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View Full Version : Burning/Itching Scalp and Hair Loss?



pensandpaint
August 12th, 2013, 11:38 PM
Right now, I'm experiencing an itching/burning sensation in my scalp, mostly directly on top of my head, though it can appear anywhere. The feeling comes and goes, sometimes it's not so bad and sometimes it feels like someone is pulling my hair out by the roots. I am experiencing hair loss/thinning in the areas with the most itching. I'm not entirely sure if its shed or breakage or the follicles just aren't growing, because since it started I have been seeing a lot less of my hair everywhere, whereas I used to find shed hairs all over my clothes, on my furniture etc before the loss started. The hair is thin enough on top of my head that I can easily see scalp in areas and if I look at myself head on in a mirror, I can see the top of my head through my hair.

I have had itchy, flaky scalp all my life, and my hair has always been thin, but this extreme version has been going on for about three years now, possibly longer and I just didn't notice because my hair is close to the color of my scalp. The first time it majorly happened, I had colored hair (Manic Panic, no bleach). I went to see a doctor, but he basically told me to stop dying my hair and gave me some sort of silicone-gel to put on my scalp for dryness. I did as instructed, and the hair seemed to get better. Since I thought maybe it had been something in my water supply and I had moved, I thought it was okay to recolor, which was a mistake. I recolored it (again, Manic Panic, no bleach) and began seeing loss again, so I stopped dying altogether, about two years ago. I thought maybe I just had an allergy to hair dye period, and swore off it. Unfortunately, the hair loss/itching is still happening.

Has this sort of thing happened to anyone on here, or have you heard of anything like it? I want to see another doctor about it, but am afraid that I will basically get the same treatment I got last time. Since I don't have health insurance, it's expensive for me to go. I don't want to go through the effort and expense just to get told "there's nothing wrong with you, you will just have to live with the hair loss". Advice?

tigereye
August 13th, 2013, 04:58 AM
I had a really dry itchy scalp for years, then over time I began to get sores and scabs and eventually some hair loss. I only discovered when I tried going silicone- and sulphate free to help my dryness that it turned out I was allergic to sulphate a (specifically SLS and SLES). When I last went back to my hairdresser, I forgot to mention it, and I had to wash my hair the day after (I usually wash my hair once a week) because the burning and itching was so bad after she used the regular SLS- and cone-filled salon brands (Kerastase). I now use an SLS-free shampoo (and cone-free condish so I don't get build-up).

Turns out SLS-allergy isn't as rare as I thought. A girl I know had similar itching and hair-loss, plus gum issues that her dentist couldn't figure out and skin rashes that the doctor couldn't solve. We were talking about gentle shampoos for her hair loss when I found out about all her issues. When I mentioned I was allergic, she decided to try SLS-free (hair-stuff, toothpaste and body-wash) for a while. Her symptoms have been receding but it'll be a while before the hair thickness grows back down.

Firefox7275
August 13th, 2013, 07:07 AM
You need to see your family doctor or a dermatologist or perhaps allergist, clearly there is something wrong if you have symptoms and they are chronic. If you have any other allergies, skin complaints or diagnosed conditions that have an inflammatory component (loads of health issues) be sure to mention that even if you think they are not relevant. You don't say what your original diagnosis was nor what the prescribed product was called, but xerosis (simple dry scalp no inflammation) does not behave as you describe. Do be aware that itching can beget itching and inflammation can beget inflammation, you can get stuck in a cycle that needs to be broken and often it is not one thing that will resolve the issue but a combination.

Unfortunately few here have any medical or healthcare qualifications, we cannot examine you, run tests or prescribe anything. Self prescribing based on a self diagnosis often does more harm than good, I cringe at some of the well meaning but sometimes ineffective and sometimes harmful advice I see on here. The issue could be anything from an irritant you are applying to a food allergy to a hormone imbalance.

Self care that should be safe to do regardless of diagnosis is to clean up your diet making it as anti inflammatory and nutrient dense as possible, avoid scratching instead using cold compresses/ gel packs to relieve any discomfort, do not warm your scalp with towel turbans, heat styling tools or heat caps. Do not excessively soak your head, try not to shower too often or spend long under the water - there are irritants in tap water plus water can flush out the skin's natural moisturising factors.

Switch to a super gentle haircare regime with as few products/ ingredients as possible, everything at pH 4.5 to 5.5, no anionic surfactants because many in the family are known irritants or allergens not just sulphates. Also try to avoid all the ingredients in Manic Panic - preservatives or the colourants are more likely the culprits than the emollients. You may be able to source a suitable hypoallergenic shampoo and/ or conditioner 'base' purchased online from a cosmetics base company since these contain few ingredients.

Patch test everything thoroughly before you use it.

Kaelee
August 13th, 2013, 08:07 AM
I had something similar, not as severe as yours (no hair loss but I got it early and didn't ignore it). My scalp would be SUPER sensitive to any updo, even an english braid down my back hurt. It turned out to be from build up of some kind, I blame a conditioner that I was using that had a high silica content (horsetail). I was using it for CO and after a clarifying wash and switching conditioners, the problem went away. Now when I notice my scalp getting sensitive, I know it's time to clarify.

I have no idea if this is contributing to your problem or not, but I just wanted to share my experience. (I'm told hard water can cause this issue too.)

tigereye
August 13th, 2013, 10:49 AM
I had something similar, not as severe as yours (no hair loss but I got it early and didn't ignore it). My scalp would be SUPER sensitive to any updo, even an english braid down my back hurt. It turned out to be from build up of some kind, I blame a conditioner that I was using that had a high silica content (horsetail). I was using it for CO and after a clarifying wash and switching conditioners, the problem went away. Now when I notice my scalp getting sensitive, I know it's time to clarify.

I have no idea if this is contributing to your problem or not, but I just wanted to share my experience. (I'm told hard water can cause this issue too.)

Something to point out is that if you clarify and it gets better, its likely a build-up issue. If clarifying makes it worse, its probably something in the products, since clarifying shampoos are often harsher and contain more possible irritants than your regular shampoo. It might be a good benchmark to give you an idea.

It could also be something like a preservative or fragrance sensitivity/allergy, but if you've had this that long you've probably tried fragrance-free products already.

What medication were you given last time?

It would also be wise to check for lice if you haven't yet, though if you've already spoken to your doctor, I doubt you didn't already think of that.

Like Firefox said, though, we can only make suggestions. It would be a good idea to see a skin or allergy specialist.

nakima
August 13th, 2013, 12:08 PM
I had this same thing happen abt 10 years ago and it lasted for a few years as well, I started useing scapicin(spelling) and it seemed to help calm things down a bit. I also found that when it started burning(felt like acid being poured on my head) I would cool my scalp with cold water or go outside in the cool air. These things helped alot. I also found that the more I stressed over it the worse it got, once I got decided not to let it get the best of me it started turning around. I dont know about your hair but I aslo noticed that when I would get stressed my scalp would start burning right away and my hair would gum up and then start falling. It was awful! so I do sympathize with you I know what your going thru. Another thing that helped was neutragena clarifying shampoo in the small square clear bottle and a good deep conditioning. Goodluck! It will get better! oh and a friend of mine also did some highlights for me and at first I was afraid it would cause more damage but it seemed to help turn it around. Just shareing what worked for me. once again goodluck.

nakima
August 13th, 2013, 12:16 PM
I had this same thing happen abt 10 years ago and it lasted for a few years as well, I started useing scapicin(spelling) and it seemed to help calm things down a bit. I also found that when it started burning(felt like acid being poured on my head) I would cool my scalp with cold water or go outside in the cool air. These things helped alot. I also found that the more I stressed over it the worse it got, once I got decided not to let it get the best of me it started turning around. I dont know about your hair but I aslo noticed that when I would get stressed my scalp would start burning right away and my hair would gum up and then start falling. It was awful! so I do sympathize with you I know what your going thru. Another thing that helped was neutragena clarifying shampoo in the small square clear bottle and a good deep conditioning. Goodluck! It will get better! oh and a friend of mine also did some highlights for me and at first I was afraid it would cause more damage but it seemed to help turn it around. Just shareing what worked for me. once again goodluck. p.s. not sure how old you are but hormones can play a huge role in this as well. I was going through perimenopause at the time this was happening to me so it could have contributed to the problem.? I went to alot of dr's. and I got no answers. but this was just my experience.

nakima
August 13th, 2013, 12:22 PM
sorry for the double post tried editing the first and didnt do it right lol

pensandpaint
August 13th, 2013, 02:11 PM
Wow guys - thank you so much for all the responses! I want to respond to everyone individually, but I just wanted to throw a general up-front thank you first. You've all given me a lot to think about.

Tigereye: I have been SLS-free in my shampoo for a number of years now, as it turns out I'm pretty sensitive to them myself. I was SLS free in my body-care products, but found that I was not getting as clean as I would like, so I alternate between SLS and non-SLS cleaning products. I avoid products with silicone as well, for the reasons you gave, but am maybe not as diligent about checking ingredients as I should be. I will start doing that now. I am lice-free, nothing clinging in my hair or anything at this time. I do seem to have a sensitivity to fragrance in laundry detergent (I use All Free-Clear now to avoid rashes), would that translate to a sensitivity in other products?

Firefox: You are absolutely right, and I do plan to see a doctor. The first one I saw did not give me an official diagnosis at all, he just said not to dye my hair anymore. I can't remember the exact name of what he prescribed me, but it was basically a silicone gel with lots of water in it that I was supposed to rub into my scalp. It made my head itchy and dry though, so I only used it for a couple of days. I wasn't able to get back in to see anyone before we moved. What I would really like is some advice on, is how to get the next doctor I see to take this seriously? The first doctor I went to claimed that I was not losing any hair at all, that there was nothing wrong with me and did not perform any tests.

Kaelee: You may be on to something there, actually. As I said, I had been doing well for a while before I experienced a resurgence - as it turns out, I had just switched to using the Giovanni Root 66 shampoo and conditioner, which is LOADED with horsetail. I will still see a doc, but I will also discontinue the Giovanni immediately.

Nakima: I am in my late 20's, so I think it's probably not hormones, but I am also on BC, so I will investigate that end as well. The last time I asked about it at my GYN's, they insisted the pill was not causing loss, but I will bring it up with the derm or family practitioner I see next. I am stress-bucket too, so I will try your idea of not focusing on it. As you and Firefox said, I will use something nice and cool to sooth my scalp when it itches. I already avoid scratching it, as I know that's not helping anything, but it will be nice to get some relief!

jacqueline101
August 13th, 2013, 02:27 PM
I'd see a dermatologist sounds like an allergy.

In2wishin
August 13th, 2013, 02:59 PM
I agree with the others, a trip to a dermatologist is in order.

My personal experience (which may or may not be pertinent to yours): a few years ago I started getting something similar. I thought of going to a dermatologist, and I wanted to go as informed as possible, so I researched the ingredients first. It turns out that the preservatives many companies were switching to instead of parabens release formaldehyde. I have known since I was a teenager that I have a formaldehyde allergy so I switched products and the problem stopped. I never went to the specialist, but that was because I was already aware of my allergy. I just wasn't aware that I was being exposed.

ravenreed
August 13th, 2013, 03:09 PM
I get scalp problems when I shampoo with SLS so when I clarify, I try to only do it from the ears down. I coat my scalp with a safe conditioner to protect it. Something else that has helped me with my flaky, itchy scalp is vinegar rinses. Unfortunately, I haven't found anything else that clarifies nearly as well as SLS shampoos, so I use them as little as possible. I do think you need to head back to the dermatologist, but ask around for recommendations first.

Kaelee
August 13th, 2013, 05:56 PM
Kaelee: You may be on to something there, actually. As I said, I had been doing well for a while before I experienced a resurgence - as it turns out, I had just switched to using the Giovanni Root 66 shampoo and conditioner, which is LOADED with horsetail. I will still see a doc, but I will also discontinue the Giovanni immediately.


It could be. I think silica is hard/"coating" particles. My scalp would feel sunburnt after a while. Especially at my part. And VERY sensitive to updos. It took a long time to figure it out but the issue stopped immediately after I stopped regular use of that conditioner and it hasn't come back since.

pensandpaint
August 16th, 2013, 11:15 PM
It could be. I think silica is hard/"coating" particles. My scalp would feel sunburnt after a while. Especially at my part. And VERY sensitive to updos. It took a long time to figure it out but the issue stopped immediately after I stopped regular use of that conditioner and it hasn't come back since.

Update: Thank you so much for the info, I think that may have been it - I stopped using the stuff and the itching/burning has gone away. I had it worst in the same places as you did too, along the part, and it did feel very much like a sunburn at times. Of course it'll be a few months before I can see if anything has grown back, but the pain is gone at least. Hooray!

pensandpaint
August 16th, 2013, 11:17 PM
I get scalp problems when I shampoo with SLS so when I clarify, I try to only do it from the ears down. I coat my scalp with a safe conditioner to protect it. Something else that has helped me with my flaky, itchy scalp is vinegar rinses. Unfortunately, I haven't found anything else that clarifies nearly as well as SLS shampoos, so I use them as little as possible. I do think you need to head back to the dermatologist, but ask around for recommendations first.

Thank you, ravenreed. I will give the vinegar rinse a try, as I still have some flaking. I still plan on seeing a dermatologist though, as you suggested :)

Kaelee
August 17th, 2013, 08:00 AM
Update: Thank you so much for the info, I think that may have been it - I stopped using the stuff and the itching/burning has gone away. I had it worst in the same places as you did too, along the part, and it did feel very much like a sunburn at times. Of course it'll be a few months before I can see if anything has grown back, but the pain is gone at least. Hooray!

Yay!!! :D

Now hopefullly your growth will return with the quickness! :)

Firefox7275
August 17th, 2013, 10:51 AM
I agree with the others, a trip to a dermatologist is in order.

My personal experience (which may or may not be pertinent to yours): a few years ago I started getting something similar. I thought of going to a dermatologist, and I wanted to go as informed as possible, so I researched the ingredients first. It turns out that the preservatives many companies were switching to instead of parabens release formaldehyde. I have known since I was a teenager that I have a formaldehyde allergy so I switched products and the problem stopped. I never went to the specialist, but that was because I was already aware of my allergy. I just wasn't aware that I was being exposed.

That approach makes a lot of sense, glad you identified the issue.

IubireaDraga
November 5th, 2013, 09:58 AM
Im Aldo experiencing this and it has been like this in periods for a couple of years.

Did you find a solution?

Im shedding quite a lot now - guess it is due to weather changes. But the problem is that my hair is getting thinner(fewer hairstrands) on top of my head...

Emichiee
November 5th, 2013, 07:15 PM
Right now, I'm experiencing an itching/burning sensation in my scalp, mostly directly on top of my head, though it can appear anywhere. The feeling comes and goes, sometimes it's not so bad and sometimes it feels like someone is pulling my hair out by the roots. I am experiencing hair loss/thinning in the areas with the most itching. The hair is thin enough on top of my head that I can easily see scalp in areas and if I look at myself head on in a mirror, I can see the top of my head through my hair.

I have had itchy, flaky scalp all my life, and my hair has always been thin, but this extreme version has been going on for about three years now, possibly longer and I just didn't notice because my hair is close to the color of my scalp.

Glad you have gotten some relief.

To me it sounds like a yeast problem that was worsened by certain factors. It is possible though, that the yeast problem persists. Yeast can cause hair loss, like tinea capitis, it causes bald spots : http://www.dermaamin.com/site/images/clinical-pic/t/tinea-capitis/tinea-capitis14.jpg
Dandruff is a type of yeast, flakes are not normal, neither is itching. It can be treated with anti fungal cream (like monistat) or anti fungal shampoo (like Nizoral). Both are prescription free.
It would probably still be a good idea to consult a doctor, but should you not be helped, there are always these two solutions. Doctors did not help me, tests showed a false negative, until my vet took a good look with a high quality UV lamp. I had yeast in places that even seemed problem free.

jocelyn anne
January 21st, 2016, 03:57 AM
I read that sometimes hair loss is associated with an underlying serious medical condition. Probably bestto consult a hair specialist.