An itchy scalp or pruritus an uncomfortable and frustrating urge to scratch it that may be accompanied by symptoms such as scabbed or flaking skin and hair loss. Scalp itchiness can affect both childhood and adulthood and has many possible causes.
Explore more on causes, symptoms, including its relationship with hair loss, and remedies that can be used to hasten the relief of itchy scalp.
Typically, people do scratch their hair or scalp not because it is itchy but a habit they have when for instance they are thinking deeply about something. This is a normal habit and it is not what we intend to discuss here.
This condition refers to serious persistent itchiness of the scalp that may be triggered by a number of things that include the following:
Dandruff (whitish, greasy, thin skin flakes) is the major cause for the dry flaky scalp that can be very itchy. It results when the dead skin cells are being shed more rapidly than usual. Although this is somewhat not harmful, it can be very irritating and disturbing.
Causes of dandruff include hormonal imbalance, improper diet, and some hair care product among others. Some diseases such as Parkinson`s and HIV can also lead to dandruff. According to Heather Onoday, RN, nurse practitioner who specializes in dermatology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore, “People with these diseases have higher rates of dandruff”
Questions about hair dandruff treatments can be addressed by application of OTC best anti-dandruff shampoos. There are also home remedies for dandruff that can be used for dandruff treatment at home. For persistent dandruff even after using such shampoo, see your GP for severe dandruff treatment.
This condition causes itchiness and a sore rash. It is called cradle cap in children. It results in red itchy scalp but sometimes can be accompanied by white scales. The scales usually flake a factor that makes people assume they are dandruff.
The exact cause for this kind of dermatitis is not known but it has been linked to an overgrowth of common yeast skin organism. It can also be influenced by genetics and stress and it can be treated using a medicated shampoo for itchy scalp.
Poor hair care
Good hair hygiene is very vital for a healthy scalp. According to Healthhype.com, “when the hair (especially oily hair) is not washed frequently enough, skin cells may build up on the scalp and cause itching and dandruff.”
Hair care products can also form part of these buildups. The buildups can then attract many infections that can lead to itchiness and hair loss. The best idea therefore is to maintain good hair hygiene by washing your hair regularly using medicated shampoos.
Dry scalp skin
When the scalp becomes dry, it will lack the protective oil layer hence becoming very susceptible to various skin infections or conditions. Below are the factors that can lead to extremely dryness:
- Harsh weather conditions as well as dry air from indoor heating
- Frequent hair washing using hot water
- Hormonal imbalances
The best cure is to use shampoos for dry hair.
Otherwise known as tinea capitis, they refer to a fungal infection on the scalp that is more prevalent in pre-school children but can also be experienced in adulthood. This infection is caused by a group of fungi that normally live on the skin. Some conditions may make them overgrow leading to itchiness.
Symptoms of Tinea Capitis include rough, thickened inflamed area, yellow crusts or itchy and scaling area of hair loss. This infection can also make the lymph nodes on the side of the back of the neck to be enlarged. Recommended treatments for this infection is oral antifungals.
Head Lice Infestation
Head lice are small grey-brown insects that live on the scalp; they may lead to extreme itchiness because of an allergic reaction to lice saliva and feces. It is very common in children but can affect anyone with hair. Patient.info confirms that “They are most commonly spread by head to head contact, and can cause itching if it is sensitive to the saliva or feces of the lice.”
This is a skin condition that causes dry, scaly itchy rash and is normally challenging to distinguish it from other skin conditions. It usually affects hairline at the back of the head. It is characterized by massive shedding of skin cells and can be accompanied extremely itchy scalp.
To treat this condition, one may need to apply a combination of anti-dandruff shampoos and products, coconut oil and phototherapy. In serious cases, more specialized treatments may be recommended.
One can develop red itchy scalp due to allergic dermatitis. Hair dyes or other hair care products can act as allergens leading to itchiness. Such itchiness may last for a very short while i.e. just hours and then vanish of their own.
Corticosteroids or antihistamines can also be used to relieve such it. Actually, they should be taken orally.
Chickenpox is a skin condition that is commonly experienced in children and can present as itchy, red, crusting rash over the scalp skin. Nhs.uk explains “Chickenpox is a common illness that mainly affects children and causes an itchy, spotty rash.” This skin condition is usually mild and can heal on its own within few weeks but can be very severe for certain group of people i.e. newborn infants, pregnant women and persons with weak immune system.
Treatments may include paracetamol, calamine lotions, cooling gels and moisturizing creams.
This is a dome-shaped bump that can appear on the scalp, neck, armpits, genitals or other parts of the body. The resultant bump can be very itchy. Other symptoms include enlarged, oil-filled hair follicle due to blockage.
Hormonal imbalance plays an important role in the developments of sebaceous cyst. Treatments procedures include cyst drainage, steroids injections or surgical removal of the cyst.
Itchy scalp is a condition that has many causes with variant symptoms, therefore apart from the above causes, below are more causes:
- Contact Dermatitis
- Tinea Amiantacea
- Lichen planopilaris
- Poor Diet
- Excessive anxiety or stress
- a migraine headache
- scarring alopecia
- Discoid lupus
- Hard water (hard water leaves mineral deposit on the hair that can trigger itchiness)
The symptoms will depend on the causes. I mean, the severity, onset or the duration of the symptoms will always be determined by the underlying causes. Symptoms that can accompany this problem include:
- Redness on the affected part
- Pus-filled sores
- Long- grade fever
- Dry scalp
- Bald patches (hair loss)
Scalp itching can also signify something serious with other organs, in this case, it may accompany serious symptoms i.e. difficulty in breathing, sudden headache etc. See your GP immediately when feel you cannot handle the symptoms at home.
Itchy scalp and hair loss
Itching scalp accompanied by hair loss is among the most disturbing conditions one can think of. Sometimes we do console ourselves that such loss is just temporary hair loss but can be a very uncomfortable condition, especially for teenagers.
The common condition that leads to this problem is the ringworm. It usually leaves behind round areas of baldness on the scalp. Below are more factors:
- Tying or braiding your hair too tightly
- Dandruff or seborrheic Dermatitis
- Strong shampoos (can damage hair follicles leading to infections e.g. folliculitis)
- Alopecia Areata
- Side effects of Certain Medications
Once one is diagnosed with hair loss, several treatment options can be used. They include hair and scalp stimulants, shampoos and conditioners and also medicated creams and lotions. Where these medications seem not to bear any fruit, Hair transplant procedures can be considered.
Treatments and Home Remedies
Treatments will be determined by the cause and resultant symptoms. Some symptoms may just be mild while others can be severe and may need stronger medications. Therefore there is wide range treatments and remedies that can be applied including natural home remedies.
A) Medical Treatments
Medications that are recommended for itchy hair are:
- Prescribed oral anti-fungal e.g. griseofulvin or terbinafine
- Medicated shampoos for itchy dry scalp (shampoo against dandruff)
- Antiviral drugs and oral steroids or steroids injections
- Salicylic acid and sulfur (very effective to treat psoriasis )
- Antihistamines and corticosteroids
- Phototherapy with ultraviolet light
- Surgical procedures
- Antibiotics for skin conditions due to bacterial infection such acnes
B) Home Remedies
There are several home remedies that can be used to treat this problem instead of spending a lot of prescribed or over the counter drugs. Here are the common kitchen ingredients that can be used to halt itchy scalp and reverse hair loss condition:
Due to its antiseptic property, lemon juice can help treat itchy and dry scalp. It is therefore very good when dealing with dandruff. This remedy is applied through the procedures below:
- Apply lemon juice it properly and then leave it there for about five minutes. The lemon juice can be diluted in case of itchy scalp no dandruff.
- Another way to use it is to mix lemon juice with yogurt and then apply it. Leave it there for few minutes then wash your hair with mild shampoo. The process can be repeated until the itchiness and dryness vanishes
This wonderful skin moisturizer can help hasten the relief of this problem. It gets rid of skin dryness as well as soothing it.
- Heat coconut oil gently to melt and then add it to your shampoo. Wash your hair using the mixture
- Alternatively, you can wash your hair and then rub coconut oil on the scalp. Leave it there for some minutes then wash it off using perfume-free shampoo.
Tea Tree Oil
This is another powerful antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammation product ideal for several skin conditions, leave alone an itchy scalp. Below are various ways in which tea tree oil can be applied:
- Dilute 2-3 drops of tea tree oil in one teaspoon of vegetable oil and then apply the mixture to your scalp. Regular application of this remedy will actually cure dryness and itchiness.
- Another option is to add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil in a ½ cup of baby shampoo and use it to wash your hair until the stable condition of your scalp is restored.
This product is perfect for hastening relief by exfoliating the scalp and managing dandruff due to overactive fungi.
- Mix baking soda with water and then apply the paste directly on your scalp. To achieve better results, rub olive oil before you begin applying baking soda paste.
- Leave it to soak for about 15 minutes before washing it off using water.
Aloe Vera gel is another effective cure for itchy scalp since is a wonderful moisturizer hence grooves among the most potent products that halt extreme dryness and itching.
- Spread fresh aloe Vera gel on your scalp using your fingers
- Leave it there for around 15 minutes and then wash it off with a mild shampoo.
A more natural home product that can include:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Onion Juice
- Neem Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Eucalyptus and Lavender Oil
- Argan Oil
- Witch Hazel
- Peppermint oil
When to seek medical assistance
See your doctor if your scalp doesn’t resolve in a few days and occurs alongside hair loss, sores, pain or extreme itching. Though some scalp itching i.e. those caused by head lice or fungal infections will usually disappear without any medical treatment, this is a justification that you ignore mild symptoms of itchy scalp, they can become or may also signify serious medical condition.
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