Scaly Scalp Patient Information Fact Sheet

If you have mild dandruff or seborrheic eczema it will usually improve if you use a medicated shampoo once or twice a week. Medicated shampoos are available from pharmacies without a prescription. If use of a medicated shampoo is not successful the condition may respond to a preparation containing salicylic acid or coal tar, which will help to remove the scales—ask your pharmacist about this. Unfortunately the problem may return if treatment is stopped so you may need to continue one or more of these treatments for some time.

When should I see my doctor?
If your scalp problem does not clear up, you should see your doctor who will examine your scalp. If you have eczema your doctor will check that it is not infected. If you do have an infection your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Self-help measures

  • Do not use more than the recommended amount of prescribed cream or lotion or shampoo to reduce the risk of side effects.
  • Do not wash your scalp too frequently as this can dry your skin and encourage scaling and flakiness.
  • Be careful when using hair styling products as they can irritate your scalp and make your condition worse.
  • If your scalp is itchy, rub it gently. Your skin is delicate and can be damaged or become infected if you scratch it.
  • Tar-based products can stain, so use old sheets and pillow cases.
  • If you have blonde hair, avoid shampoos containing tar, which may discolor your hair.

Further information
National Eczema Association:
National Psoriasis Foundation:

Last Reviewed: May 2013