When flaking occurs on your scalp, it can only mean two things. One possibility is that you have scalp eczema; another is that you have dandruff. Dandruff and scalp eczema may seem like they’re the same thing but these are two completely different scalp conditions.
Scalp eczema is a symptom related to a chronic skin condition called sebaceous dermatitis or seborrheic eczema. The skin condition involves the inflammation or irritation of the skin as with all other types of dermatitis or eczema. With this particular type of eczema, the skin irritation only affects the scalp, face, ears, chest, and areas of the torso that have skin folds. Every time it is set off, eczema rashes will show in any of these areas without hesitation.
In contrast to scalp eczema which is caused by a chronic inflammatory skin condition, dandruff may or may not be chronic. Dandruff is simply a term assigned for the process wherein the scalp naturally sheds dead skin cells. Shedding of dead skin cells anywhere on the body is normal. In people who have regular dandruff, they can shed up to 487,000 dead skin cells per square centimeter of scalp. Those that have chronic dandruff, however, will shed twice as much than normal and show signs of it whenever triggered by an irritant. Flaking only occurs in the scalp with dandruff.
The scalp flaking with both scalp eczema and dandruff are actually the same. White and yellow flakes can be observed on the surface of the scalp, causing irritation and itching. The flakes can also be accompanied by redness of the scalp. An early case of sebaceous dermatitis is difficult to distinguish from dandruff, especially if scalp eczema is the only evident symptom. Usually, the sebaceous dermatitis has gone worse and already shows symptoms other than scalp eczema by the time that it is diagnosed. Severe scalp eczema which causes thick and greasy scalp flakes is also a symptom that can be clearly told against dandruff because it looks different.
Despite the similarity of scalp eczema and dandruff, they have different sets of causes. Scalp eczema and sebaceous dermatitis or seborrheic eczema is mainly caused by stress although the lack of vitamins B6, B12, and biotin, excess intake of vitamin A, and fungal infections have been linked to the skin disorder as well. Dandruff, especially in people who chronically suffer from them, tend to show signs of it as an allergic reaction to certain hair products that they recently used. But dandruff can also be caused by sudden climate changes (similar to scalp eczema) and excessive sweating.
There are different approaches to treating and preventing dandruff. Since it is an allergic reaction to the use of certain hair products, avoiding known scalp irritants are the best way to avoid getting dandruff. The use of dandruff shampoos can also help treat and provide relief from itching of the scalp with dandruff. These dandruff shampoos usually contain salicylic acid, sulfur, zinc pyrithione, and selenium sulfide.
Dandruff shampoos can also be used with scalp eczema to provide relief from the itching. However, since scalp eczema is mainly caused by stress, the best step is to take action against all stressors by getting enough sleep and the right nutrition. Psychological stress can be avoided by taking personal steps against it. Antifungal medications like terbinafine, Fluconazole, ketoconazole, and sodium sulfacetamide can also be prescribed with sebaceous dermatitis. Supplementation and diet changes can also be implemented, especially if the scalp eczema is triggered by poor nutrition.
Dandruff and scalp eczema have similar and dissimilar qualities to both of them with regards to symptoms and treatment. But these two conditions are not to be confused with each other because despite their similarities, they are two distinct scalp conditions.