Scalp Eczema Series with Kristan Serafino: What Is & Triggers Scalp Eczema?

Kristan Serafino – Celebrity Hairstylist

This is a 3-week series focused on scalp eczema, which is seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp. Having scalp eczema affects one’s appearance and Marcie Mom collaborates with celebrity hairstylist Kristan Serafino to explore hair solutions that are appropriate and attractive for those suffering from scalp eczema. Kristan received formal training at Toni & Guy and works with numerous celebrities and styles hair for runways and fashion editorials. The information written by Marcie Mom on scalp eczema has been vetted by Dr Vermén Verallo-Rowell, the founder of VMV Hypoallergenics.

What is Scalp Eczema

Eczema is a term for any skin change characterized by edema: at the dermis, then upwards to the epidermis, forming vesicles, and bullae, becoming thus at the clinical level – a wet oozing and then crusting mess. Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the causes of eczema on the scalp (others are allergic or irritant contact or photocontact dermatitis, or secondary to trauma or presence of lice).

In its mild form, scalp eczema may result in dandruff which is loose skin flakes; in more serious cases, scalp eczema may lead to red, inflamed, itchy, scaly or weepy scalp with yellowish greasy flakes. Scalp eczema is often associated with allergic reaction to malassezia furfur, a form of yeast that is commonly found on areas with more sebaceous glands as it requires fats to grow. As stated in National Eczema Society’s leaflet, it is “estimated that about 1 in 4 adults carry the yeast on their skin or hair, mostly without a problem. However, individuals with seborrhoeic dermatitis have somehow become ‘sensitive’ to this yeast”. In seborrheic dermatitis, the yeast proliferate more from many reasons – decreased immunity, presence of too much sweat. Seborrhoeic dermatitis can also extend to other areas with more sebaceous glands such as the face, ear canal, armpits and flexural areas.

What Triggers Scalp Eczema

Like eczema, scalp dermatitis can be triggered by sweat, weather, stress or irritants found in shampoo, hair dyes and other hair products. A common substance in hair dyes, namely paraphenylenediamine (PPD) used for permanent coloring, can cause severe allergic reactions for those who are hypersensitive to it. A patch test (in small amount) ought to be performed before using the hair dye. PPD used in black henna tattoo has also been cited to cause allergic reaction and has been banned in some countries for direct skin application. For someone with sensitive skin/scalp, it is prudent to also avoid the top allergens such as fragrance, preservatives, parabens, propylene glycol, lanolin and colorant (ranked by Dr Vermén Verallo-Rowell in this post).

Hairstylist Challenge – For people with eczema or moms with eczema child (like me!) who can’t or choose not to color our hair, what can be done to our hair so that it won’t look too one (color) – dimensional?

Serafino Says

A conversation on how to achieve dimension in your hair does not always begin and end with hair color or dyes. This should be welcome news to women predisposed to certain scalp disorders, therefore unable to use hair dyes. A common substance in most permanent dyes is para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which is known to trigger eczema outbreaks. It can take only small traces of PPD absorbed through your scalp to cause inflammation. Therefore, women who have sensitive skin or eczema should refrain from using hair dyes or coloring.

So how do you achieve dimension when using dye is not an option?

Let’s start by examining how hair color achieves dimension. A head of hair with a single color is considered flat or lacking dimension. Dimension is a function of the range of tones in the hair commonly referred to as highlights and lowlights. This range of tones creates the appearance of movement throughout the hair.

So what is the substitute for color tones?

The answer; LAYERS! Visually, layers create movement, dimension and even volume. It also creates real texture to otherwise plain and flat style. The placement of layers should not be something entered into blindly. Don’t simply proclaim to your stylist, “I want layers!” Layers should be placed strategically to flatter and enhance you best facial features. The pre-cutting consultation with your stylist needs to include a candid discussion on your features, which will better define your options. Eyes, forehead, cheekbones, jaw line, neck are all facial aspects to consider. Of course the length of your hair is also a factor. A rule-of-thumb is the shorter the hair the less layers, and avoid too much layering in the back of longer hair or risk bringing back the mullet. Remember, a great layered haircut is almost invisible until you move… then it comes to life.

Here is an example of the proper match between features and hair length; women with a long neck, but short thin hair look stunning with a short bob where the bottom of the hair at the back is layered to reveal an elegant neck line, and women with a full face and thick medium length hair find layers starting in the front of the head and textured to curve in toward the face flattering since it gives the illusion of a thinner face.

Most important, when trying to achieve dimension in your hair you need to avoid blunt cut styles because they leave too much weight on the hair causing it to lie flat and lifeless.

Cameron Diaz
picture credit:
Mena Suvari
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