Your scalp often plays second fiddle to your hair. Until it starts begging for attention, that is. With several common conditions, your scalp may itch and get irritated.

DandruffDandruff

Dandruff shedding of the skin on the scalp that leaves white flakes on the head, neck, and shoulders. It may be a form of a skin condition called eczema, which causes increased shedding of normal scalp skin cells. Dandruff can also be caused by a fungal infection. Hormonal or seasonal changes can make dandruff worse

Treatment

Dandruff isn't a serious problem but it can be itchy and annoying. Though it can't be cured, dandruff is fairly easy to control with a medicated shampoo that contains one or more of these ingredients:

  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Coal tar
  • Salicylic acid
  • Selenium sulphide
  • Ketoconazole

 

Cradle cap

Cradle cap an oily, yellow crusting on a baby's scalp. It is common in babies and is not caused by an illness. Although it may look alarming to parents, cradle cap is a very common harmless condition and is not a sign of a more serious infection. It will usually clear up by the time the child is two years old.

Treatment

Cradle cap does not usually need any special treatment. Gentle washing of thebaby’s hair and scalp may prevent a build-up of the scaly crusts. To help soften the scales and loosen the crust, massage a small amount of baby oil or olive oil into the scalp at night. In the morning, a soft baby brush or cloth can be used gently to remove any loose particles and the baby’s hair can then be washed with a baby shampoo.

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Alopecia AreataAlopecia Areata

This happens when your immune system, which normally protects your body from invaders like viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks your hair follicles. It can lead to hair loss, often in patches.

Treatment

There’s no cure or any approved drug to help with symptoms. But your hair might regrow on its own. Medications for hair growth work for some people, but they don’t keep you from getting new patches. It’s important to protect exposed skin -- especially on top of your head -- from direct sun with hats, scarves, or sunscreen.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that’s not uncommon. In many cases, the scalp is affected and develops red, scaly, dry patches.

Treatment

You usually treat psoriasis with steroid creams or ointments. Shampoos with tar or salicylic acid may also be helpful. Ultraviolet light therapy (shining UV light on the skin to slow the growth of skin cells) is another option. Severe cases may need medication taken by mouth or in an injection.

Ringworm

Ringworm or tinea capitis, is a fungal skin infection that produces ring-like patches. It’s common in children.

Treatment

Scalp ringworm is usually treated with antifungal tablets, such as terbinafine or griseofulvin. Antifungal shampoo will not cure scalp ringworm, but can help prevent the infection from being spread to family members or classmates. These shampoos are available from your pharmacist. Twice-weekly use is usually recommended

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of the hair follicle, the sac that contains the root of the hair. It's usually caused by bacteria (usually staphylococcus) that find their way into the hair follicles from a nearby infection. The follicles also can be irritated from shaving, makeup, or clothing. Some people get folliculitis after taking a dip in a hot tub.

Treatment

Look for small, pus-filled pimples. Some mild cases will go away without treatment, but an antibiotic can help clear up the bacteria quickly. If shaving, waxing, or plucking is the cause, you may need to hold off on these for a few weeks to allow healthy hair to grow. Be sure to keep the affected area clean, cool, and dry.

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Head lice

Tiny wingless insects that cause itching and raw patches on the scalp. Head lice are most common in school-age children. Lice are wingless insects about the size of a sesame seed. They feed on blood, and the females lay their eggs on the hair close to the scalp

Treatment

To treat, parents can use an over-the-counter product with permethrin (Nix), pyrethrin (Rid), or spinosad (Natroba). Lice kits usually contain a special shampoo that is left on the hair for 10 minutes and then washed out, and a fine-toothed comb to remove any remaining eggs.