Whipped cream, or should I see a doctor?
October 21, 2013 5:19 AM   Subscribe

I recently started working at a cafe. Since I started working there (and it may or may not be related), I've noticed a few rough patches on my scalp, right where I part my hair.

My SO took a look, and said that it looks like "a small amount of a white, dry substance, gumming the hairs together at their base." Since I'm a total klutz, my first thought was that I managed to get whipped cream or something in my hair and it dried there. But it's odd, because it's right at the scalp, not on top of the hair, and was still there after I showered and shampooed my hair.
posted by jb to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Are you sure it isn't dandruff?

I started getting righteous dandruff last spring when I started using the steam room. I have never had dandruff before and I was grossed out, embarassed, and confused. I used anti-dandruff shampoo (Selsun Blue) and it helped a lot. It took me a while to figure out that it was the steam room. When I stopped steaming I stopped needing the anti-dandruff shampoo. I still use Head and Shoulders daily, though, simply because it is cheap (yay Costco!) and my hair is still nice when I use it.

My point is to look for possible other causes, aside from your job. New hair products, new habits, hormonal changes, etc. Try some dandruff shampoo (and follow the instructions... they need to stay in your hair for a bit, you can't just rinse it out immediately like normal shampoo) and see if that doesn't help.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:22 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also make sure it's not lice nits.
posted by zizzle at 5:30 AM on October 21, 2013

Response by poster: I used to have dandruff; it was caused by using Head & Shoulders, which dried out my scalp.

This is a lot more concentrated, in a small patch of roughness. To my fingers, it feels like a scrape or scab, but the SO says it is white.
posted by jb at 5:32 AM on October 21, 2013

Are you getting sweaty running around at this job? I have very thick hair and used to get something like this when I was training and had to bus home without a shower. It isn't flaky like dandruff, more like the excess dead skin is caught there, gummin' around being yuck.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 5:33 AM on October 21, 2013

Are you outside more? Could it be sunburnt/tanned skin that is dry/peeling in the part of your hair that isn't protected from the sun by your hair?
posted by Grither at 5:45 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

See a doctor, could be psoriasis or some other skin condition.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on October 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, see a dermatologist. Your description in comments sounds exactly like my scalp (especially the scab feeling), and I've been variously diagnosed with psoriasis/eczema/atopic dermatitis. The basic treatment, a cortisteroid shampoo, remains the same.
posted by serelliya at 5:53 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding what grither said about 'outside more'. Any significant environmental change - hotter, colder, drier for regular periods might require some remediation. Does it itch?
posted by aesop at 5:57 AM on October 21, 2013

This is exactly how my first flare up of psoriasis presented (minus the job in the cafe). Have you been extra stressed because of the new job, or maybe the previous change of job/job search, new schedule, etc? Could be nothing, but I would definitely see a dermatologist. And don't pick at it!
posted by telegraph at 6:10 AM on October 21, 2013

My brother had something that looked like exactly that you describe. We called it scuzzball head. I think I remember the dermatologist saying it was ringworm, even though none of the photos that show up in a search look like what he had. It took a couple of years to clear up even with constant dermatological attention.

Definitely go to a dermatologist asap.
posted by phunniemee at 6:37 AM on October 21, 2013

Nthing psoriasis (which I also have). When read above the fold, I actually thought you were going to be asking if eating more whipped cream could aggravate psoriasis! Dairy does seem to aggravate psoriasis in some people. So does stress. Dietary links tend to depend on the person, however.

WebMD has good psoriasis info. The two most important (equally so in my experience) are to moisturize and don't scratch/pick at it. I know how tempting it is to remove the "scale", especially if it's in a visible spot, but it only ends up further inflaming the skin and can even lead to infection eventually. If you moisturize it regularly, even with just a tiny dab of oil, it will soften and come off without hurting your skin. Doesn't mean it won't come back, though :-/

See a dermatologist to confirm.
posted by fraula at 6:43 AM on October 21, 2013

....So I'm assuming that if you thought it was whipped cream that had dried in your hair, you tried wetting a paper towel and spot-cleaning that part of your head, right?

If not - try doing that, and see if that takes care of it. If it doesn't - then you'll know it's a dermatologist thing. If that does take care of it - then...yeah, wash your hair after work more regularly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 AM on October 21, 2013

Nthing the doctor suggestion if it's possible for you. It could be nothing, but it could be something a simple cream or medicated shampoo or light treatment could clear up.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:51 AM on October 21, 2013

I used Over The Counter antifungal cream, and mine cleared up in a flash. The products that are widely available in the US are ketoconazole (brand name Nizoral) and Tolnaftate (brand name Tinactin) and Miconazole Nitrate (brand name Monistat).

Use the cream only on the affected spot, and continue to use until spot vanishes.
posted by ohshenandoah at 2:07 PM on October 21, 2013

Please don't freak out when you see the word "psoriasis".
I definitely don't want to diminish anyone else who has it, but I've had excema all my life and last winter I webMD'ed myself into thinking I had developed psoriasis. It could be dandruff, could be excema which I routinely get when the weather changes in small, random patches that range from my scalp, my face, to the inside of my forearms and my hands. Sounds similar to what you're describing.
Definitely go to the dermatologist and see what's up because it's probably nothing that a prescription strength hydrocortisone can't fix. Much better than being worried about your next visit to the hair dresser.
I'll second Nizoral and maybe an OTC hydrocortisone, especially if it's itchy.
posted by rubster at 7:56 PM on October 21, 2013

Could be a fungal infection. Anyways, get thee to a doctor
posted by Yowser at 11:39 PM on October 21, 2013

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