though, I do find that when I blow dry my hair, I can get an extra day before any flareups take hold.

All this being said…after initial use of my new Cake scalp tonic, eczema has been kept at bay very well! Fingers crossed…I’ll update this post down the line to let you know if it was a permanent solve for my scalp woes!

If you suffer from dandruff or scalp eczema, what’s worked for you? Any holy grail products you can’t live without?

Shop itchy scalp solves:

Image Credits:: Yoann Boyer, Konzel Creative. Cake tonic photo by Victoria McGinley.

Leave a Comment

4 Comments

  1. 3.14.20
    Monica said:

    This is me! Mine has been diagnosed as psoriasis (not sure what the difference between eczema and psoriasis on the scalp is). I use a prescription steroid during flare ups and it helps a ton! I’ve noticed the same thing about air drying my hair, too. I like my hair air dried, but my scalp can’t handle it.

    • 3.31.20
      Victoria said:

      If you were diagnosed with psoriasis, a prescription is probably the better way to go for sure. But yes to hair drying, x100!!

  2. 3.16.20
    Sharona said:

    I’ve had good luck with this shampoo/conditioner combo from seaweed bath company: https://seaweedbathco.com/products/eucalyptus-peppermint-argan-shampoo
    It used to specifically say it was good for dry scalp/dandruff on the bottle, but I’ve been using it for years and the formula hasn’t changed. Worth a shot!

    • 3.31.20
      Victoria said:

      I’ve seen this before–maybe at Whole Foods? Thanks for recommending. I’ll pick up a bottle next time I see it at the store!

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