Crusty Scalp

Crusty scalps are very common, they affect people of all ages and are a result of different ailments that can be caused by genetics, allergic reactions, contagious ailments or side effect from another illness. Curing your crusty scalp is simple once you have a diagnosis from your doctor and can move forward with the appropriate treatment.

Symptoms of a crusty scalp

Most often, the very first symptom you will notice is an insatiable itch on your head. While most of us have an occasional itch, this is something that is persistent and almost non-stop. Redness and flaking are also the most common noticeable signs. Don’t assume that the redness is just from scratching your itch, this redness will not go away no matter how much you avoid scratching. Lastly, you or your doctor will notice dry patches on your scalp. The color will vary based on the cause of your crusty scalp. You can expect to see white, yellow or dark patches.

What causes crusty scalp

There are numerous reasons why someone would have a crusty scalp. Here is a list of ailments that will cause a crusty scalp:

  • Contact Dermatitis (an allergic reaction to something you touched)
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis (dandruff)
  • Scalp Psoriasis
  • Seborrheic Eczema
  • Ringworm of the scalp
  • Head Lice
  • Lichen Planopilaris
  • Shingles
  • Eosinophilic Folliculitis (affecting HIV/AIDS patients only)
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis (affecting those with celiac disease or gluten allergies)
  • Lupus
  • Skin Cancer

Scalp issues are so common, you will either have experienced at least one of these in your lifetime or know someone who did. Fortunately, there are ways to treat the crusty scalp and even work to prevent outbreaks in the future.

Natural treatments for crusty scalp

Many of the symptoms and causes can be treated with simple, natural ingredients that you may already have in your home. Most natural remedies will soothe the red and quell the itchiness. In some cases, it will be exactly what you need to cure and prevent future scalp problems. Others may simply help ease symptoms while a prescription from the doctor will work at the source of your problem. Here are a few of the popular natural treatments:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Tea Tree oil (not recommended for treatment of head lice)
  • Argan oil
  • Calendula oil
  • Shea Butter
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

Before increasing your mineral or vitamin intake, or using any of the oils, do talk with your doctor first to ensure that there won’t be any interactions with current medications or medications s/he is considering prescribing you.

Over-the-counter treatments

When natural remedies don’t work and you aren’t severe enough for a prescription, you can look for over the counter options. Shampoos for dry and itchy scalps are very common and easy to obtain but you should read the ingredients. You will want to avoid anything that has a chemical that could exacerbate your symptoms or anything you already know you are allergic to. A general rule of thumb is to look for a dandruff or eczema shampoo with at least one of the following ingredients:

  • Tar
  • Salicylic acid
  • Pyrithione zinc
  • Selenium sulfide

You will also find plenty of natural shampoos that combine natural ingredients to combat the symptoms you are experiencing. It is perfectly acceptable to try those combinations to see if they will take care of your problem.

When it comes to issues like ringworm, you will want to look for an anti-fungal shampoo to combat your scalp malady. You can try to use the recommendations above but it will not remove the fungus like you want it to. Since ringworm is highly contagious and can cause hair loss, if any of the recommended OTC or natural treatments don’t give you relief within 12-24 hours you should speak with your doctor immediately.

For patients with shingles who have a crusty scalp, you may use some of the shampoos but you will need to also include calamine lotion to treat the scabs. It is best to comb, rather than brush, your hair gently to avoid scraping the sores.

Prescription treatments

A few individuals will experience severe symptoms to where they will need a prescription to tackle the problem. Denorex dry scalp shampoo (coal tar) is one such option that can help lift the flakiness, soothe the redness and relieve the itch. If you are prescribed this type of shampoo, make sure the doctor is aware of other medications you are on. This is especially important for patients with lupus, HIV/AIDS and skin cancer.

When you are experiencing a dry scalp from a fungus, like ringworm, you may have to take an anti-fungal medication to combat it internally before seeing results externally. Check with your doctor to ensure that it is okay to use an oil or topical cream to alleviate symptoms while taking that medication.

Maintaining a healthy scalp

After a bout of a crusty scalp, you will be motivated to do what you can to take care of your scalp and avoid having to deal with itchiness and flakiness. Here are some suggestions on how to maintain your scalp to keep the crusty away:

  • Avoid known allergens
  • Use shampoos that don’t have alkaline ingredients in them
  • Massage your scalp daily
  • Hot water dries your scalp, wash your hair with warm water instead
  • Don’t wash your hair daily – if you feel you must use a shampoo that has moisturizer in it
  • Use a boar bristle brush to brush your hair and brush your hair daily.
  • Treat your scalp with a lotion or oil once or twice a week to keep it moisturized
  • Minimize your hair products – gels and hair sprays build up and cause dry skin
  • Get your daily dose of vitamins – especially Vitamin D, Zinc and Magnesium

Some other helpful things are to avoid sharing combs, brushes and products to avoid sharing fungus or discovering an allergen. When it comes to patients with cancer or lupus, these maintenance tips can help but there will be times when you cannot avoid a crusty scalp. The best thing to do is to keep an arsenal of tools at hand and combat it the best you can.