Scalp problems, seborrheic dermatitis & the curly girl method

curly hair scalp problems


For the longest of time, I struggled with scalp problems. That also caused me to struggle with my curls, which I didn’t even realize until now. Suddenly my waves were not as curly as they used to be and my usually dry hair seemed to be waxy and shiny. Nothing was working and I was struggling with dry, oily, itchy scalp. And bad hair days. I feel like I was also losing more hair than usual.

I felt like a failure and a fraud with my horrible hair. Especially since my post about curly girl method and curly hair routine is still one of the most read post on this site. I couldn’t understand why suddenly the things I used to do for my hair didn’t work anymore.

After quietly suffering with it for several months, I finally realized something. The kind of dandruff and scalp problems I had weren’t normal. Having a flaky dry scalp, that also felt oily and waxy, even right after washing, wasn’t normal. I remembered hearing about this scalp eczema called seborrheic dermatitis and after reading about it online, everything made sense.

Seborrheic dermatitis & how I fixed my scalp and curl problems

[Note: I’m talking about my scalp problems honestly and it can be gross. Also, I have not been diagnosed by a doctor and this is all based on my own research and experience. Also, getting a doctor’s appointment at this crazy time and going to a doctor is not my priority.]

Seborrheic dermatitis is a very common skin condition that causes dandruff and over production of sebum. It might also have a little something to do with the curly girl method, since you’re not washing your hair regularly. That might allow the oils and natural yeasts to profiliterate in your scalp. (Source.)

Seborrheic eczema is also linked to acne, which I’m all too familiar with. Luckily right now my skin otherwise is in a pretty good shape.

Here you can see how my scalp and hair looked like at its worst. This was after my first wash with the ketoconazole shampoo. Hadn’t had that fresh and airy hair in months!

In my case, it’s like having all the scalp problems at once. I had dry scalp and dry dandruff. I also had oily scalp with this weird sebum-dandruff. A shampoo did nothing to it and even right after washing my hair my scalp felt flaky and oily. If I touched my scalp, my fingertips felt oily. I just couldn’t clean my scalp with a regular shampoo. I realized that it also affected my hair and curls, since the sebum got built up in my hair. No wonder my hair felt alien to me. Hair loss is not common with seborrheic eczema, but I’ve also had hair loss. It could also be hormonal in my case, though.

The best treatment for seborrheic eczema on your scalp is simple: wash your hair every day. UV-light also apparently helps, so all the more reason to love summer. Depending on the severity of your problem, you also need a special shampoo. I read that *shampoos containing ketoconazole are pretty effective, because they get rid of yeast, so I bought that.

And you know what? I felt like my problem went away with one wash! Already I felt the itching ease and my hair felt airy and voluminous again. (That is when I had to share my revelation on Instagram stories, so if you follow me there, you probably saw my excitement. You can check out the clips from my Highlights.)

seborrheic dermatitis curly hair

My new hair routine

I’ve now been on my new hair wash routine for about a month and I can say that the problem is pretty much gone. I mean, I understand the condition is probably gonna stay with me, but I have it under control. It feels amazing. (IT FEELS AMAZING!)

I have used my ketoconazole shampoo 1-2 times per week as instructed. Other than that, I can use my normal shampoos. I try to wash my hair every day, but sometimes, if my scalp feels okay, I can get away with skipping one wash.

Besides the shampoo, nothing has really changed. I use my curly hair approved conditioners and gels. So if you have scalp problems, you can still take care of your curls! It just means washing your hair hair more often, which is a bit more work. That is why I don’t always feel like applying gel and I might just use shampoo and conditioner and call it a day. Currently just having clean hair feels amazing.

I’m so happy that I managed to find help for my hair problems. I’m so happy that I got my curls back too! It honestly felt like it did when I first started the curly girl method. I had curly hair! I had curls! It was the same excitement all over again.

New curly hair products

Since then I have tried some new products and I have some new curly hair product recommendations. I listed all the products I used for the curls you see in these photos. (You’ll find all my other recommendations from the curly hair 101 post.)

1-2 per week *
*Ketoconazole shampoo – the specific one I use is Ratiopharm Ketoconazol shampoo

*Loreal Source Essentielle Shampoo
*Loreal Source Essentielle Balm
Noughty 1 Hit Wonder Cleansing Conditioner
*Ecostyler Olive Oil Curl Gel
*Aquis fast dry hair turban

The shampoo I’ve used is Loreal’s Source Essentielle Shampoo. It’s sulfate free and feels gentle, but effective on my hair (since a very clean scalp has become a priority!). For conditioners, I use both the Loreal Balm and the Noughty Cleansing Conditioner. The 1 hit wonder cleansing conditioner is actually made for co-washing, but it works fine as a conditioner for me. It’s lightweight, but gives some moisture and shine to my hair. I feel like using both of these has worked great. Sometimes I use a heavier conditioner and sometimes a lighter one. That way my hair doesn’t get too overwhelmed, since my long wavy hair can’t take too much nourishing products.

That’s it. It feels like a stone has been lifted from my chest! I’m sure I’m not alone with my scalp and curl problems, so it felt important to share. Have you experienced something similar?


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  1. neeli

    Itselleni seborrooinen ihottuma on tuttu ongelma. Oon kokeillut ketokonatsolia aiemmin tuloksetta, mutta täytyy kyllä kokeilla uudestaan kun ehkä kerran viikossa pesu sillä ei riitä. Yritän myös vältellä kaikkea öljyä sisältäviä tuotteita jotka voivat triggeröidä päänahan hilseilyä, se on toki tosi haastavaa varsinkin kun curly girl tuotteet ovat usein hyvin öljyisiä! Päänahkani vaatii pesua tuhdeilla tuotteilla mutta herkät hiukseni kaipaavat kosteutusta, tää on tosi vaikeaa tasapainoilua näiden välillä.

    1. Charlotta Takkula

      Ihan totta, että öljyjä on paljon curly girl tuotteissa. Mua ärsyttää, et kookosöljyä etenkin on usein ja tuntuu, et se on aika raskas omaan tukkaan. Voiskohan apu sit löytyä synteettisistä / kampaamotuotteista?

      1. Toni

        Charlotta, my beautiful 11 year old daughter suddenly started having horribly greasy hair. Then I realized it was even after she washed it. Waxy, stringy… terrible! We tried EVERYTHING. I was heartbroken for her as she’d go to school freshly bathed looking like she hadn’t showered in weeks! I decided to really investigate online and of all the things I read, your’s made the most sense!
        Your shampoo isn’t sold here, but I found a different brand–same ingredients. We washed her hair last night and this morning it’s PERFECT!!!! Absolutely gorgeous!!! Its even a ton lighter in feel and color!!! We cried happy tears and I had to write to you!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I never write comments in blogs, but had to reach out.

        1. Charlotta Takkula

          This comment just made my day. Thank you for taking the time to write it! I’m so happy you found a solution to her problem. <3

      2. Taryn

        I totally understand your daughter’s struggles, I have to rotate what shampoos I use, so some other products that I use are black tar therapeutic shampoos, Neutrogena makes one, but I use the no-name Equate and it works just as well if you want to try out other products!

  2. Emelie

    I can’t see any issues with your “before” photo. Your hair looks somewhat oily/greasy, that’s it. I can’t see any red or itchy scalp. Or have I missed something?
    Your har looks insanely fab, however 🙂 Amazing result!

    1. Charlotta Takkula

      My scalp wasn’t red and you can’t really see the itchiness.. you can feel it! 😀 and there was also some flaking, that’s not shown in that photo. That’s not the worst picture, I agree. But you can still see the difference. Thank you so much!

  3. Sydney Haskell

    I have hair similar to yours. I also have the chronic scalp issues as well. I have found the ketoconozole shampoo is harsher on my hair so at a suggestion I tried Giovanni Tea Tree Treatment shampoo. I also have some Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo but it has some sulphate in it. This particular melaleuca oil seems to take care of the scalp itch and that gummy stuff on my oily scalp without drying my hair. I live in very dry high desert mountains of Colorado, USA. It is a challenge that is chronic and needs washings at least every three days. I did see a dermatologist and he said it would not go away but can be managed. I am a wavy girl and am half Swede. So I once had blonde hair and now at 77 it is more white and silver.

  4. Rose

    I have had seborrheic dermatitis since childhood and recently had a horrible medication-induced flare resulting in me losing a *lot* of hair. I normally don’t wash my hair more than once every 2-3 days, but learned after talking to doctors and looking it up online that I’m supposed to wash it every day. The problem: my fragile, fine hair absolutely *hates* this! it gets so dry and brittle and I get so much breakage, no matter how well I try to condition.

    I’ve also always known I had “wavy” hair that gives me ringlets when it’s short enough (which it never is because I prefer to have very long hair, but I see them in my baby hairs sometimes), but it never occurred to me until recently to try the curly girl method. The only problem is that dratted seborrheic dermatitis. I’ve been trying to find information on how to care for girly hair with seb derm and this appears to be a perfect match for what I need. I probably won’t use these *exact* products, since I have some medicated shampoos that I prefer (including a prescription ketoconazole shampoo that I’m *hoping* isn’t going to need to be a permanent part of my routine), but this information is still really helpful. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Charlotta Takkula

      And thank you for sharing your experience! I’m glad you found this post helpful.

  5. Nikki

    Ugh this! I started CGM in March 2020, all was perfect until December 2022, all the sudden it was snowing every time I scratched my head (which I was suddenly doing all the time). I thought it was dry, added more moisturizing conditioners to no effect. My scalp was dry, flaky and itchy. I’m a chronically dry person- hair, skin, everything. But then a month or two ago I scratched, my fingertips were wet. I had yellow scabs in the hair behind my ears. I’ve figured out that I can’t sleep until it’s COMPLETELY dry or that happens. I tried the As I Am dandruff cowash, no luck. I also started getting red patches on my eyelids in the summer and I’ve gotten the red raw patches in the sides of my nose for years. I’ve just put it rusher that these 3 random things are one. Idk why my scalp is suddenly effected but I HATE IT. I’m also losing more hair, just like you. I’m going to try your suggestion, I want so badly to be free of this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Charlotta Takkula

      Oh no, sounds terrible. I hope the same trick works for you too!


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