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Scalp contact dermatitis commonly takes place when there is an allergic response to the ingredients found in hair dye, straighteners, and topical drugs. Fragrances, preservatives, humectants, and emulsifiers in personal care items can cause reactions on the scalp as well.

How do you know that you have allergic scalp reaction?

  • Your skin will itch, burn, and feel tender

  • Your scalp may feel dry, and flake

  • You can develop a red rash on your hair line, ear, or neck

  • Your skin will feel swollen

  • The symptoms appear one to two days after you came in contact with the allergen

What can be done to heal an allergic reaction on the scalp?

Seek medical attention if you have a rash, with severe swelling or burning of the skin. You will have to see a doctor if you have itching, that prevents you from working, sleeping or doing everyday routines.

Doctors can diagnose contact dermatitis based on your symptoms, and physical examination. Ask your doctor for a patch test which can be used to help pinpoint what you are allergic too.

What is a patch test?

During patch testing, the following will happen:

  1. Substances that you may be allergic will be applied to your skin.

  2. You have to keep the substances on your skin for a certain amount of days. Usually 2 days.

  3. When you return to the doctor’s office, the doctor will check your skin for reactions.

Your doctor may also prescribe an antihistamine. Oral antihistamines can relieve itch, but beware of antihistamine lotions, which can make itching worse.

A dermatologist can help you learn what hair care products you can use to prevent your symptoms. They have databases that can help determine what products you can use based on ingredients.

Are there any treatments you can do at home?

Try using cool, wet compresses on the scalp at the site of irritation. You can do a process of elimination with products that have ingredients you think you may be allergic too.

Ingredients that can trigger scalp contact dermatitis:

  • Paraphenylendiamine (PPD)

  • Propylene glycol (PPG)

  • Thioglycolates (permanent wave solution)

  • Preservatives: formaldehyde releasers, methyldibromo – glytaronitrile

  • Sulfates

  • Silicones

  • Petroleum Oils

  • Phthalates

  • Lanolin

  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine

  • Fragrances

  • Zinc pyrithione

  • Nickel

  • Adhesives used to attach prosthesis to the scalp.

  • Essential oils such as tea tree oil

  • Sodium Hydroxide

If the symptoms do not go away on their own, a doctor can prescribe oral, or topical corticosteroids. Be sure that the topical cream, or ointment does not contain ingredients that cause your itching, or rash, if you are aware of your triggers.

Sometimes you will not experience a rash, or itching the first time you use a product that has an ingredient you are allergic to. Your skin can become irritated to the ingredient when you use the product at another time. It will take a lot of detective work by you, and your doctor to figure out what is causing your scalp contact dermatitis.

Have you ever had an allergic reaction on your scalp? What did you do about it?

Read How to Care for Your Scalp with Seborrheic Dermatitis.

Here are 3 Ways I Combat a Dry and Itchy Scalp.