Basically, scaly scalp is a problem associated with scalp skin. In general, it is a harmless condition. However, it causes a lot of discomfort as it mostly makes the skin itchy after some time. When it is accompanied by hair loss, bald patches tend to appear which causes a lot of embarrassment. People of any age group including babies and small children may develop this scalp problem.
There are a number of health disorders that can trigger this condition. A few major causes have been described below along with their identifiable symptoms:
Dandruff: This is one of the most common cause of scaly scalp and every individual has suffered from it at one point of time or the other. The scalp skin sheds old skin cells regularly from its surface. This is an absolutely normal process. However, if the skin cells are lost at a higher rate than normal, then the dead cells cluster together to form gray or white flakes which we refer to as dandruff.
Scalp Psoriasis: This is nothing but the chronic skin disease psoriasis affecting the scalp skin. It is characterized by small scaly patches that are red in color and are painful at times. These patches can be found all over the scalp and may even spread to other areas like neck and behind the ears. However, it is not infectious by nature. It often gives a burning sensation and excessive itchiness on the scalp surface. Too much scratching of the scalp may lead to temporary hair loss on certain parts.
Seborrhoeic Eczema: This is also known as seborrhoeic dermatitis. In this condition, the scalp skin is inflamed mostly due to a fungal infection. The scalp fungus not only affects the scalp but also other parts mainly the nose, ears, forehead and eyebrows. It is a serious issue and is held responsible for scaly scalp in small children.
Cradle Cap: This is a form of seborrhoeic eczema mainly found in newborn babies. It can be identified with greasy, yellow scales on the scalp. The exact cause of cradle cap has not yet been ascertained but it is believed that it could be related to some maternal hormones that are passed on to the baby by the mother.
The treatment is based upon the underlying cause. Dandruff is not a very serious problem and does not require any medicinal treatment. Dandruff shampoos are available in drug stores, which when used once or twice a week, can help to get rid of the problem. As it is a chronic condition, one may have to use the shampoo for a long period of time. In case the dandruff problem aggravates further, specially formulated medicated shampoos have to be used to control it. While there is no permanent cure for scalp psoriasis, its symptoms are kept at bay with the help of medicated shampoos and topical creams that contains salicylic acid. Antifungal shampoo and steroid are also used for the treatment of scalp fungus. In some cases of seborrhoeic dermatitis, doctors prescribe antibiotic medicines for oral administration and topical application. Usually, flaky dry scalp in babies is not something to worry about and it tends to disappear on its own. Massaging their scalp gently with the tips of your fingers or a soft brush can bring about improvement in the condition.
Along with all these treatments, a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables is a must. Doctors often recommend use of vitamin E supplements to improve the overall scalp skin condition. If you are suffering from scaly scalp, you have to be extra careful while using hair styling products as the skin tends to get irritated by them.