Natural hair oils have been used for thousands of years to strengthen and beautify long, luxurious tresses. These organic essences add a touch of healthy shine, deliver important vitamins and nutrients, and impart a lovely scent to the hair. Modern beauties prefer natural extracts because they’re organic, healthy hair products that are free of potentially harmful additives like sulfates and parabens. There is a wide array of oils that impart important benefits. But what oil is best for your hair?
The answer depends on which benefits you are looking for. There is a wide array of hair remedies available for issues such as thinning, slow growth, dullness or dryness, or a sensitive scalp. Natural hair oils can nourish and add thickness, accelerate hair growth and provide additional moisture and shine.
Emu Oil: This product was previously an Australian beauty secret known only to locals; but now, the oil rendered from the emu’s fat has been proven to increase blood circulation in the scalp and increase hair growth. Emu oil is also unique in that it can penetrate the scalp to reach the hair follicle. Who knew that such a scruffy-looking bird could help the rest of us avoid bad hair days?
Essential Oil Complex: A fragrant blend of organic oils such as rosemary, lavender, thyme and cedarwood, this unique blend has been shown to regrow hair in people with Alopecia Areata, a condition which causes small round bald patches on the scalp. It can be found in certain products like shampoos, conditioners, and hair butter.
Sweet Orange Essential Oil: This natural hair oil has been a favorite for centuries. This organic oil imparts a heavenly scent to hair and also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Avocado Oil: Rich in vitamins and nutrients, this oil has anti-inflammatory and lubricating properties. It’s also beneficial for sensitive skin, or for treating scalp problems such as eczema and dermatitis.
Castor Oil: This provides a natural protection against drying agents or pollution that can damage hair and is also an excellent moisturizer for the hair and scalp.
Natural hair oils are widely available in health and beauty products such as shampoos, conditioners, pomades and butters, to name a few. They help promote thicker, healthier, faster-growing hair, are organic, healthy hair products, and have withstood the test of time.
Total hair health, especially for long, thick tresses, also includes proper grooming practices and caring gently for long hair. For instance, old wives’ tales such as brushing the hair 100 strokes at night, can actually damage long hair.
Long, luxuriant hair is a joy to possess and a delight to behold. Many natural hair oils can correct several issues and restore long hair to its vibrant, shining glory. Beauties who use proper hair care products, and practice gentle hair care grooming, will enjoy their lush “crowning glory” for years to come. Hope you enjoyed this list of the Best Hair Oils for 2013, leave a comment if you’ve tried them before!
Many women with textured hair find their curls to be delicate and vulnerable to weather and styling products. Their textured hair can be more prone to breakage and split ends, which can cause hair to appear rough and unkempt. It can be especially frustrating if you’d like to grow your hair longer. A great way to protect your hair while letting it grow and looking stylish at the same time, is to braid your hair. Braids always seem to be in style, but each season stylists come up with many different takes on the classic braided styles. Check out these ten great styles below to get some ideas.
Great protective styles for natural hair braids
Cornrows/Mini-cornrows: Beautiful patterns that work well with short locks.
Box braids: A nice choice if you’ve got some length.
Goddess braids: Wide, rich plaits that contour the head.
Combination style: Combining looks, when done right, can look gorgeous as well.
Long Hair Braid Styles
Braids in buns: Topknots, chignons, sleek, or “messy” buns are all popular.
Braids in ponytails or pigtails: Sophisticated or innocent, depending on how you style them.
French braids: A pretty, versatile option.
Fishtail braids: A striking pattern that is surprisingly easy to braid.
Milkmaid braids: 2 long side braids brought up over the head.
Single side braid: Chic and practical!
Braids are one category of “protective” hairstyles. But how exactly do they protect your hair, and what are they protecting from? Dry air, pollution, harsh hair products, friction against clothing, pillows, and even ordinary grooming and styling can cause damage to your hair. Also, for curly hair, each textured strand has fewer layers of surface cuticle than straight hair; this causes fragility and dryness, since moisture escapes from the hair shaft more easily. The mini-curls tend to get very tangled, and the result is more demanding care challenges. However, keep in mind that no matter if you have curly or straight locks, hair braiding styles with the right kind of regular care will put you on the road to stronger, healthier hair.
Braiding is protective because it weaves hair into firm intertwined patterns that keep the environmental stresses at bay. It helps hair retain the enriching, moisturizing conditioners and hair treatments you apply, preventing breakage and split ends. Braids mean less brushing, which can also cause splitting and breaking (some hair experts avoid brushes for textured hair, preferring wide-tooth combs and gentle finger detangling). And, very importantly, a well-plaited do can be kept in for days, and can be gently washed with an appropriate moisturizing shampoo and conditioner without unbraiding. This is true for both short and long braids.
If you do opt for long hair braid styles be sure they’re not too tight at the scalp. Cutting off the circulation can lead to a type of patchy hair loss called Traction Alopecia. Also, be sure to massage your scalp each day your braids are in so you can promote healthy scalp circulation. A good tip is to apply a quality hair oil during the massage to keep your scalp and braids hydrated.
The health of your hair is influenced by both your genetics and the hair regimen you follow. You may have been born lucky with beautiful locks, and have never had to concern yourself with anything other than basic hair care, while there are some hair care essentials you’ve been missing out on. Even the most basic hair care is more complicated than it seems, and many people have been accidentally abusing, mistreating, and neglecting their hair for years!
Even if you weren’t born with a great head of hair, with the right hair care routine, you can nourish your hair, help rebuild and repair years of damage, and eventually have a beautiful, shiny and healthy mane to be proud of. If you have neglected your hair until now, that damage can also be reversed, and you can start down a path to healthier hair by following just a few simple tips.
Whether you have beautiful hair naturally or your locks are a little lackluster, it is important for everyone to practice at least basic care steps, because they are necessary for maintaining your hair health. In order to feel our best, we must be the healthiest we can be. The four main types of hair maintenance are cleaning, conditioning, brushing, and styling. All of these can wreck havoc on your hair if not done in the right manner and with care. There are a few hair care essentials that beginners must know and practice.
First of all, stop being so rough with your hair! When shampooing, wash hair sparingly with a good-quality shampoo (sulfate-free options are your best bet). Pick the right shampoo for your hair type, and gently massage the scalp, concentrating on the scalp and moving gently down the strands. Remember, hair does not need to be washed every day; the typical suggestion is every 2-3 days, to avoid stripping natural healthy oils from the scalp. Always condition, and make sure you rinse out all residue to prevent build-up.
When combing out, start at the roots with a non-plastic wide-tooth comb, since these cause less breakage than regular combs or brushes. Begin by gently combing out all the bottom tangles and work upward, slowly and carefully combing one knot at a time. If you prefer brushing over combing, invest in a natural bristle brush, but never, ever brush wet hair, which is more fragile.
When you can, let your hair dry naturally. If you must use hot styling tools, always follow the directions, and use them on the lowest heat setting possible. Make sure your hair is as towel-dried as it can be, and never use irons or hot curlers on wet hair. Wear your hair naturally to prevent styling damage, and avoid additional damage by treating and coloring your hair sparingly. Also, trim your hair regularly to get rid of split ends, and give your hair the best chance to grow.
There are also a few hair care tips for beginners that might not be as obvious as hair maintenance. These include eating a healthy diet and avoiding stress. Doing both of these will help your hair look the best possible while being healthy.
There are many hair care tips to keep in mind in order to have the healthiest and most beautiful hair possible. Just remember, it’s never too late to start properly caring for your hair!
So, you’ve decided to grow your hair out with the best products, protective styling, and extra brushing to promote scalp circulation. But did you know that the less you brush your hair, the better – especially if your hair is already damaged from chemicals or the environment. It’s true: all of your best hair care and protective styling efforts could be in vain if you damage your hair beyond repair with excessive brushing. Your best bet is to trade in your brush for a comb as you care for and protectively style your growing hair.
When the “100 strokes a day” method first materialized, women washed their hair with soap just once each month, or once every three weeks if they were wealthy and had a lot of time on their hands. Serious brushing was needed each day to remove debris from the scalp and to evenly distribute the scalp oils down the hair shaft.
Without brushing so many strokes a day, this oil and debris would have built up on the scalp, leaving the hair looking unclean and unkempt. In addition, the ends would have become dry and brittle unless a substitute oil were applied. And, since scalp massage wasn’t widely practiced, circulation to the scalp would have been diminished, seriously hampering healthy hair growth.
Fortunately, today we wash our hair much more frequently, and with slightly acidic shampoos that don’t swell the hair shaft and cause cuticle damage like soap does. We also have a plethora of hair oils and conditioners, both rinse-out and leave-in, that fortify and protect our strands.
Despite the modern hair care marvels, however, the advice to “brush 100 strokes a day” continues to persist. In fact, it’s one of the top hair health questions I’m asked on a regular basis. I always recommend against brushing 100 strokes a day and here’s why:
Excessive brushing wears away the hair’s cuticle – its protective covering. The cuticle becomes “roughed up” and catches on other hairs, causing mats and tangles. If the cuticle continues to erode, the inner cortex will be exposed and wear down, seriously weakening the hair. Once the cortex goes, the hair is likely to split and break off.
For women with shoulder-length and longer hair, and especially those who chemically process their hair, I recommend only using a brush when you absolutely must. Instead, invest in a smooth wide-tooth comb. Use it to protectively style your hair by creating a loose updo, tucking the ends underneath, and securing with a hair stick, coated bobby pins or other hair-friendly fasteners.. At the end of the day, let down the updo and use the comb to gently detangle hair and massage your scalp to encourage circulation.
The best combs are handmade from cellulose acetate, a non-petroleum based material that’s actually created from wood pulp even though it resembles plastic. Cellulose acetate is very tough and resists breaking, yet is smooth and flexible, allowing you to comb without hurting your hair or scalp.
I recommend that women with damaged hair use a comb anytime they would normally use a brush – to detangle, style, or to “comb out” before bed. Be very gentle, and always start combing from the bottom of your hair and work your way up as you undo any snarls.
When using a comb, you’re more likely to take your time instead of tearing through your hair like you would with a brush. That’s because a comb won’t slide through tangles, even with a lot of force, like with a brush. You have to gently work out the tangle, which is ultimately better for your hair.
Instead of brushing as a way to stimulate the scalp and promote circulation, opt for a soothing scalp massage instead. Use your fingertips to gently manipulate the scalp, so you’ll draw nutrients to the surface without harming the hair shaft.
It just doesn’t make sense to use quality hair products when you’re damaging your hair shaft with rough brushing. Since the only way to “repair” split or severely damaged hair is to cut it off, it makes sense to follow these hair care tips and prevent the problem in the first place.
I’ve been losing a lot of hair lately: in the drain, on my pillow, the back of my shirt, and in my hair brush. Strands and strands come out when I run my fingers through my hair. I haven’t panicked about it yet because, although it seems to be coming out at an alarming rate, my hair doesn’t appear noticeably thinner. So what’s going on? Why am I losing my hair?
Sometimes, it’s easier to diagnose people other than yourself when you’re a doctor, a dentist, or a trichologist like me. Once I came to terms that yes, my hair loss is excessive and not just a figment of my imagination, I started asking myself the tough questions: when did you first notice the hair fall, has your hair thinned to the point you can see your scalp, did you start/stop any new medications, are you nutritionally deficient? Then I asked myself, “did anything traumatic happen 2 to 5 months ago?”
The reason that question is important is that a shock to the system such as surgery, a high fever, or severe psychological stress can cause the hair bulb to stop producing hair cells in its usual rapid fashion. This intermission in cell proliferation can cause hair to fall out once those altered cells reach the scalp, i.e., in about 3 months.
Turns out, I had minor surgery 3 months ago. Since no surgery is truly “minor,” the procedure must have shocked my system enough to alter the rapidly dividing cells in my hair follicles. It was a relief to have a diagnosis: Telogen Effluvium (latin for “outflow” of hair in the telogen, or resting phase of hair growth). And to know that the disturbing hair fall usually corrects itself and growth returns to normal within several more months.
In the meantime, I plan to treat my scalp gently — with Longhairlovers products, of course! — and to spend time each night massaging in our Rare Hair Oil, which I know will penetrate my scalp to revive my follicles at the root.
Here’s more from a paper I wrote on Telogen Effluvium for The College of Trichology:
Telogen Effluvium (TE) Hair falls out during the Telogen, or resting phase of hair growth. The hair that has shed can be recognized as in the Telogen phase by small keratin bulbs on the root end that are rigid (root bulbs on anagen hairs are soft, pre-keratinized tissue). In addition, the diameters of telogen hairs taper toward the bulb and have little or no pigmentation.1
TE presents as diffuse hair loss all over, but mostly on the top, of the scalp. Thus, it does not appear in circumscribed areas that are clearly defined. There is usually no definitive receding of the hair line or patchy bald spots. Hair may appear noticeably thinner but does not lead to complete balding. TE can be caused by a shock to the system, such as a prolonged and high fever, the commencement or cessation of medication, childbirth, surgery, trauma, chronic stress, a change in diet, or the onset of an illness. It is usually noticed by the patient around 3 months following the event. Once the underlying cause is corrected, TE usually stops and hair regrows within 3 to 6 months.
On a recent trip to Ontario, Canada, I came across an interesting display at Fort Malden in Amherstburg. Fort Malden was the site of the British Fleet during the War of 1812 and had previously been inhabited by the First Nations people of the Eastern Woodlands. These include the Iroquois and the Algonquians.
The display included long braids of hair that had been found embedded in the heart of a tree. First Nations historians believe the braids were used to perform a form of black magic. The practitioner placed the braids of his or her victim deep in the tree in winter. In the spring when the sap rose in the tree, the victim would be symbolically “drowned” and no longer a threat.
Using hair for magic rituals is a common thread among all cultures. From the early Africans and Celts, through the Victorians and even today, many people believe that hair is a microcosm that holds the essence of a human being. Thus, in the right hands, hair can be a sentimental keepsake or a magical manipulator. Powerful stuff, indeed.
I have one very serious question for you. How much of your long hair do you have to lose before you love yourself?
My face is too round, my nose sticks out too much, I need to hide my wrinkles, I hate my stretch marks, I’m too fat for long hair; the list of self-negative statements goes on and on. 31 years ago when I began hairdressing I thought that cutting hair was the most important thing to learn, but now I have realised the big picture.
Hairdressing is much more than up-do’s and perms, it’s much more than changing the colour of someone’s hair, it’s about changing people’s attitudes toward themselves. Changing a person’s outward appearance is really a small part of being a hairdresser. It took me ten years to perfect my cutting skills, but that was easy compared to learning people skills.
Every day I hear amazing stories about life and the universe from my clients, they come to me for much more than a new look.
So where am I going with this discourse? Some of the stories I hear from my clients are repetitive, like the ones I’ve mentioned, (My face is too round, my nose sticks out too much, I’m too fat for long hair, bla bla bla), but for the most part I am enlivened by the beautiful and often dramatic lives of the women I meet every day.
This article is dedicated to a very special client named Kerry with whom I have bonded on a philosophical and spiritual plane…When I first met Kerry she exuded health and vitality, ambition and an amazing passion for life.
Tall, attractive and confident, and every man’s dream. Little did I realise that under the vivacious facade was a woman dealing with serious life issues. When Kerry told me she had breast cancer I admired her for her calmness and strength but was a little unnerved by her willingness to discuss her condition.
It was some time before I saw Kerry again. She was still full of beans even though she had undergone surgery to remove both her breasts and she was facing the possibility of more tumours and more surgery, chemotherapy-the works. I was astonished at her calm outlook on life and inspired by her positivity in the face of something so traumatic.
Kerry bounced into the salon ten weeks later with long red hair and because I had cut her hair quite short last time, it took me a minute to realise she was wearing a wig. “Can you do anything with this?” she laughed as she wrenched the wig from her head revealing her bald head. Even though she had lost her hair from chemotherapy she was still in love with life and more importantly, herself! We trimmed the wig and she left the salon looking like a million bucks as usual, leaving all of us with a smile on our faces. To be honest I shed a tear because I wasn’t sure if I would ever see Kerry again. As a hairstylist, you just never know.
Thankfully, I have seen Kerry many times since that day, her hair has grown back and even though it’s frizzy she loves it because she believes its a symbol of her of her inwardly projected security and outwardly projected courage. I’ve related this story to you because Kerry was one of those women, (clients), that had openly shared her unloved parts with me, much like the thousands of women before her and the thousands after. Hers went more like this. “I’m too tall, and I think my breasts are too small.” I wish I had a buck for every time a women has said those words to me. Yep, you’re right, I’d be even more wealthy!
Now listen up, here’s where it gets interesting. After all she had been through she had the courage to face life and believe in the beauty of her existence no matter what physical and mental hardship was to come her way. It gets deeper than this.
I’d like to finish with some inspirational words from this truly beautiful woman and hope that they will engender in all who read them a sense of self worth that outshines the beauty myth that seems to be such a big part of our everyday life for women.
I’ll never forget the day these words fell from her mouth…
“When I stand naked in front of the mirror, no hair and no breasts I see a whole new me and I love myself more than ever before. It cost me my breasts before I realised that there was nothing wrong with me or them in the first place and I feel more complete now than I have ever before. I love all of me for the great person I am and not for how I would like others to see me.”
Thank you Kerry for allowing me to share your story with others and for being the wonderful person you are.
My 8-year old daughter and I were swimming at a public pool one day this summer when she suddenly exclaimed, “That’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen! She’s like an angel.” I turned to see the girl, about 16, with alabaster skin and snow white hair, making her way into the water. I immediately recognized her as a person with albinism, a pigment disorder that affects the hair, skin, and eyes. Although I didn’t want to stare, it was difficult to look away from such luminous, and fragile, beauty.
Because people with albinism lack melanin to protect their skin, they must be very careful in the sun. In just a few short moments, she was out the pool, wrapped in a protective towel and seeking shelter under an umbrella.
I approached what turned out to be the girl’s grandmother, to share my daughter’s appreciation of this unfamiliar form of beauty. The grandmother was touched by the comments and explained that albinism made her granddaughter extremely self conscious. We discussed how any difference will make a 16-year old feel like an outsider, let alone a rare genetic disorder. But we hoped that my daughter’s comments would help the girl to feel beautiful instead of different, if only for a few moments.
Turns out, my daughter isn’t the only one who marvels at the majesty of albinism. Brazilian artist Gustavo Lacerda has created a photographic portfolio of people with albinism to celebrate ’those who have always been an outsider.’ In an interview with The Daily Mail, Lacerda said that many of his subjects’ discomfort turned to pride as the photo sessions progressed. To view Lacerda’s stunning images, please visit Lacerda’s web site.
By Jennifer Bahney for The Trichological Society’s College of Trichology
Androgenetic Alopecia (also called androgenic alopecia) affects both men and women and is often referred to as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. It is a non-reversible form of genetically determined hair loss characterized by a marked decrease in terminal hair density as well as in hair shaft diameter. Although the pattern of hair loss appears differently in men and women, the underlying cause is the same: genetic disposition combined with the sex hormones called androgens. Androgens stimulate development of the male sex organs and also regulate hair growth and sex drive in both genders.
Specifically, the androgen testosterone converts into DHT (dyhydrotestosterone) with the help of 5 alpha reductase, an enzyme involved in steroid metabolism. A combination of DHT and genetic disposition facilitates a reduction in anagen (growth phase) as well as follicles that appear to shrink in diameter over time. According to Lacharriere et.al., “diversity in hair diameter is the main and most accurate clinical parameter linked to follicle miniaturization.”1
Eventually, thick terminal hairs are replaced by fine vellus hairs (less than .03 mm in width). In some people, remaining terminal hairs may become shorter and coarser, resembling public hair. Of all ethnic groups, Caucasoids have been shown to suffer more from AGA than Afroids or Mongoloids.
Genetic research suggests that AGA is linked to genes on an X chromosome.2
In a major 2007 study, German researchers found that a specific variant of the androgen receptor gene, which is recessive, is needed to trigger AGA. Thus, a woman would need two X chromosomes with the defect to develop AGA.
In addition to genetics and androgens, women tend to have additional hormonal imbalances or conditions that may also play a role in the onset of AGA and its treatment.
Male Pattern Baldness
Men with AGA typically have higher levels of 5 alpha reductase, lower levels of total testosterone, higher levels of unbound/free testosterone, and higher levels of total free androgens including DHT.3 Age may also play a part in triggering the genetic onset of male AGA.
In the classic form of male pattern balding, hair is lost in a well-defined pattern beginning above both temples and at the crown of the head. As hair loss progresses, a rim of hair may be left from ear to ear in a pattern called “Hippocratic balding.”4
A reliable scale to determine the progression of male pattern baldness was developed in the 1950s by Dr. James Hamilton and expanded in the 1970s by Dr. O’Tar Norwood. Actual progression varies from patient to patient and may not automatically lead to further balding.
In addition to consulting the Norwood-Hamilton Scale, trichoscopy can be helpful in diagnosing male AGA. Current trichoscopy magnifications range from 10-fold to 70-fold. Trichologists should look for the following criteria:
increased percentage of thin hairs
decreased average hair diameter
predominance of hair follicles with single hair shafts
presence of yellow dots
Female Pattern Baldness
In addition to genetic predisposition and the presence of androgens, other hormonal factors stemming from the endocrine system often play a part in cases of female AGA. Conditions to be aware of include:
Hypo- or hyperthyroidism
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Peri-menopause and Menopause
Female AGA is very different from men’s in that it presents as diffuse thinning throughout the scalp. The Ludwig scale is the standard classification for female pattern baldness. However, in 1999, Olsen further categorized female AGA into 3 stages beginning with greater loss at the frontal region and tapering back toward less hair loss in the occiput.5
Stage 1: Mild to moderate frontal accentuation loss
Stage 2: More severe frontal accentuation mixed with diffuse hair loss
Stage 3: Continued diffuse thinning giving a more extreme appearance of hair loss.
According to Olsen, this “Christmas tree pattern” of hair loss accounts for 70% of female pattern loss.
Inga Zemite, MD, MTTS, offers an explanation for the unique pattern. She states that women with female pattern hair loss have higher levels of 5 alpha reductase and anagen receptors in frontal hair follicles, while having high levels of cytochrome p-450 aromatase in frontal and occipital follicles that saves some hairs from falling out.6
An abundance of estrogen may account for the somewhat slower progression of AGA in women than in men. Once menopause sets in, however, causing the permanent cessation of ovarian function including estrogen production, AGA may be triggered or sped up in women who are genetically predisposed.
Women exhibiting symptoms of AGA (thinning hair with decreased diameter of the hair shaft) can be further diagnosed using trichoscopy. According to Rakowska, et.al., major diagnostic criteria for female AGA using a trichoscope include:
increased number of yellow dots and thin hairs
decreased average hair thickness in frontal area.
Minor criteria include: increased frontal area to occiput ratio of single-hair units (>2:1) vellus hairs (>1.5:1) and follicles with perifollicular discoloration (>3:1) Fulfillment of 2 major criteria or 1 major and 2 minor is necessary for diagnosis.7
Current effective treatments for AGA include:
Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar): An inhibitor of 5 alpha reductase, the enzyme that that converts testosterone to DHT. Approved only for use in men, as it can cause birth defects in women. Taken orally, the drug is shown to improve hair growth on the crown, with a recurrence of loss within 12 months when treatment is interrupted. Side effects include impotence and a possible increase in the risk of prostate cancer.
Minoxidil (Rogaine): A powerful vasodilator, Minoxidil is applied topically to prolong anagen in the vertex region of the scalp. It is approved for use in both men and women. It can take 6 to 12 months for hair to show an increase in number and diameter. Hair loss resumes if treatment is interrupted. Side effects include skin irritation.
Dutasteride (Avodart): Oral inhibitor of 5 alpha reductase not generally prescribed for female AGA. Side effects include impotence.
Spironolactone (Aldactone): Topical anti-androgen that inhibits DHT from attaching to receptor sites. Side effects include muscle weakness and drowsiness.
Hair Restoration Surgery: follicular grafting, scalp reduction, flap rotations. Side effects include scarring and infection.
Dawber, Rodney, Ed., Diseases of the Hair and Scalp, Third Edition, Blackwell Science, Malden, MA, 1997.
Olsen, Elisa A.,Ed., Disorders of Hair Growth, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2003.
Rakowska, Adriana, et.al., Trichoscopy Criteria for Diagnosing Female Androgenic Alopecia, http://precedings.nature.com/documents/1913/version/1 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2938574/
Rudnicka, Lida, et.al., Trichoscopy: A New Method For Diagnosing Hair Loss, Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 2008. http://www.trichoscience.msk.ru/publications/news.pdf
U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002160/
1Rudnicka, Lidia, et.al, Trichoscopy: A New Method For Diagnosing Hair Loss, http://www.trichoscience.msk.ru/publications/news.pdf
By: Jennifer Bahney for The Trichological Society’s College of Trichology
The word “eczema” comes from the Greek word for “to boil over.” It applies to a broad range of skin conditions and is most commonly considered a form of dermatitis, a condition causing the epidermis (outer layer of skin) to become inflamed in the form of a rash. For this reason, eczema may also be called dermatitis eczema and eczematous dermatitis.
In some languages, dermatitis and eczema are often one in the same. In still other languages, dermatitis is considered to be an acute condition (one that is treatable) and eczema to be a chronic condition (a prolonged condition that requires long-term management).1
Symptoms include dry and recurring skin rashes with redness, swelling, itching, crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing, or bleeding. Excessively scratching an eczema lesion may lead to infection and scarring.2
In 2001, the European Academy of Allergology and Climincal Immunology (EAACI) simplified the nomenclatures for allergy-related eczemas:3
- Atopic eczema (also, atopic dermatitis): An allergic disease believed to run in families where members also have asthma. Characterized by an itchy rash on the head, scalp, neck, inside of elbows, behind knees, and buttocks.
- Contact dermatitis: Can be caused by an allergic reaction to an allergen like poison ivy, or an irritant such as a harsh detergent. Usually curable once the offending substance is removed from skin contact.
- Xerotic eczema (“Winter Itch”): Itchy, dry skin on the limbs and trunk due to cold, dry weather. Lesions may resemble a cracked river bed.
- Seborrhoeic dermatitis (“cradle cap” in infants): Closely related to dandruff. Causes dry or greasy peeling of the scalp, eyebrows and face. Can also appear in skin folds in the arms, legs, breasts, etc. Cradle cap in infants results in a thick, crusty, yellowish scalp rash that is not harmful but may be related to biotin deficiency.
Less common eczemas include:
- Dyshidrosis: Occurs as tiny opaque bumps (“vesicles”) on the palms, soles of feet, and sides of fingers and toes. Can become worse at night and in warm weather.
- Discoid eczema: Presents as round spots of rash that can be oozing or dry. Often appears on the lower legs and can be worse in winter.
- Venous eczema: Redness, scaling, and itching often appears in the ankle area of older people with impaired circulation including varicose veins and edema. Often predisposes leg ulcers.
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (Duhring’s Disease): Causes an itchy, symmetrical rash on arms, thighs, knees, and back. Directly related to celiac disease and can be managed with proper diet.
- Neurodermatitis (lichen simplex chronicus): Itchy patches of thickened skin resulting from constant rubbing and scratching. Curable through behavior modification and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Autoeczematization: Itchy patches caused by a parasitic, fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. Curable with the infection’s eradication.
Eczemas may also be the result of underlying diseases such as lymphoma, and from reactions to ingested medications, foods, and chemicals.
Seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp may be caused by an overproduction of sebum. The resultant greasy scales may lead to an overgrowth of normal skin fungus called Mallasezia (previously called pityrosprum), which causes flakes known as dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis frequently extends beyond the hair onto the forehead, behind the ears, and onto the neck, including a man’s beard.4 Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp will only cause harm if the patient’s excessive scratching breaks the skin and leads to infection. According to Olsen, severe seborrheic dermatitis may be accompanied by mild to moderate telogen effluvium (excessive shedding of scalp hair).5
The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown but may be dependent on androgen production and sebaceous activity. Babies with SD often have a recurrence of the condition in adolescence and early adulthood when sebaceous activity is active. In addition, patients with Parkinson’s disease, cerebovascular accidents, head trauma and epilepsy often have elevated sebum excretion plus a higher incidence of SD.6 According to Olsen, the cause of abnormal sebum production may be due to abnormalities in the stratum corneum, with poor adhesion of keratinocytes and excessive intercellular lipid shouldering the blame.
On the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis is often treated by removing the scales, reducing inflammation, and reducing the presence of yeast. Medicated shampoos that include zinc pyrithione (anti-fungal, anti-bacterial), salicylic acid (anti-inflammatory), or ketoconazole (anti-fungal) are helpful, as are anti-fungal agents sulfur and selenium sulfide. Topical creams or sprays from coal tar or coticosteroids (such as hydrocortisone acetate 1% cream) are also used to calm irritation and flaking.
In Disorders of Hair Growth, Elisa A. Olsen suggests that frequent shampooing of the scalp with 2% ketoconazole shampoo followed by a topical corticosteroid (every day or every other day, depending on potentcy) plus antibiotics if a secondary bacterial infection is detected. Once the seborrheic dermatitis is controlled, she recommends regularly alternating between non-medicated and medicated shampoos.
When a baby has seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp, it is more commonly called cradle cap (vernix caseosa). According to Olsen, maternal androgens and aberrations in free fatty acids may play a role in the development of cradle cap.7Cradle cap may begin in utero and often dissipates by the baby’s first birthday. It appears as oily, yellow scaling or crusts on the baby’s scalp and is the result of a buildup of sebum and sloughed skin cells.
Cradle cap can be treated with the following routine:
- Gently rub baby’s scalp with vegetable oil to help loosen scales.
- Wet baby’s head, then gently scrub scales with a soft bristle brush to remove the scales.
- Wash scalp with a mild baby shampoo (dandruff shampoos are too harsh for baby’s skin), then gently blot dry.
Although cradle cap isn’t harmful, it may be stubborn to clear up. In such a case, a prescription cream or shampoo may be recommended by a doctor after a thorough pediatric exam.
Although there is no known cure for eczema, steps can be taken to lessen flare-ups. Adult patients should:
- Avoid exposure to irritants and allergens they suspect may trigger the disease.
- Clean the scalp with a medicated shampoo and warm water (hot water may trigger a flare-up), especially after physical exertion.
- Avoid excessive stress.
Dawber, Rodney, Ed., Diseases of the Hair and Scalp, Third Edition, Blackwell Science, Malden, MA, 1997.
Olsen, Elisa A.,Ed., Disorders of Hair Growth, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2003.
1. Wikipedia.org, Dermatitis, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dermatitis.
2. Wikipedia.org, Eczema, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eczema.
3. Wikipedia.org, Eczema, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eczema.
4. Olsen, Elise, Disorders of Hair Growth, p. 105.
5. Olsen, Elise, Disorders of Hair Growth, p. 105.
6. Olsen, Elise, Disorders of Hair Growth, p. 105.
7. Olsen, Elise, Disorders of Hair Growth, p. 105.