The key to maintaining healthy hair is taking care of your scalp. It also determines how well your mane will behave so if you are looking for reasons for itchy scalp, you are in the right place. While it is not too tricky to maintain a healthy scalp, sometimes you might suffer issues that may or may not be under your control... like an itchy scalp! Here are all the causes, and some itchy scalp home remedies, doled out by a dermatologist.
Reasons your scalp itches & how to get relief: the basics
According to dermatologist Dr. Bindu Sthalekar, “Itchiness of the scalp is not normal, but when it does occur, it can be very debilitating to the person who is suffering from it. This is especially true when you consider the age of the person, as the causes of an itchy scalp differ with age. It is also important to deal with itchy scalps as some of the causes (head lice and fungal infections) are highly contagious and should be treated as soon as possible, along with the people who you have been in contact with.”
7 Reasons your scalp itches
1. Head lice (Pediculosis Capitis)
Ever gone on a school field trip and returned with an itchy scalp only for your mother to get down to business with a fine-toothed comb and medicated shampoos? Yep, head lice are one of the most common reasons for itchy scalp among kids and the diagnosis is made by looking at the scalp for active louse or the nits (eggs) that are stuck to the hair.
2. Fungal infections (Tinea Capitis)
Fungal infections are also contagious in nature and show up as small patches of hair loss (partial or complete) on the scalp. They are very itchy, with mild scaling, boils and pus.
3. Dandruff (Seborrheic Dermatitis)
Everyone has experienced or knows of dandruff at this point. This common hair woe is identified by a greasy scalp and white dandruff scalp. Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, it can be quite itchy. And while dandruff can be cured, it can return even if it is months or years later. So, the itchiness associated with it can be controlled, but not permanently eradicated.
4. Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
Another condition that produces dandruff flakes is atopic dermatitis aka eczema which occurs in people who have dry skin and a history of allergies. It is different from seborrheic dermatitis in the sense that the scalp is dry and not oily. It occurs due to allergies to hair products, environmental pollutants and a dry scalp.
5. Psoriasis of the scalp (Sebopsoriasis)
Psoriasis of the scalp occurs when there is excessive oil production. It shows up as patches of excessive white scaling in certain areas that are also very itchy. You might also notice lesions of psoriasis on other parts of the body with this condition.
6. Hives (Urticaria)
Hives can occur at any age and show up as red wheels or raised patches on the body and on the scalp. They are caused by an allergic reaction to an internal substance with treatments like oral antihistamine tablets.
7. Scalp irritations
One of the many reasons for itchy scalp that may not have crossed your mind can be allergies. Scalp irritations occur due to an allergy to products like hair dyes, protein treatments (formaldehyde), hair straightening chemicals, and other treatments. These allergies are itchy and can spill over to your forehead causing swelling. Scalp irritations can also happen with regular hair products to allergy-prone individuals.
How to get relief from itchy scalp
1. Medicated shampoos
For conditions like head lice, medicated shampoos with ivermectin can be quite effective and safe. For fungal infections, you can be prescribed oral antifungal medications, and medicated shampoos with ingredients like ketoconazole, ciclopirox olamine, or salicylic acid.
For psoriasis, look for medicated shampoos with 1-2% coal tar, or solutions with topical steroids in them.
Fortunately, for dandruff, it is not that difficult to get effective and safe medicated products like the Dove Dandruff Care Shampoo and Conditioner. Unlike other drying anti-dandruff shampoos, this shampoo-conditioner combo nourishes your scalp while gradually clearing the flakes from the very first use. Along with the ZPTO formula responsible for getting rid of dandruff, it uses micro moisture serum to hydrate your scalp and keep your hair soft and smooth.
2. Organic coconut oil
Did you know that organic coconut oil can relieve eczema to a large extent? Hair oil can be used to ease eczema’s itchiness, like organic coconut oil since it is infused with lauric acid and saturated fats. But a word of caution - do not use oil if you have dandruff, as the scalp is already quite greasy and can cause more flaking.
For a dry scalp which may also be plagued with dandruff, we’ve got you. Instead of using coconut oil, get similar moisturising results with the Dove Hair Therapy Dry Scalp Leave-On Solution. While it is sulfate-free, it uses antibacterial ingredients like niacinamide to soothe your scalp. It also hydrates your hair and strengthens it, perfect for dry and brittle hair. All you need to do is spray it on your scalp and massage it for 30 minutes before a hair wash to get instant relief.
3. Apple cider vinegar
According to Dr. Sthalekar, “Apple cider vinegar could be effective because it is acidic in nature. Using it as a rinse can help dandruff and scaling because it is able to change the pH of your scalp.” It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can also maintain the health of your scalp. Just dilute it with water and use it as a rinse after washing your hair.
4. Tea tree oil
An essential oil that can alleviate the itchiness of the scalp is tea tree oil. Infused with antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties, tea tree oil can help with dandruff and head lice. However it can be quite irritating to the skin, so make sure not to use it directly on the scalp. Mix a couple of drops of tea tree oil with a base oil like olive oil and add the mixture to a mild, sulphate-free shampoo right before a hair wash. Wash normally and follow with the conditioner for best results.
But if you don’t have time for these DIY remedies, you can just turn to a ready-made combo like the Love Beauty & Planet Tea Tree and Vetiver Shampoo and Conditioner. And don’t worry, it gives you the best of tea tree oil and the minty fragrance of peppermint and vetiver minus the harsh chemicals like sulfates of the usual shampoos. It also balances your scalp’s pH levels to control the dryness of your scalp and reduces itching.
5. Stress management
Hair and scalp health has long been associated with stress levels in the body. For instance, meditation can reduce anxiety, which in turn can avoid over-oiliness of the scalp that can lead to itchiness. While this might not be an immediate solution to an itchy scalp, it can safeguard long-term scalp health to avoid any future recurrences.
FAQs about reasons your scalp is itchy
1) Can dandruff be permanently cured?
A. Dr. Sthalekar says, “Dandruff can be controlled but there is no guarantee that it will not return. It can show up at puberty and increase during times of stress. A healthy lifestyle can definitely help as high fatty diets or junk foods can increase dandruff.”
2) Is an itchy scalp a serious issue?
A. While itchiness triggered by scalp irritations can easily be fixed, some causes can be concerning. Dr. Sthalekar says, “Causes like sebopsoriasis need to be treated immediately as lesions can show up on the body as well. Urticaria is a sign of allergies. They need to be properly diagnosed and anti-allergic medications need to be prescribed.”
3) Can I use peppermint oil to treat my itchy scalp at home?
A. While peppermint oil is known to be a good solution for dandruff and itchiness, Dr. Sthalekar cautions against using a lot of it as it can irritate your scalp.
Well, while here are the reasons for itchy scalp, you can easily combat them with our tips and tricks. Whether they are home remedies or specially formulated products, easily resolve the problem of a dry and itchy scalp now.
Written by Lopa K on Dec 18, 2022