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Curly Nikki

Scalp Care Tips for Seborrheic Dermatitis

By January 27th, 202129 Comments
Scalp Care Tips for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Whenever there was a hair conversation in grade school, I never
failed to hear a girl say “my scalp is like a sponge, so I have to
grease it everyday.” At the same time she would eyeball my hair and (not
so) suddenly hint that I should invest in some Dax to do something
about the flakes on my shirt. Little did they know I have a life-long
condition called seborrheic dermatitis. Did it ever make me
self-conscious? Only when people would beg to pull flakes out of my
hair. Awkward much?

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition in which your
sebaceous glands overcompensate in oil production. It has been
attributed to environment, general health factors, genetics and
irritation from a yeast called malassezia. In case you are wondering,
yes malassezia is a categorized under the genus of fungi. Is it due to
lack of hygiene? Not at all. The condition has been passed on
genetically in my family and in the same way, it affects many men and
women with various hair textures and lengths.

The biggest setback in attempting to stabilize my condition was going
on an oil frenzy. Although a flaky scalp is commonly associated with
dandruff, if you are faithfully oiling your scalp and still experience
intense flaking and itching, you may have seborrheic dermatitis.
Applying scalp oils with the intentions of leaving them on will only
agitate the inflammation.

An increase in how often you cleanse is essential to reducing the
accumulation of flakes and dissolving the excess sebum from your scalp.
Below are steps to maintaining a clean scalp and moisturized tresses.

5 Scalp Care Tips

  1. Hot oil treatments: Apply oil to your scalp, cover
    your hair with a processing cap and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes,
    either under a hooded dryer or with a warm towel. This will loosen the
    flakes from your scalp. Gently use the pads of your fingers to agitate
    scales that may stick. This can also function as a great pre-poo.
  2. Cleanse: Co-washing will not be sufficient to
    remove the flakes, sebum and topical oil. Shampoos containing coal tar,
    pyrithione zinc or salicylic acid help to effectively clean the scalp.
    Make sure you focus on the scalp and do not overly smooth the cleanser
    down the length of the hair. Rubbing it along the length can cause
    excessive dryness and rough up the hair shaft.
  3. Deep condition: The shampoo will refresh your scalp
    but leave your hair feeling like it was put through a shredder….forward
    and reverse. It is inevitable that the cleanser will rinse along the
    length of the hair, so it’s best to follow up with a deep conditioner in order to reinforce and seal in moisture.
  4. Do not oil (or grease) your scalp: If seborrheic
    dermatitis is a result of your scalp overproducing sebum then last thing
    it needs are additional oils irritating the inflammation.
  5. Create a cleansing regimen:
    Straight-hair ladies are usually encouraged to shampoo almost daily, but
    that is not ideal for curlies. It will only be through trial and error
    that you will learn how fast your flakes appear and how you can
    incorporate the proper steps that need to be taken in your hair care
Any of you dealing with Seborrheic Dermatitis? How are you coping? 


  • Penny05 says:

    I was diagnosed with S.D. back in 2004. I've been using a medicated ointment on my scalp called Lidex. It has solved my flaky problem. And I use tea tree oil shampoo now. Say no to FLAKES!!! LOL

  • Stephanie Denise says:

    i used to have really bad scalp issues, but I went to the dermatologist and got prescribed a dandruff shampoo that pretty much fixed my problem. To make sure that the problem stayed away for good, I pretty much always do steps 1-5 that you mentioned.

  • Deanna H. says:

    I have been living with Seborrheic Dermatitis since 8th grade. I agree with going to a dermatologist. At the time I thought the doctor was crazy, but he told me that eventually I was going to having to stop relaxing my hair. Go figure! If I didn't I would keep experiencing increasing hair loss right above my ears, more so on the left side than the right. Now I have a patch that was severely affected by the condition. I use a prescribed mometasone furoate cream and selenium sulfide shampoo (I know….SULFATE yikes!!!) that i follow up with SheaMoisture products. I am always try to keep my hair moisturized and am finally seeing the results of some months of hard hair labor!

  • Lady ALJ says:

    AV gel soothes scalp and inflammation. I use to keep it in the car for mid day touch up on my hairline.

  • Lady ALJ says:

    I have SD, after a couple of years dealing with dermatologists visits, topical treatments and prescribed shampoos, I have been 2 years or so without a major flare up using 1 product and cutting another from my regimen anyone can get. I shared my "remedy" with a friend who did youtube vids on her SD journey, she starting doing it as well, and has been flare up free over a year herself.
    1. I loved-loved motions shampoo – but I had to give it and all other sulfate shampoos up, and I was still relaxed then. And that includes anything prescribed, t-gel, nizoral, selson, H&S is not for SD. The medicine might be helpful but the sulfates carrying it is canceling it out. I just started noticing a pattern and it panned out. It doesn't have to be organic but definitely sulfate free!
    2. Sulfur 8 medicated hair dress, lite or regular, both work. It doesn't take a lot, I would use a little bit after a wash & set in between the roller parts and not have to rewash my hair or deal with flakes for a week – where I was washing every 3-4 days before when I was relaxed. So no more stinging topical steroids, clobex, olux, flucconate. $4.99 jar of sulfur 8, after each wash and my scalp went from pink to brown in a couple of months. And I actually haven't used it in a year or so, but I still follow a strict no sulfate regimen and I am good.

  • EJ says:

    I neglected to say that I initially went to several dermatologists. I spent alot of money on prescriptions that provided only a band aid to my problem(15yrs worth). Just make sure you do your homework(ie take note of the ingredients in your hair products, diet, stress level, family history, etc), so you and your doctor are well informed.

  • alison MD says:

    The medicated shampoos (the ones the dermatologists prescribe) focus on killing the fungus. That's why they work so well. As a doc myself, I would second going to your doctor. But if you can't get to a doctor for whatever reason, you could try an over-the-counter antifungal shampoo, like Selsun Blue.

  • Ashe says:

    I am so happy about this article and also happy to find other fellow naturals with this issue! I have a home!!! None of my friends have it, so they never understood my frustration. Anyhoo, I have been using a a shampoo called Dermarest that I got from CVS, and it works pretty well. I also read that aloe vera gel can help a lot with SD as well. I think I am going to add that to my conditioner to see if it works. And I just started using sulfate free products, and also products without mineral oil and I have seen a huge difference. Hope this info helps anyone else out there with SD frustration!

  • CurvyCurly says:

    Oiling the scalp before shampooing helps to loosen the debris, product buildup, and flakes from the scalp before shampooing. No more oil on the scalp once hair has been cleansed and conditioned unless you develop a small dry patch which some people do, especially if you blow dry or sit under a hooded drier.

  • CurvyCurly says:

    I went to a dermatologist about 7-8 years ago and was prescribed medicated shampoo as well. The shampoo helped initially but I didn't want to have to use it long term. It wasn't until I did more research on certain ingredients that were irritants and contributing to my condition did I find a solution on my own. My daughter was diagnosed with S.D. and I started out using the shampoo as directed but eventually found a regimen that helped manage her condition as well without using medicated shampoo long term. I'm sure there are people out there whose condition may be worse and must stick with using the medicated shampoo for every wash.
    I agree with you and would suggest seeing a dermatologist, especially if home remedies or regimines have not been effective.

  • CurvyCurly says:

    Excellent tips. My daughter suffers from S.D. and I follow these tips almost to a 'T'. Shampooing is a must, co-washing does not cut it and I always follow cleansing with a good conditioner (preferably a D/C with heat). I don't use anything on her scalp unless she develops a dry spot and then I'll put a tiny bit of jojoba oil on that spot which takes care of it. I incorporated these steps in my regimen which helped eliminate my dry, flaky scalp issues too.

  • Mya says:

    I used to suffer from extremely dry scalp issues. Never diagnosed with anything but I did have really bad dandruff. My dermatologist prescribed a shampoo and treatment and they did help for awhile but once I started to use henna and sulfate-free shampoos my issues reduced tremendously!

  • supercmichelle says:

    I am glad to see this coming from a fellow natural as I too suffer from Seborrhic Dermatitis. Everything that I've learned about caring for my natural tresses has taught me not to use shampoos containing SLS but with this condition I find it necessary to do so weekly. The only shampoo that works for me is Head and Shoulders Clinical Strength. When using this weekly I almost never see flakes. If it gets really bad I do follow up with Sulfur 8 which helps to heal the sores caused from the flakes if I let it get out of control.Most of the time, I do not have to use it once I've gotten things under control. I plan to try using Tea Tree oil when I install braids (which I never get due to my condition) to test out its effectiveness but so far Head and Shoulders has been the only and the best remedy for my condition. As stated in the article above I focus on my scalp when using the shampoo then follow up with a moisturizing shampoo like Shea Moisture Retention shampoo then conditioner rinse then deep condition so I have to add more moisture because of it's use. I may also beging to incorporate hot oil honey treatments in the near future as a pre-poo as well….whew 🙂

  • nc17 says:

    try demerest, its a psoriasis shampoo, its at cvs, its the first thing I've ever used that finally stopped my itch

  • Christi Walton Biggers says:

    I always thought it was the damage I was causing to my scalp with the creamy crack that caused this issue. No one else I know has it, but THANK YOU so much for giving it a name! I have used prescription ointments in the past, but didn't have as much of an issue with the symptoms after my BC, so I thought it was over. Now that my hair is longer it's back, but I use Garnier Nutrisse Dry Scalp (with pyrithione zinc) once every week to 10 days. Followed by their Triple Nutrition 3-minute Undo as a deep conditioner. Thank you again for letting me know there's nothing wrong with me.

  • Karen says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POSTING. This must be what I have. I've been trying to figure it out for years now, everyone thought it was dandruff ("so wrong"). Nothing was/is working. I mean NOTHING. I've tried all kinds of shampoos (even from the doctor and health stores). I'm going to go back and ask my doctor to check if I have Seborrheic Dermatitis. If it is at least now I'll now what to do.

  • Traci says:

    I have been suffering from Seborrheic Dermatitis since I was a child, and the BEST tip is to see a dermatologist! The dermatologist can tell if you have Seborrheic Dermatitis, Psoriasis, or dandruff. Depending on what condition you have, the treatment options may vary. I have to use a medicated, prescription only shampoo twice per week (followed by a moisturizing shampoo on my hair only), but it has cleared my scalp condition almost 100%. I am a bit disappointed that no where in the article was seeing a dermatologist recommended as a first or last step. I spent a lot of money on products and home remedies when I should have started out by going to the dermatologist for a proper diagnosis.

  • Alicia says:

    They don't really contradict each other. With doing a hot oil treatment you was the oil out. If you're greasing/oiling your scalp, you are keepin the oil in until your next wash day.

  • Fadekemi Obanawu says:

    Very interesting.. Didn't know about this before. Glad to have read this.

  • Fadekemi Obanawu says:

    Very interesting write up.. Never heard of this before but happy to have read this.

  • Megan M. says:

    I have this as well, the only thing has been working for me is hot oil treatments with olive oil or coconut oil and my tea tree oil shampoo by petal fresh. I made the mistake of oiling my scalp with olive oil one summer my scalp was on fire!

  • Anon123 says:

    #1 and #4 contradict each other…
    for me the best thing was using natural tea tree shampoo (like Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat)

  • Amber says:

    I also have SD. It's chronic and annoying! To keep it under control, I was my cleanse my scalp regularly (about once a month) with raw African Black Soap and ACV. On a weekly basis I use Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle shampoo (I agree with the author that co-washing alone doesn't cut it) and then deep condition as usual. It will never go away, so I've just learned to live with it and treat it as best I can.

  • EJ says:

    I too have suffered with this, but I found several helpful solutions: 1) kera cares dry itchy scalp line works but if you use anything else it will come back. 2) if you use sulfate free shampoos and mineral oil and petroleum free products you will see a huge difference.
    Before you try 1) or 2) make sure you cleanse your scalp with 1 part apple cider vinegar to 2 parts water. This will help your scalp heal and get back to the proper ph. You would never know that have seborhic dermatitis too. I struggle with that corn flake dandruff for years! Hope this helps!

  • Marissa says:

    Thank you. Thank You, Thank You for this article! I was diagnosed with seborrhic dermatitis about a year ago, about the same time I started to wear my hair in its curly state. I suppose I've had it a majority of my life but wearing my hair curly must have triggered it. That as well as stress induced by planning my wedding. My thought is that with my hair being curly, the oil has less space to flow down my hair and gets trapped on my scalp. I have a prescription shampoo and foam that I use on my scalp which keeps it under control. For a while I tried to control it more naturally using tea tree oil containing products (Trader Joes Tea Tree Tingle shampoo and conditioner, Shea Moisture's black soap line) but they didn't cleanse my scalp well. To help my hair from drying out from the prescription shampoo I coat it in a cheap shampoo (Tressame Naturals) and then shampoo. This keeps my hair from absorbing the drying shampoo. I hope this helps someone!

  • Alicia says:

    I am so glad that you finally addressed seborrhic dermatitis! I have been dealing with this all my life, but it has flared up like crazy since I moved to the south. I wash weekly with Nizoral shampoo and only apply it to my scalp. After it sits on my scalp for about 5 minutes, I add a moisturizing (SLS-free) shampoo to the length of my hair, and then wash it all out. I deep condition every week (and add honey and coconut oil to it) and my hair is so soft and moisturized when I'm done. I have tried to "co-wash" in the past and my scalp laughed at me and rebeled! lol. I have my wash/hair-care regiment down and it works great for me.

  • randi tanksley says:

    I've been dealing with this scalp condition all my life as well. Just this year I started deep conditioning weekly and it's made a big difference. When I first began wearing my hair in it's natural state I thought I only needed to co wash it wasn't until I started using shampoo again that my itchy, flaky scalp started to look and feel much better. I also rinse w/ aloe vera juice (I leave it in after I condition my hair) or gel and it seems to be helping too. I keep a bottle of shampoo
    containing coal tar, pyrithione zinc or salicylic acid but lately I haven't had to use it.

  • LM says:

    I wonder if I may have this. I used to wash once a week with sulfate free shampoo. In the past few months I have noticed that my scalp starts to itch and flake only a couple of days after my wash. The itching has gotten so bad, that I have begun doing a cowash mid week. I still itch a couple of days afterwards, although not as intensely as before. Maybe I should try some of the cleansers mentioned in the article.

  • JackieC says:

    Shea Moisture's Black Soap shampoo, conditioner, and cleansing masque along with olive oil and tea tree oil treatments have helped a bunch. This summer I haven't had too many problems, but now that cooler weather is approaching I'll have to start washing once a week again.

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