When it comes to Ask Afrobella hair questions, I may try to offer my two cents based on personal experience. But for this very specific Ask Afrobella question, I needed the sage advice of an expert. If you’ve ever dealt with flaky scalp issues, this may help you!

Love your work. Your site is so refreshing and insightful. So I’ve been struggling with a skin and scalp condition that has only gotten much worse since I moved to the Midwest about a year and 1/2 ago. Haven’t been able to see a dermatologist about the issue yet so I don’t know for sure what it is, but my layman’s opinion from internet research is that I have plaque psoriasis.

I went natural in 1995 and since then have had only one relaxer and rarely press my hair. So, I’ve been really mad at my hair breakage, since I was expecting to have waist length hair by now. Its hard to see other people go natural and seem to accomplish way more length way faster than you. Sorry about the digression there. My question is about salon etiquette concerning my skin and scalp condition. I’ve wanted to go to a salon and get a “Dominican press” but I’ve been too embarrassed. I’ve wanted to get braids and have considered dreads and Sister-locks but those styles show your scalp. When I comb or brush my hair I have enough flakes to make my own snow globe, which I wish was an exaggeration.

I feel like a biblical leper who has to yell unclean wherever they go so people could get out of the way. The irony is how many people compliment me on my “good hair”. I say thank you but wonder how they don’t see my crazy scalp and horrendous split ends. Keeping my hair curly tends to help hide these issues.

Am I just a coward about going to a salon or do I need to inform the stylist before they touch my hair? I’ve tried frequent washing, nothing gets rid of the giant scales that won’t go away with washing. The only difference is when I wash my hair the scales are wet, but just as much as dry combing or brushing. The scales are a pain if not impossible to clean out of brushes and combs.

I know this is all over the place but even natural hair blogs don’t talk about skin and scalp conditions beyond dandruff and how people who want to be natural with hair ingredients are coping or overcoming their situation. What about people who like me have dead scalp in their eyebrows. I want to scrub it out without losing my brows or making them patchy.

I thought you might have some insight or know someone who does. I’ve just been dealing with this issue in the last 10 years. I originally blamed a bad relaxer I got for my scalp condition. My scalp has never been the same since then. I grew up not knowing quite a bit about how to do black hair. I didn’t know your not supposed wash or comb your hair right before a relaxer which I did. Then there was the negligent stylist who was eating lunch while I had chemicals on in my hair and told me to let him know when it was getting too hot. That was my senior year of high school and my last salon relaxer. The next day my hair was silky straight but my scalp was crusty and oozing. Now my son has developed a scalp issue almost as bad as mine nearly over night.

I know you’re busy so thanks for listening.
Aphro Dynamite

Aphro Dynamite, thanks so much for reading and for writing me with this question! So often we might think we have a medical issue, and remain inactive about dealing with it because of finances, lack of insurance, fear, or D – all of the above. Please know, I’m right there with you. Been there, done that. Often we find ways to “deal with the problem” without truly DEALING with the problem. So to you I say congrats! By writing me, you’ve started the ball rolling on truly DEALING with the problem. That’s step one.

Step two is picking up the phone and making an appointment to see a professional who can accurately diagnose and help you deal with your scalp issues. A hairdresser who knows how to deal with psoriasis is just the beginning. A dermatologist is a must.

But on a question of this nature, I can only give you so much advice. So I turned to a professional I admire greatly – Camille E. Reed, owner of Noire Salon in Baltimore. Camille is an evangelist for natural hair, an expert in her field, and a truly knowledgable and professional resource who knows her stuff.

Take it away, Camille!

“Having psoriasis is stressful and your anxiety about going to a salon is completely valid. Get two kinds of doctors on your and your son’s team, a Dermatologist and an Immunologist.

Your skin is the largest organ on your body and the biggest reflection of the efficiency of your endocrine system. Psoriasis has triggers such as stress (compromises the immune system), diet (alcohol consumption & cigarette smoking bother the liver and the skin’s filtering abilities). Injury to the skin is also a major trigger, and in your case…is likely to have been the starting point of your psoriasis battle.

There is also a genetic susceptibility, so its also very likely that your son’s condition is mimicking yours.

Coal Tar shampoos are the most effective over-the-counter treatment until you can see the aforementioned doctors. Please get them involved in your care, as the skin disturbances from psoriasis can become infected and lead to further complications.

Shop for an educated hair stylist who is familiar with skin conditions and sensitivities, who will also follow the doctors instructions on product usage during your hair appointments.

The best of luck to you and please keep me informed of your progress.”

If you’re ever in Baltimore, you can go see Camille at Noire Salon yourself. If you’re not, you can follow her on Twitter @Noireboss1 – she’s always tweeting wisdom and natural hair inspiration.

Hope that helps, Aphro Dynamite – all the best and please keep in touch!


Amber J. says:
April 11, 2011, 8:15 am
I have a similar scalp issue, except I classify mine as seborrheic dermatitis. I have a very flaky scalp with scales that get oily when water hits, and my face also gets flaky too. I don't want to use any harsh shampoos on my hair, so what I do is mix some tea tree oil with a light shampoo (I use Trader Joe's Nourish Spa). The anti-bacteria quality of the oil helps. Seb derm is nothing but an over growth of yeast on your scalp. It is also a good idea to go to a derm. Mine gave me a topical medicine that I chose not to use because it is too expensive, and I just prefer natural products. Hope this helps someone!
Bianca says:
April 11, 2011, 8:42 am
I have Seborrheic dermatitis too, not psoriasis but I deal with flakiness around my hair line, around my nose and eyebrows. It comes and goes and is worse when I'm stressed out, I inherited this from my dad. I have been to the dermatologist every 2 months for a year and I'm dealing well with a combination of meds that are not too expensive and a tube lasts awhile, my hair is natural and loced now but when I was relaxing I would get bad burns cause my scalp was almost always broken at some point. Also when I started locing I had huge flakes and almost changed my mind about locing until I got treatment. As far as shampoos go I alternate them, use a coal tar, salicylic acid&Sulphur, Ketoconazole or Zinc Pyrithione shampoo and some times a natural tea tree oil bar. I find I have issues with oils too some make my condition worse some help so you may want to try different carrier and essential oils.
Glen says:
April 11, 2011, 8:53 am
Nice to see some common sense answers to an issue that many deal with in silence. Thanks for sharing.
Christine says:
April 11, 2011, 8:57 am
I also experience large flakes that are worst with dry weather. Although I have not been diagnosed with psoriasis... Something that does help is that I'll try to moisturize my scalp and hair with olive or coconut oil overnight when I know I'll be washing it the next morning. During winter I try to get this in once a week. Good luck
LaTosha Johnson says:
April 11, 2011, 9:33 am
One of the main reasons why I went natural is because I have eczema and I used to get a lot of flaking as well. I didn’t realize how much I was damaging my hair and drying out my scalp even more by using these harsh chemicals. I went to a dermatologist and she gave me some shampoos and conditioners to try and none of them worked. I was telling my friend from Nigeria my situation and she suggested that I take a spray bottle fill half of it with water and the other half with Apple Cider Vinegar and mix it. Wash your hair with your choice of shampoo and conditioner and once you rinse the conditioner out thoroughly spray your hair with the Apple Cider Vinegar concoction and rub it into your scalp (the smell will dissipate and your hair will not smell like Vinegar). Keep doing this and I guarantee your flakes will stop and if you had a ridiculous dry itchy scalp like me, this will stop as well. I know this sound weird, but take it from a girl that has tried it all, this works!!
Chai says:
April 11, 2011, 11:28 am
I've been where you are & have to say that it's really about finding the right balance for your particular ailment. Great advice from Camille above, I totally agree with making an appointment to see a dermatologist as the 1st step. Even if you dislike their advice or offered prescriptions, you'll get a much clear idea of where to go from there. A few years ago, I walked out of the doctor's office after my diagnosis and felt more compelled to research different alternatives to containing my 'scalp situation.' There are TONS of treatments you can choose from, and several that are relatively easy to make at home at very little cost. Diligence is definitely key though. I've had to start monitoring the foods I ate, many of the styling products I used to adore where thrown out the window...but the good news is it can get better. Takes time to find what works for you, but certainly not impossible;)
LaLa says:
April 11, 2011, 11:58 am
Omgoodness!! I'm so glad she shared this...i'm having the same problems...and it's gotten worse this past month....not sure if it's the weather change or what...but i googled my symptoms and I'm pretty sure I have seborrheic dermatitis. My scalp is so itchy and scaly I wanna cry sometimes....I have to fight the urge to give in because i'd look like a crazy-woman scratching my head w/both hands...that's how bad it itches...i've added essential tea tree oil in my products, including shea butter and it seems to help a little w/the flakes but the itching has been in rare form!!!
LaLa says:
April 11, 2011, 12:00 pm
Okay Bianca!! That's me...around my hairline really bad and I can feel the patches in my head...I do have some scaling in my brows and dry patches on my face...
Elle says:
April 11, 2011, 3:39 pm
Great suggestion! The Apple Cider Vinegar is also a great detangler. That's what I use it for.
Dandy Gaines says:
April 11, 2011, 5:53 pm
Yup... me too. I got a seb derm, as my dermatologist calls it. My scalp still acts stupid when the weather is really dry and when I get a little aggressive washing my face and hairline gets wet. Medicated shampoos (as in prescription), amazing conditioners, and regular washings help clear up my scalp....for a while. I still sometime wait too long between washings and my flares because it sense a weakness in my defense. I too feel like a leper when all that is going on and sadly it makes me think twice about wearing black. Having locs has made the situtaion easier and harder at the same time. They are great for washing because my hair is basically parted already and I can get the shampoo down to my scalp and really go for it. On the other hand, those locs love to hang on to product, so I have to be really careful about rinsing my hair. The apple cider vinegar did little for my scalp but it did help with the lengths of my hair. I'm no doctor but it sounds like a trip to the derm would do you a world of good.
Deda says:
April 11, 2011, 6:47 pm
I had to add my two cents because I have suffered with a flaky scaly scalp for most of my adult life and have tried virtually everything to help my scalp. It really was one of the reasons I went natural. The flakes were still there, but since I washed/conditioned my hair often I was able to manage. After 6 years of being natural, I decided to temporarily go back to relaxers and the flakes were apparent immediately. My beautician told me to use Mizani scalp care. I told him I use the shampoo and conditioner every now and then. He told me I really needed to use the pre-treatment. I did. That was in January. My scalp is FINALLY looks and feels great.
Toni Hall Parker says:
April 11, 2011, 7:37 pm
I just want to add to these great comments. Definitely all of the treatments mentioned above are great. Eczema is generally caused by food allergens like nuts, wheat, seafood, eggs, and fruit; while on the other hand psoriasis is usually caused by environmental triggers such as the following: SLS based soaps and detergents; synthetic fragrances (aka perfumes); and Metals such as nickel (used in braces) or mercury, tin, copper, and alloy (metals that are in dental fillings in your teeth). Both conditions become worse with stress; however psoriasis becomes worse with cold, dry weather and tends to get better with sunny, warm, humid weather. Since psoriasis acts like an autoimmune disease, any illnesses of the sinuses or a sore throat, could cause the psoriasis to flare up. Topical treatments for this condition include what many suggested above, which I will outline again: Shampoos (with selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, or just zinc)-these ingredients kill the fungus; "No poo" shamppos, or a castile soap-preferably form a natural store or cosmetics company. Oregano or tea tree oil applied to the scalp-these ingredients are anti-fungal and anti inflammatory, and anti-bacterial Distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar Both conditions are generally linked to food intolerances and multiple chemical sensitivities so it's a good idea to clean up your diet-starting with a detox diet. You definitely will want to get rid of grains, sugar, pasta,rice, and fruits because the odds are the intestinal gut flora is imbalanced and full of yeast/candida. A healthy gut should be comprised of 85% good bacteria and 15% bad. Most people have just the opposite. So adding a good, quality probiotic to the diet and a digestive enzyme will get your gut flora on the road to recovery and most of this will automatically clear up.
Toni Hall Parker says:
April 11, 2011, 7:48 pm
Oh, and please add a high quality omega 3 fatty acid to your diet. Carlsons Cod liver oil will give you both, omega 3 fatty acids and the much needed vitamin D. The odds are that her vitamin D levels are very low. Vitamin D deficiency is rampant in the black community because dark skin takes a long time to get vitamin D from the sun; unlike our white counterparts who might need only 20 minutes of sun exposure to get their daily requirements of vitamin D. Many chronic illnesses such as arthritis, lupus, and yes, cancer has been linked to vitamin D deficiency and have been reversed when a high dose of vitamin D therapy was used in conjunction with other treatments.
bella says:
April 11, 2011, 10:37 pm
tea tree oil is the BUSINESS!! I'm using it to heal some scars now. Will be blogging about it when I see lasting results, but so far, VERY impressed! Thanks for commenting!
bella says:
April 11, 2011, 10:38 pm
your comments made me SO glad I worked on this post. Thanks for sharing the information, by speaking about the issue you're helping others!
bella says:
April 11, 2011, 10:39 pm
I am glad I did this post, most definitely. Will continue to try to share answers to issues like this!
bella says:
April 11, 2011, 11:18 pm
Apple Cider Vinegar is one of the most essential beauty items anyone can own. I use it in my hair and on my skin. I should blog about it! Great call ladies!
Lakitha says:
April 12, 2011, 3:07 am
You should head to the dermatologist. You need one who is cosmetic friendly and can deal with African American skin and scalp needs. I have suffered with psoriasis in the past. I get injections into my scalp. I also have a special medication regimen.
Santeyonne says:
April 13, 2011, 8:49 pm
Apple cider vinegar is really good for a scaly scalp. I have seborrheic dermatitis as well and suffer from flakes on my scalp and scaly skin on my body as a result of eczema. I use a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water along with a toothbrush and brush my scalp. I do that because I don't like ACV on my hair. I also put a little in my bath water when my skin is really scaly. Also, mamey sapote oil is really good for seborrheic dermatitis and getting rid of the scalp flakes.
Isa says:
April 15, 2011, 10:43 pm
Another serb derm head here. I have been plagued by this for over thirty years. Anyone suffering from the descriptions mentioned should visit a dermatologist ASAP. If you are holistically inclined, at least obtain an official diagnosis before proceeding down your path. I use two prescribed meds(one generic): a lotion for the facial areas afflicted and a liquid for the scalp itself. When diligent about using the scalp rx, scales are kept under control. What also works for me is washing my hair twice a week during the warmer months. Previously I used a prescribed peanut based oil. It was costly and totally worked but was not best for me in the long run. I would recommend it 100% for anyone that is able to wash their hair on a daily basis though. It nice to see this issue discussed as I've often wondered how naturals handle serious scalp problems. They certainly exist but it seems to rarely rate mention in the blogosphere.
J says:
April 18, 2011, 12:07 am
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this!!! I'm a seb derm girl too and no one, no one ever know what that is and it's almost never mentioned on the natural sites/forum. I did the rx for my hair. I found it to be pain and not helpful for me. I found more help with apple cider vinegar, pep castile soap, tea tree oil added to my tea tree shampoo. I'll definitely the vitamin d, omega 3 fatty acid ,zinc and coal tar advice. My problem is really my face. The flakes is such a drain to my self esteem. The thing that helps, sometimes, is hydrocortisone. Again thank you so much ladies!
Shannon says:
April 18, 2011, 1:40 pm
OMG I just want to hug all of you and bounce around so we can make a snow globe! Glad to be talking about this. I'm making an appointment today. Does anyone know if I can wash my face with a water/apple cider vinegar mix? My nose and eyebrows seems to have 'dandruff' too.
DNLee says:
April 20, 2011, 10:28 am
Thanks for this post and the replies! I co-sign..Dry scalp, brows and nose line. For years I thought I had dandruff but my sister - a beautician- informed me that it wasn't dandruff but most likely Seborrheic dermatitis, too. I tried some combination of all of your suggestions. I have found that drinking more water definitely helps and humidity is my skin's best friend!
MiMi says:
April 20, 2011, 8:25 pm
I totally understand where you're coming from, if you do go to a derm just make sure they understand black hair care cuz one who doesn't will suggest washing your hair every day with harsh chemical laced prescription shampoo for up to a month. Tea tree oil does work wonders, so does ACV. I've found that Amla oil is beneficial for you scalp too. I suffer from similar symptoms and mine can sometimes travels to my eyebrows and the creases of my nose. Also adding astringent to your shampoo (1 part astringent to 1 part shampoo) helps too.
Insert name Here says:
April 22, 2011, 6:19 pm
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR rinses on the regular, fore go shampoo with sulfates Oil scalp lightly every few days with a light oil U need to do the apple cider vinegar rinse at least 3xs per week
blinkykinks says:
April 28, 2011, 3:37 am
These comments are really interesting my mother has been a sufferer of psoriasis, and she could at least try some of your suggestions, shes tried everything else!!!
SweetHeartswan says:
May 1, 2011, 1:11 am
I also have dry skin in my head, it started all of sudden and it went away when i would go to the salon every 2 weeks, but when I went away to college that wasn't as easy anymore so my scalp was always dry and still is. Nothing Works but I think I will try the Coal Tar Shampoo in between salon visit to keep it under control, I always thought it was eczema but it may be something more serious! Thanks Bella for this post it all was very helpful!
Jennifer says:
May 1, 2011, 4:38 pm
My husband had this really bad, he is using the Vatika Oil I bought from the Indian store and we have not seen a flake or little red bumps since.(6 months now) I also believe that Kalpi Tone would also have the same affect, it say on the box that it can be used for scalp conditions. Have you ever seen flakes in Indian jet black hair? Nope
Kesha says:
May 1, 2011, 9:17 pm
Hello Ladies, I have also been diagnosed with seborrheic dematitis. I use a shampoo prescribed by my dermatologist (who is Black by the way and specialzes in African American skin and hair). Nothing done at any salon ever worked. It always recurred and got worse becuase basically a good scrub served to spread the fungus around my head and creating new patches. The flare ups also got under stress and with hormone fluctuations. The shampoo I use is Ketaconozale and as someone else mentioned it works on the yeast(fungus) that grows on your scalp. It works like a charm because it addresses the source of the problem instead of simply reducing scalp itching. You use it for your first wash and then follow with your usual routine. I live in Chicago and would be happy to share my dermatologists name if you are near Chicago and think it could be helpful. Good luck an don't be embarassed. There are many with this same issue. The best news is that it is an easy fix. I think diet and a healthy lifestyle will ultimately help reduce succeptibility to the imbalances that create fungus overgrowth. Peace!
June says:
May 25, 2011, 6:49 pm
I love your blog. I've just started a new blog and have written some tips about using apple cider vinegar for hair conditioning. I've linked your site to my article. Check out my blog please.
June says:
May 25, 2011, 6:54 pm
Hi, It's June again. I missed out a letter from my url. Should be www.miraculousladies.com Thanks
Rayna says:
May 28, 2011, 10:25 pm
Hello, Kesha thanks for the info about your Dermatologist. I believe I have psoriasis on my scalp and face and am in need of a dermatologist. I am in the Chi also. Can you please send me your dermatologist info??? Thanks
Cristina says:
June 1, 2011, 4:31 pm
visit http://www.healthrightusa.org! Here you will find natural, healthy ways to get rid of your psoriasis.
Kandy says:
June 21, 2011, 3:37 pm
I use to have the same problem and once I started using this all natural hair food called T444Z HAIR FOOD. I should say that I dont have any more flakes.
Mstasha2u says:
June 23, 2011, 10:51 am
OMG I just want to hug all of you and bounce around so we can make a snow globe! LOL, you're so silly:-)
Dekka says:
July 2, 2011, 1:11 pm
Hey Ladies, I have seborrheic dermatitis and I started at the age of 18 and was triggered by a change in hormones. I made the decision to become natural after many years of scalp burns as a result of my scalp condition.The dermatologist has prescribed shampoo but they tend to dry my hair. I would suggest washing your hair once a week, avoid heavy oils and be gentle when washing your scalp. Most important get your scalp under control as soon as possible. If not it, the constant trauma to the scalp can lead to hair loss. Try to avoid prolong use of shampoos with cortisones because they can lead to serious health problems. After using heavy product use a clarifying shampoo or you will have a bad flare-up. Once you find a over-the-counter- shampoo that works for you for the best results you should let it sit on your scalp for 10-15 min for it to really work. This advice is a bit late but I have been dealing with this for over 12 years and the first thing to understand is that there is no cure. Dealing with this condition is about keeping it under control. I hope this information helps and Good Luck!
shannon says:
August 16, 2011, 4:50 am
PLEASE consider food allergies: especially dairy. also chemical irritation will make this problem worse, so if you can't put your hair product in your mouth (ie. all natural with no weird chemicals) don't put it on your skin.
Rene says:
November 21, 2011, 8:01 am
I'm a 'Natural Head' and have been for most of my life. I specialize in Naturally Kinky Hair Care for People of Color. I believe our hair beauty will come from a healthy scalp, so this is my focus--Scalp Health. My NEWLY UPDATED eBook - Natural Dandruff Treatments~ Natural Non-Chemical Treatments for Dandruff Psoriasis and Seborrehic Dermatitis~ Dealing with the "Root" of the Problem~ Do You Really want to Know? is very popular among us 'Natural heads'. Dry scalp, dandruff and an irritated scalp is the number one complaint when you go 'natural'. Within the pages are chock full of recipes and solutions to this problem. Check out the book at http://www.NaturalDandruffTreatments.com I hope this helps. Peace. Rene'
NJ says:
January 29, 2012, 3:46 am
I was diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis too. The doc said to use over-the-counter coal tar shampoo. Have you tried that? Just wondering if it will try my hair out.
Erin says:
May 19, 2012, 4:58 pm
Whoa! I'm pretty sure I have the same condition as so many of the other people in the comments. I too have the excessive flaky scalp (very noticably dry hairline), brows and down the nose. I just assumed I had dandruff and dry skin for awhile, but the flakes were getting really, really bad. I am definitely going to try to find a dermatologist and get down to the bottom of this. Thanks for all of the comments and thanks for featuring this, Patrice!
Nkeon says:
August 10, 2012, 2:37 am
Thanks for writing about this! I've suffered from flakey scalp for most of my life. I used to think it was due to improper hair care practises from my youth but the problem have prevailed even with good hair care and natural ingredients. People on here seem to have seen improvements with quitting relaxers but that doesn't apply to me because I have been natural for my whole life. Seriously, never ever had a relaxer so that can't be an issue for me. I've tried tea tree oil, oiling my scalp lightly, and what not and the problem persists. I currently wash my hair every 2 weeks so may try and do so once a week and see what happens.
Monique says:
August 31, 2012, 12:00 pm
Very Very Helpful! Thank you really.
Tsha says:
January 11, 2013, 2:01 pm
I to have Seb Derm and recently got sisterlocks. Years ago I was misdiagnosed with having Psoriasis from a dermatologist. A friend told me about a Dr. in Miami (African American) who specializing in AA skin. After I left my appointment with the right diagnosis and his specially made products, 5 days later my face, ears, and scalp was clear of every flake or discoloration. It was something short of a miracle but I wasnt able to scatch up one single flake. This Dr. was truly a god send. If you don't live in Florida its worth the trip for relief after the visit he allows you to continue to get his prescription product for up to a year. Check it out www.thrower.net
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Honey says:
July 18, 2013, 5:07 pm
I just got recently diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis too. I scratched my scalp so much that I lost hair! It is horrifying. My dermatologist prescribed Ketaconozale shampoo and some lotion for my scalp. My scales are slowly but surely loosening up. This eczema on the scalp is horrible so I hope to combat it soon. I just recently purchased some T444Z so we'll see if that will assist with healing my scalp and hair as well. Glad to know there are success stories with combating dermatitis. I hope to be a success story too. Thanks for sharing ladies.
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Maja says:
September 23, 2014, 5:12 pm
It s amazing to know that our simple daily habits and routines itself can be cause for all our hair troubles including dandruff. I can most definitely attribute my dandruff troubles to stress improper diet and dry skin. But using a dandruff shampoo prescribed by my doctor is helping me a lot. Thanks for sharing, great blog.
Sarah says:
April 16, 2015, 3:39 pm
I second Amber's recommendation. Tea tree oil works wonders.