Ask the Advocates: Scalp and Hair Care Products
Many of us have had the experience of using a shampoo and then broke out with an eczema flare-up on our scalp. What a torture that can be! With scalp eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis, comes the need to be extra careful about the products we use on our head. But it's hard enough to find products that won't trigger or irritate our eczema. So, we decided to ask our team of advocates which scalp and hair care products they use to make the long list a bit shorter.
What shampoo or conditioner do you use?
- Jeff: I use Mitch Double Hitter by Paul Mitchell. I know it's not a traditional eczema friendly product, but as someone who has had severe eczema for the majority of my life, I've never had any issues with this product. Bonus-- it's also a conditioner. In the past, I've used T-Gel but I hate the way it smells.
- Noreen: Free and Clear Sensitive Skin Shampoo and Conditioner
- Liz: Pantene shampoo alternating with Paul Mitchell shampoo
- Karen: Pine tar shampoo when needed
- Larissa: I currently use Acure's pumpkin seed shampoo and conditioner. It is made of all-natural ingredients that are hydrating to the hair and scalp. Many of the ingredients are also organic.
- Terry: Alaffia, Neem & Shea Recovery Shampoo, Rosemary Tea Tree, 8 fl oz
- Ashley: Honest Shampoo and Body Wash and Shea Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner
What other hair care products do you use?
- Jeff: Styling cream - I use Clean Cut by Paul Mitchell. Once again, it's not a traditional eczema friendly product, but I had never had an issue using this particular styling cream despite my severe eczema and allergy issues.
- Liz: Mousse - Suave
- Larissa: Styling cream - I've used Aveda's smooth infusion frizz taming styling cream for my hair for years. It is gentle on the hair and scalp, made with many botanical ingredients and has a very nice aroma. I've been struggling with many baby hairs around my face since going through TSW, and this helps keep them at bay.
- Terry: Styling cream, hair mask, heat protectant - Sante Naturkosmetic Mousse Styling Foam, Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Hair Masque, Heat Protectant/Leave-in Conditioner/Overall Moisturizer - Remediis Argan Oil of Morocco
- Ashley: Leave-in conditioner - Shea Moisture leave-in conditioner. It is oil-based and leaves my hair and curls feeling moisturized without having to deal with the run-off side effects on my eczema.
Do you have any tips, suggestions, or experiences to share?
Jeff: I've found that Derma-Smoothe/FS scalp oil does a good job of treating my scalp eczema. The best piece of advice I can give is to NOT SCRATCH the scalp when it's going through a flare. I know it's easier said than done, but it just makes things that much worse.
Scalp eczema is a huge pain! Whenever I have a flare, I find that my scalp is extremely flaky. This is a huge problem because all the dead skin has a tendency to fall onto my shirt or work surface. In order to treat my skin, I always wash my hair in the morning. This has two purposes. First, it removes all the dead skin that has accumulated in my hair overnight. Second, I’m able to wash out the oil residue from my scalp eczema medication. Over the course of the day, I avoid scratching my head at all costs in order to avoid additional issues.
The many products I've tried
Noreen: I tried using coconut oil mixed with tea tree oil when my scalp eczema first started. I would massage this into my scalp a couple of days in the week. I later learned that this is not the best for your scalp, as it is harder to wash the oils out when showering. I then started using Novale-CT (found in India) shampoo, which contains coal tar and Ketoconazole - both are very helpful in reducing scalp itch and eczema. I used this for about 3-4 weeks and now my itchy scalp is gone! I now only use Free and Clear Sensitive Skin Shampoo and Conditioner for maintenance.
Sarah H: I don't use one for myself, but I did find a great one for my son when he was a baby. The Exederm baby wash and shampoo worked really well for him. It also didn't have a bunch of stuff in it that I would have a problem with (like parabens, which some "eczema-friendly" products do. It's also allergist recommended and carries the National Eczema Association's seal of approval. It's also relatively inexpensive, which many of the child/baby eczema products are not. At least, for us, a little seemed to go a long way.
Pine tar shampoo
Karen: When my granddaughter’s scalp starts to flake, peel, and itch, a pine tar shampoo usually helps. She applies it all over the scalp and suds it up. It's important to avoid her eye area. After rinsing, she uses a regular shampoo on the length of her hair. This helps the strands of hair retain their moisture and bounce. In the end, she uses a conditioner, again just on the length of her hair to help it detangle easily. Using the final rinse also helps to remove some of the smell of the pine tar. We have found any brand works and often buy the generic version.
Product and shower tips
Larissa: Dandruff shampoos have only aggravated the issue for me. Instead, I rely on natural shampoos and conditioners. I try to wash my hair twice a week. I've found this to be the sweet spot with my scalp. It allows my scalp to produce natural oils, but with this frequency, it doesn't get too flaky or itchy. I've also found a handheld showerhead aids in getting all products out of your hair - which if left in can be drying/irritating. Finally, if you need a little extra relief between washings, you can create your own moisturizing scalp oil. I've used castor oil or jojoba oil with rosehip oil to spot treat extra dry areas.
Liz: Rinse hair with cooler water
Drying vs hydrating ingredients
Terry: If you have oozing, weeping rashes, the best strategy is to find products with cooling and drying ingredients like peppermint, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil. If your scalp is dry/has dandruff and a lot of flaking, then you need more hydrating ingredients like calendula, rose and marshmallow root.
Ashley: On a monthly basis, I always like to do a deep conditioning for my scalp. Sometimes I'll gather my own, natural ingredients at home and create a concoction using items like coconut oil, vitamin E oil, avocado, apple cider vinegar and sometimes even raw eggs! (I know!) Other times, before I do a quick hair wash, I’ll just massage my scalp with some oil to get a head start on keeping my scalp flake-free. I do my best to avoid any products that leave my hair feeling hard and dried out. If I don't understand the long list of ingredients listed in the back of the product, that's usually an indication for me that it's a no-no.
Have you been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis?