Why is My Scalp So Itchy? 5 Common Causes of Itchy Scalps
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on March 2, 2019 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Scalp Care
You can scratch and scratch, but sometimes your itchy scalp just cannot be relieved. Scratching your scalp is generally not recommended, especially if itchiness persists, because you could cause scratches, wounds and even hair loss. Instead, you’ll want to get to the root of the problem and relieve the itching.
But what, exactly causes an itchy scalp? There are a number of potential causes, each with its own designated cures. Taking time to identify the underlying problem is the fastest way to get the itching to stop.
Here are five of the most common causes of itchy scalps and how to stop them.
Sweat, oils and hair product residue all build up on your scalp over time, creating a layer of grime that clogs the hair follicles and irritates the skin. This buildup can cause mild to severe itchiness that won’t be relieved by scratching.
If you worked out but didn’t wash your hair today, or it’s been a few days since your last wash, you’re probably dealing with a dirty scalp.
- The solution: If your scalp is dirty and itchy, all you need to do to curb the itch is give it a good scrub. Shampooing all the sweat and dirt out of your hair can transform the way your scalp feels. Additionally, try using a clarifying shampoo once every few weeks to really remove all residue.
The flakiness that occurs alongside a dry scalp is sometimes mistaken for dandruff, but the two problems aren’t always related. A dry scalp is more common in the winter months when the air is dry and your strands are zapped of moisture.
Over-washing can also cause a dry scalp any time of the year because you’re stripping your hair of sebum, the natural oils your scalp creates to keep the skin and hair moisturized. If your scalp is shedding white flakes and your strands are feeling brittle and dry, dry scalp may be the problem.
- The solution: If your hair and scalp are feeling dry, cut back on washing your hair daily. Try washing once every other day or even less frequently than that to allow sebum to saturate your scalp and strands. Additionally, consider adding a weekly hair mask to your hair care routine and loading up on conditioner to really lock in moisture. Coconut oil, honey, yogurt and banana all make wonderful additions to DIY natural hair masks.
Many people believe flaky, white dandruff is caused by dryness, but that isn’t always the case. In many cases, dandruff is actually caused by an overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus present on the scalp called malassezia.
This fungus feeds on the oils from your scalp and creates byproducts that your scalp may react negatively to. When this happens, the scalp may generate lots of new skin cells, causing the flaky skin that is the tell-tale sign of dandruff. The buildup of skin cells can cause your scalp to itch, as well as make it feel and look irritated.
- The solution: One natural solution to dandruff is an apple cider vinegar rinse. Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can keep the malassezia fungus growth in check. To create the rinse, dilute the vinegar with water and rinse your hair with it after shampooing, working it into the scalp. If at-home solutions aren’t working, you may need to see a dermatologist for other solutions.
Scalp psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes a buildup of rapidly dying skin cells. The condition can be triggered by stress, infections or nutritional deficiencies.
Psoriasis results in the formation of scaly white or grey skin and/or patches of red bumps. Typically, you’ll experience itching in one particular spot instead of all over the head.
- The solution: Scalp psoriasis may need to be treated with medicated shampoos or oral medications, but some people have found a natural solution in tea tree oil. The oil contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that may help provide relief from the itchy patches. To use it, mix tea tree oil with coconut oil and apply to the scalp. You can also mix it with shampoo for use in the shower.
Allergies to hair products
If you’ve recently begun using a new hair product and have since been plagued with an itchy scalp, you may have an allergy to an ingredient in the product. Atopic dermatitis, or a physical reaction to an allergen, can cause irritation and itchiness on the scalp and skin.
This reaction can occur after using any hair product, as well as after having your hair dyed.
- The solution: The best way to find relief from allergic itching is to discontinue your use of the products and see if the itchiness stops. You can also apply aloe vera or coconut oil to the scalp to soothe irritation.
If you try these remedies and your itchy scalp is still giving you trouble, you may have a more serious health condition that requires medication. Visit a dermatologist to identify the root of the problem.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan