An itchy scalp or scalp pruritus an uncomfortable and frustrating urge to scratch the scalp that may be accompanied with symptoms such as scabbed or flaking skin and hair loss on the scalp. Scalp itchiness can affect both childhood and adulthood and has many possible causes.
Explore more on itchy scalp causes, symptoms, including itchy scalp and hair loss, and remedies that can be used to hasten the relief of itchy scalp.
What causes itchy scalp?
- What causes itchy scalp?
- Symptoms of Itchy Scalp
- Itchy scalp and hair loss
- Treatments for Itchy Scalp- Medical and Home Remedies
- When to seek medical assistance
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.
An itchy scalp refers to serious persistent itchiness of the scalp that may be triggered by a number of things that include the following:
Itchy scalp and dandruff
Dandruff (whitish, greasy, thin skin flakes) is the major cause for dry flaky scalp that can be very itchy. It result 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 of 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 dry itchy scalp shampoo, see your GP for severe dandruff treatment.
This condition causes scalp itch and sore scalp rash. It is called cradle cap in children. It results to red itchy scalp but sometimes can be accompanied by white scales. The scales usually flake, a factor that make people to assume they are dandruff.
The exact cause for this kind of dermatitis is not known but it has been linked with overgrowth of common yeast skin organism. It can also be influenced by genetics and stress and it can be treated using medicated shampoo for itchy scalp.
Poor Hair Care
Good hair hygiene is very vital for 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 itchy scalp and hair loss. The best idea therefore is to maintain good hair hygiene by washing the scalp hair regularly using medicated shampoos.
Dry scalp skin
When the scalp skin become dry, it will lack the protective oil layer hence becoming very susceptible to various skin infections or conditions, itchy scalp being one of them. Below are the factors that can lead to extremely dry scalp skin:
- Harsh weather conditions as well as dry air from indoor heating
- Frequent hair washing using hot water
- Hormonal imbalances
The best dry scalp cure is to use shampoos for dry hair.
Scalp ringworm or Tinea Capitis is 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 to overgrow leading to scalp itch.
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 scalp; they may lead to very itchy scalp because of allergic reaction to lice saliva and faeces. 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 your scalp is sensitive to the saliva or faeces 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 affect 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 combination of anti dandruff shampoos and scalp applications, 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 itchy scalp. 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 scalp itching. 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.
More Causes of Itchy Scalp You Should Know
Itchy scalp is a condition that has many causes with variant symptoms, therefore apart from the above causes, below are more causes:
- Contact Dermatitis
- Scalp Sunburn
- Tinea Amiantacea
- Lichen planopilaris
- Poor Diet
- Excessive anxiety or stress
- migraine headache
- scarring alopecia
- Discoid lupus
- Hard water (hard water leaves mineral deposit on the hair that can trigger itchiness)
Symptoms of Itchy Scalp
The symptoms of scalp itching 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 itchy scalp include:
- Reddening of the affected scalp skin
- Swelling of the scalp skin
- Irritated scalp skin
- Sore scalp
- Pus-filled sores on the scalp
- Long- grade fever
- Dry scalp skin
- Bald patches (hair loss)
Scalp itching can also signify something serious with other organs, in this case, scalp itching may accompany serious symptoms i.e. difficulty in breathing, sudden headache etc. See your GP immediately when your feel you cannot handle the symptoms of itchy scalp at home.
Itchy scalp and hair loss
Itching scalp accompanied by hair loss is among the most disturbing scalp conditions one can think of. Sometimes we do console ourselves that such hair loss are just temporary hair loss but can be a very uncomfortable condition especially in teenagers.
The common condition that lead to itchy scalp hair loss is the ringworm. It usually leaves behind round areas of baldness on the scalp. Below are more factors that can result to itchy scalp and subsequent hair loss:
- Tying or braiding your hair too tightly
- Dandruff or seborrheic Dermatitis
- Strong shampoos (can damage hair follicles leading to infections e.g. folliculitis)
- Ringworm of the scalp
- 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 for Itchy Scalp- Medical and Home Remedies
Treatments for itchy scalp 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 are wide range of itchy scalp 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 sulphur (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 For itchy Scalp
There are several home remedies that can be used to treat itchy scalp instead of spending a lot on 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 on your scalp 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 on your scalp. 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 itchy scalp. 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 scalp hair and then rub coconut oil onto 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 on your scalp. Regular application of this remedy will actually cure dry itchy scalp.
- Another option is to add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil in 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 at hastening scalp itch 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 on your scalp before you begin applying baking soda paste.
- Leave it to soak your scalp for about 15 minutes before washing it off using water.
Aloe Vera gel is another effective cure for itchy scalp since is a wonderful scalp moisturizer hence grooves among the most potent products that halt extreme scalp 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 mild shampoo.
More natural home product that can be 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 don’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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List of References
- What causes itchy scalp? 4 possible conditions: http://www.healthline.com/symptom/itchy-scalp
- Do You Have an Itchy Scalp? 5 Common Problems and Fixes: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/04/itchy-scalp-5-common-problems-and-fixes/
- Common Causes Of Itchy Scalp That Will Make You Cringe: http://www.xovain.com/hair/most-common-causes-of-itchy-scalp
- What Can Make Your Scalp Dry: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/other-causes#1
- Itchy Scalp Hair Loss: http://www.hairsentinel.com/itchy-scalp-hair-loss.html
- An Itchy Scalp And Hair Loss: http://www.belgraviacentre.com/blog/an-itchy-scalp-and-hair-loss/
- Home Remedies for Itchy Scalp: http://www.top10homeremedies.com/home-remedies/top-10-home-remedies-for-itchy-scalp.html
- 16 Home Remedies For Itchy Scalp: http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/fight-itchy-scalp-with-home-remedies/#gref