Hair Care

Haircare and Scalp Eczema – Complete Guide

People with eczema find it hard to not use everyday hair products. Using shampoos, conditioners and hairstyling can make eczema worse. especially on our scalp, face and neck. These products can also trigger hand eczema which is a cause of contact dermatitis. If eczema is severe, there can be temporary hair loss.

In this blog post, we will be talking about the different types of eczema and what you can do to minimize irritation.

Atopic eczema:

This can affect any part of the body, including the scalp. A severely red and sore scalp can result in temporary hair loss, but the hair will grow back when eczema settles.

Seborrhoeic eczema:

This affects the oilier parts of the body, so it is very common on the face, scalp, chest, and including the hairline. Seborrhoeic eczema is a reaction to yeasts so, in this type of scalp eczema, treatment should include anti-yeast shampoos and creams.

Sometimes this type of type of eczema is confused with ‘sebo-psoriasis’.

In babies, seborrhoeic dermatitis is caused as a result of immature oil glands that overproduce a lot of greasy yellow scales. After 6 months, eczema will go away on its own.

Irritant dermatitis:

This is caused by anything that comes into frequent contact with the skin. Many haircare products can irritate the skin.

If you have any type of eczema on the scalp, it’s better to discuss it with your hairdresser and then set up an appointment. Here are some questions you can ask your hairdresser if you have any type of eczema on your scalp.

Contact allergic Dermatitis:

This eczema is caused by an allergy to a specific substance, and hair colourant can also cause this.

How to choose hair products for Scalp Eczema?

Hair washing and conditioning products:

Washing your hair can be a problem if you have eczema. Even if you don’t have eczema on your scalp, shampoos can irritate eczema on your hands or body. If you do have that problem, try using a hand-held shower head to wash your hair over the bathtub or basin.

Many shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) which is a harsh detergent. If you have eczema it’s better to avoid products that contain SLS and go for SLS-free shampoos.

There are also other ingredients in the shampoo that can cause eczema, so do make sure to look at the ingredient list before purchasing it.

It’s best to avoid the following known irritants to eczema found in many shampoos:

  • Avoid fragranced hair products.
  • Avoid essential oils.
  • Avoid tree nut oils (for example almond oil, argan oil, macadamia), especially for babies and toddlers, as there is evidence that atopic eczema can lead to the development of food allergy. Tree nuts are the most common food allergens. However, allergic reactions from nuts can be less as the product would be highly refined.
  • Avoid a preservative called methylisothiazolinone. This ingredient can cause contact dermatitis.

In some cases, the full ingredients might not be included in the packaging. What you can do is contact the manufacturer or visit their website and contact support. There are many baby shampoos that contain irritant ingredients, even though they may be marketed as gentle products for babies.

If you cannot find a shampoo that is suitable for you, you can wash your hair with emollients. lotion forms are best to use, as they mix well with water, but they might make your hair slightly greasy.

If you have hand eczema, you should always wear PVC gloves with a cotton lining to wash your hair. Ingredients in shampoos often irritate hand eczema and may be a cause of contact dermatitis.

Medicated Shampoos:

Choosing the right shampoo for scalp eczema can be a problem. That’s why it’s better to go for a medicated shampoo which can be brought from the chemist or prescribed. There are many shampoos you can choose from. There are tar shampoos for flakey scalps, and also dermax therapeutic shampoo.

If you have seborrhoeic dermatitis, you should go for an anti-yeast shampoo. Some emollient companies also manufacture shampoos for eczema and dry scalps that are fragrance-free. (for example, Eucerin DermoCapillaire shampoo).

If you have infected scalp eczema, you can use Dermol 500 lotion as a shampoo. It contains an antibacterial that can help in reducing bacteria on the scalp. It can also be used as a leave-on application.


Conditioners help to reduce friction between the hair fibers and this makes it easy to comb or brush your hair. Conditioners can also irritate scalp eczema because of the ingredients present in them.

One alternative to conditioners can be to use apple cider vinegar for scalp eczema. If your prone to tangles or knots, another suggestion is to use diluted mineral oil.

Note: when it comes to natural remedies, always consult a dermatologist, especially apple cider vinegar (as it can burn your skin).

Hair styling products:

These include hair gels, hairsprays, setting lotions, and products to make your hair shin and reduce frizz. These products can irritate scalp eczema and it’s best to avoid them. Try to keep a simple haircare routine by using only shampoo or an emollient for hair washing and then slowly introduce hair styling products.

Keep hairdryers on a warm setting as a hot setting can irritate scalp eczema.

Hair colouring and bleaching:

Hair dyes can irritate scalp eczema, especially permanent hair dyes as they contain an ingredient called paraphenylendiamine (PPD). Semi-permanent hair dyes generally do not contain PPD.

If your colouring your hair at home, make sure to check the ingredient list. PPD is often associated with henna but is only present in black henna, which is used for tattooing. The henna used for dyeing hair is orange-red henna.

Unfortunately, there are no hair dyes that are suitable for people with eczema. So, when buying hair dyes, make sure they do not contain PPD.

When using hair dyes at home, make sure to conduct a patch test. Place the product on the back of your ear or put it on the center of your arm for 48 hours or more. If you experience redness, irritation, and swelling, stop using the product. When you colour your hair at home, you won’t be able to avoid touching your scalp. So it’s better to go to an experienced hairdresser.

In the case of bleaching, it’s best to avoid it.

Perming and Straightening:

People with eczema shouldn’t get their hair permed, as all perm solutions usually irritate. Some people with eczema can tolerate acid perms as they are slightly less irritant than alkaline perms, which should be avoided by people with eczema.

Hair straighteners and curling tongs are very hot and can cause irritation, itching, and dryness to people with scalp eczema. It can also burn your scalp and damage the skin barrier.

There are many hair straightening products called relaxers, which are used by people with tight curls or curly hair. A relaxer is a lotion that works by breaking down the bonds of the hair and restructuring it making the hair straight.

A relaxer should be applied only at the scalp. Some people can be allergic to the chemicals in relaxers and some may get scalp burns from using these products.

Important note:

There are many ways you can choose your hair products, but the idea is to go simple and slow, as these products can irritate your scalp. Go slow and introduce products at your own pace.

Always consult a doctor before you choose any hair products on your own.

Hair loss and Eczema:

Eczema can result in patchy hair loss, due to flares and inflammation on the scalp. Hair loss in eczema includes thinning of hair, quality of hair reduces, bald patches. You can prevent hair loss by drying hair naturally or with a hairdryer on a cool setting. This will keep the scalp cool and reduce itchiness.

Hair loss in eczema can also be caused by braiding causing trauma to hair follicles. If you have scalp eczema, loose hairstyles would be more helpful to prevent injury to a sensitive scalp.

Questions you can ask your Hairdresser before you set up an appointment:

1. Do they have knowledge about the different types of scalp eczema and do they understand the issue and problems of it?

If a hairdresser doesn’t know how to deal with scalp eczema, then it’s better to stay away from that salon.

2. Do they have a hairdresser who specializes in hair color?

Hair dyes that don’t contain PPD are the ones that should be used for people with eczema.

3. Do they conduct a test patch for you?

They are more likely to conduct a patch test for people with scalp eczema. They will place the product on the back of your ear or at the center of your arm for 48 hours or more. If there is redness, irritation, or swelling after those 48 hours, that means the product is not suitable for you.

4. Can they colour your hair with minimal or no touch to the scalp?:

An experienced hairdresser will be able to colour your hair without touching your scalp- low lights and highlights are put on in packages, so the colour does not touch the scalp.

5. Do they know the type of hair products (hair products with no chemicals and fragrances) to choose for sensitive scalps?

Choosing the right type of shampoos and conditioners is also a critical part of scalp eczema.

6. Can hair dryers be set to warm and is the hairdresser willing to spend extra time for hairstyling in your appointment, if needed?

This is all there is to scalp eczema. Remember to go slow and introduce hair products one by one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions (you don’t want to irritate your scalp).