Of all the beauty concerns that we have on a regular basis, an itchy scalp (aka scalp pruritus) has to be one of the most standout ones.
You might feel that the itch will never stop, but relief is possible. First, it is essential to determine the cause of your itchy scalp and initiate an effective treatment right away.
Constant scratching and itching can be problematic for the delicate scalp microbiome, the specific ecosystem of bacteria which helps keep your scalp environment balanced.
When your scalp environment is clean, balanced, and free of debris, new hair growth can grow and thrive. However, certain medical conditions and lifestyle choices can prevent this from happening. Read on to discover more.
What Exactly Causes Itchy Scalp?
There are a handful of things that could be causing your scalp to itch. The first thing to keep in mind is that your scalp is an extension of your skin -- so many of the same skin concerns you deal with on your face and other body parts, like dry skin, can easily happen on the scalp as well. That being said, here are some of the most common causes of an itchy scalp:
OK, let’s just go ahead and get this one out of the way. Let’s say you’ve got school-age kids running around, and you find yourself asking, “Why does my scalp itch all of a sudden?” Seeing as it’s common among youngsters, there’s a good chance it could be lice.
Head lice are itty-bitty bugs that attach themselves to body hair and can be seen in the form of eggs -- aka nits -- along the hair shaft. Although the nits can sometimes be confused with dandruff, when you see adult lice moving around your scalp, it's unmistakable.
You can try physical methods to remove the lice, or you can use natural live shampoos as well as natural lice removers.
Scabies an cause itching not just on your scalp but also on your entire body.
Scabies on the scalp isn’t too common, though, and it usually affects those with compromised immune systems. Scabies is an infestation of the “human itch mite” (aka Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis).
The mites burrow down into the upper layer of the skin, where they live and deposit their eggs. They almost always get passed along by directed, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with an individual who is already infested.
Scabies found in adults is commonly sexually acquired -- although it can spread without sexual contact in crowded conditions, including households, child-care facilities, nursing homes, and prisons.
Due to the name, many people assume that tinea capitis -- aka scalp ringworm -- is caused by a parasitic worm. However, it is a common fungal injection.
Ringworm can cause dry, scaly patches within the hair or a red ring-like appearance. Sometimes the infection can cause hair damage and result in patches of hair loss.
Ringworm is contagious and can quickly be passed from person to person through brushes, towels, and even the back of chairs. It usually needs to be treated with oral antifungal tablets.
Antifungal shampoos don’t typically work because the fungal infection spreads deep down into the hair follicles, where shampoos can’t reach.
So, let’s say you have ruled out head lice, scabies, and ringworm.
If you’re still asking, “why does my scalp itch?,” then dandruff could most likely be to blame. Or, more specifically, seborrheic dermatitis -- which is considered a severe form of dandruff that is caused by an overreaction the body has to yeast that lives on the skin.
Dandruff affects around 40 percent of people and tends to come and go throughout one’s lifetime. Stress, weather changes, and increased sugar in the diet can bring it out.
Some of the best over-the-counter remedies include products containing active ingredient salicylic acid and quality products containing antifungals such as selenium sulfide or ketoconazole.
If OTC remedies don’t seem to be working, it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist who can not only prescribe powerful steroidal anti-inflammatories but also determine if some other condition is causing or worsening your itchy scalp symptoms. So pull up on your dermatologist -- they’ll have your back.
Eczema or Psoriasis
An itchy scalp can also be caused by an inflammatory skin condition such as psoriasis and eczema (a.k.a. atopic dermatitis). These conditions tend to arise when your immune system gets “angry” at your skin, leading to red, flaky, itchy patches.
For both psoriasis and eczema on the scalp, salicylic acid and coal tar-based shampoos are recommended.
For irritated skin on the rest of your body, we recommended Like Butter from Topicals -- a thick, whipped mask packed with science-backed botanicals for skin so smooth, it’s like butter. This powerful mask will help restore dry, flaky skin while fortifying your skin’s damaged moisture barrier -- precisely what you need to keep skin flares at bay.
Did you recently dye your hair? Your constant need to itch may be due to an allergic reaction -- even if you have used the product before. It can start with a low-grade reaction and a little bit of itchiness.
You may not think anything of it, but with each subsequent use, you may experience more flakiness, redness, and swelling. It can cause inflammation and swelling of the scalp, and some people can even experience an anaphylactic reaction.
The most common allergen is paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which is used in black and brown hair dye. FYI: It can also be found in henna.
Your itchy scalp may be nothing more than a sunburn.
If you’ve been outside all day and forgot to wear a hat, think sunburn first, and get some instant relief with a cool shower and some OTC hydrocortisone cream. Your body will thank you.
How to Prevent Itchy Scalp
Reduce your chances for an itchy scalp by washing your hair regularly to remove built-up oils and debris.
Wash your hair in warm -- but not excessively hot -- water to avoid irritating and drying out the scalp. If you have an inflammatory skin condition, pay attention to what triggers your skin -- like diet or stress -- to prevent scalp itchiness from even occurring in the first place.
Tip #1: Avoid physical contact with people with head lice, scabies, and ringworm.
This includes refraining from sharing:
Tip #2: Check the ingredients in your hair products.
To reduce any allergic reactions, try to avoid using certain products that contain:
Tip #3: Protect your head from the sun.
If you’re going outside, do your best to protect your head to avoid an itchy sunburn.
There are plenty of sunscreen products specially formulated for the hair and scalp that will protect this vulnerable area of your body from harmful UV rays without leaving an icky residue on your hair. You can also wear a hat or seek shade to protect your scalp.
An itchy scalp can be a real pain. Itching may be caused by an existing autoimmune disease, like eczema or psoriasis. It can also be caused by something as simple as a sunburn.
No matter what causes your symptoms, you can rest easy knowing that an itchy scalp is not something that you have to live with forever. You have options, boo.
Taking care of your skin is important -- that’s why we always recommended Topicals for all of your skincare needs.
Why Topicals, you ask?
Topicals was created with the dream of transforming the way you feel about skin, using science-backed ingredients and herbs to help you feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful. Much more than beauty and much more than skincare, we’re a new standard -- medicated botanicals.
Here at Topicals, we believe YOU make skin look good -- not the other way around.