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Cradle Cap on Babies head

Overview of Common Scalp Issues

Overview of Common Scalp Issues

There is nothing distressing than noticing small white flakes on your favourite clothing when, um, it’s not snowing outside. However, that dreaded dandruff is just one of several scalp conditions that can deflate how good you feel. With multiple common conditions, your scalp may be inflamed and get irritated. Following are five most common scalp problems that may affect anyone at any stage in their life.


It is harmless; however, it can be embarrassing and itchy. It appears as dry, white flakes of skin you brush off your shoulders. Dandruff really is not about your hair or how many times you wash it. Instead, it’s all about the skin on your scalp. It is not related to a person’s hygiene but washing and brushing the hair can help reduce its severity.

The primary culprit here is the skin cells that grow and die off too fast. Exactly why that happens is not clear. It is thought that a scalp fungus called malassezia can cause or make this condition worse. Its risk factors include the inappropriate use of hair products and having certain medical conditions.  Dandruff isn’t limited to adults. In babies and very young children it is referred to as cradle cap.


This scalp condition affects about 1 to 3% of the general population and anyone can get it, at any age. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition of the skin where the body produces fresh skin cells over a matter of days rather than the normal 21 to 28 days. It can affect any part of the body (including your nails). A typical psoriasis rash is made up of pink to red, scaly plaques with a characteristic silvery scale that can itch, hurt, crust up and bleed.

Because this is an autoimmune condition, there is no decisive cure, but this does not mean to say there is no means of treating it.



Folliculitis is the inflammation of the hair follicle in the skin. This can occur anywhere on the body, but on the head is called scalp folliculitis. It can be caused by bacteria entering the follicle by the damage caused by shaving or skin irritation (most commonly a staph infection), excessive sweating, potent hair dyes or heavy conditioners. It mimics acne and usually appears as little pus-filled vesicles scattered throughout the scalp.

Lichen planus

Lichen planus is another disease that affects the skin or mouth. It is not yet clear what causes it, but there are multiple theories, ranging from genetics to stress. It may also be linked to the thyroid disease, hepatitis B or C and dental materials. Like psoriasis, doctors have identified this as an autoimmune disease (your immune system didn’t recognize and attacks your own body cells by mistake) but have yet to determine the cause.

Individuals with lichen planus develop flat-topped, reddish, or purple reddish bumps on their skin that are characteristically itchy. Other symptoms include irritation, redness and (sometimes irreversible) hair loss.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

It is one of the commonest scalp conditions characterised by red, itchy patches with dandruff or greasy scale in an adult. It is not contagious but can be embarrassing. It shares many symptoms with dandruff, but is more severe, often coming and going with specific triggers such as stress, anxiety and seasonal changes (worse in winter and early spring). Although no definite cause has been identified yet, however “malassezia,” seems to be the most likely culprit. It is a yeast (fungus) that is present in the oily secretion on the skin. Some predisposing factors include a weakened immune system, including Parkinson’s, depression, diabetes and obesity.

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