Itchy Scalp: Causes and Treatment

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Most men look great in black. But if you’re one of the unlucky ones struggling with an itchy scalp, you should avoid wearing dark colors. A itchy scalp often results in dry flakes of skin over the shoulders, which is not a pleasant sight.

An itchy scalp, also known medically as “scalp pruritus,” is sometimes accompanied by flaky skin. Sometimes the conditions can become severe and require appropriate medication and treatment.

Let’s see what causes an itchy scalp and understand how to use the right treatment methods to get rid of it.

Causes of Itchy Scalp

The first step to healthy hair is to take good care of it. An itchy scalp is a sign that your hair is unhealthy. There are several reasons for an itchy scalp.

Close-up of a man with dandruff in his hair
© iStock

Dandruff, which refers to small flakes of skin from the scalp, is the most common cause of an itchy scalp. There are several treatment options for dandruff caused by Shampoos for itchy scalps to topical medications.

People with oily skin are often more prone to dandruff. A certain type of yeast breaks down the oil in the scalp, and the skin constantly produces new skin cells at a rapid rate, leading to dandruff. It usually takes about a month for new skin cells to be produced. However, for individuals with dandruff, the entire process takes a week. Other causes are seasonal changes and hormonal fluctuations or stress.

Contact dermatitis is a condition that occurs when the body comes into contact with an irritant. If it occurs on the scalp, it could be due to a new shampoo or hair product leading to an itchy, dry, and flaky scalp. It can also be accompanied by a rash and redness of the scalp and, in rare cases, blisters or hives.

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, causes a red rash over the scalp, itching, dry skin, and inflammation. It is not usually contagious and occurs in children.

Hives are red, raised, itchy bumps that form on the body, including the scalp. They usually subside within a few hours. When hives appear on the scalp, they usually develop on the body as well.

Image of a young man with an itchy scalp due to head lice
© Shutterstock

Head lice are tiny insects that live in the hair on your head and feed on the blood from your scalp. They are highly contagious and are caused by head-to-head contact or sharing personal items such as towels, combs, etc. with someone who is already affected. They cause an itchy scalp and feel like something is crawling on the scalp.

Several studies show that 50% of people with psoriasis on the body also develop psoriasis on the scalp. Scalp psoriasis causes thick, scaly, itchy patches that spread down the scalp, and sometimes these patches extend to the neck, back, and forehead. In addition to scalp itching, psoriasis can cause scalp bleeding from excessive scratching and hair loss.

Image shows ringworm on a man's head
© Shutterstock

Tinea capitis is a fungal infection that affects the scalp. Simply put, it is ringworm of the scalp that presents as discolored, itchy, and scaly patches. Eventually, these scaly patches lead to hair loss. It is contagious and can spread from the scalp to other parts of the body.

What Are the Symptoms of an Itchy Scalp?

Symptoms of an itchy scalp can vary depending on the cause, but common symptoms include:

  • hair loss or bald spots
  • Dry or irritated skin
  • Patches or scaly skin on the scalp
  • Redness over the scalp
  • low-grade fever and pus-filled sores in rare cases

A man with a lot of white flakes on his shoulder
© iStock

Should You Seek Medical Help?

If the problem of an itchy scalp goes away in a few days, you may not need to see a doctor. A few home remedies for itchy scalp can help you relax. However, you should see a doctor if:

  1. You have had an itchy scalp for more than a month
  2. If you have a rash, scaly patches, sores, hair loss or fever along with an itchy scalp
  3. If you have hives for more than six weeks
  4. If you suffer from severe hair loss
  5. Bleeding occurs over the scalp

What is the treatment for an itchy scalp?

Because there are so many causes of an itchy scalp, treatment varies too. Here are some Solutions for itchy scalp.

1. Treatment of atopic dermatitis

Treatment for atopic dermatitis includes maintaining good scalp hygiene and regular massages with coconut or other oil. Anti-itch creams containing corticosteroids can be used. If this does not help or flare-ups are too frequent, phototherapy (exposure to light) may be recommended.

Coconuts and a jar of oil
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2. Treatment of dandruff

Dandruff is relatively easy to treat and requires frequent hair washing with an anti-dandruff shampoo and some scalp medications such as anti-fungal cream or salicylic acid. Oiling the scalp before shampooing is also a good option as it helps remove dead skin and dandruff from the scalp.

Scalpe Pro anti-dandruff shampoo 100ml
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3. Treatment of contact dermatitis

The primary treatment for contact dermatitis is to avoid irritants and use natural products. You can also apply an anti-itch cream containing cortisone to the itchy area. If this is not possible, you can ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-itch pill for you.

Cortisone-10 Intensive Healing Formula 2 oz
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4. Treatment of hives on scalp

Hives rarely require treatment as they settle on their own. Rubbing some ice over the hives can help reduce inflammation.

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5. Head lice treatment

Washing the hair with medication to kill head lice is the first thing to do. Then remove the lice eggs with a fine-toothed comb. Because head lice are highly contagious and can spread quickly between people in a household, personal items that come into contact with the person must be washed at a high temperature.

    zykaa stainless steel lice comb against head lice
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6. Treatment of scalp psoriasis

Treating scalp psoriasis requires products containing salicylic acid and coal tar. Using the products will help soften the plaques, making them easier to remove and reducing itching and inflammation. Phototherapy and oral medication are also often suggested.

clean buds coal tar & salicylic acid scalp shampoo
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7. Treatment of tinea capitis

The main treatment for tinea capitis is an antifungal medication, which must be taken for at least six weeks. In addition, you may also be prescribed a medicated shampoo containing ketoconazole or selenium sulfide. It is necessary to use the shampoo and the medication because shampoo only prevents the fungus from spreading elsewhere while oral medication kills the fungus.

Selsun Suspension anti-dandruff shampoo
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The final result

Lifestyle choices and seasonal changes can often cause an itchy scalp. Dandruff is the most common cause of an itchy scalp. An itchy scalp usually goes away on its own. Most symptoms can be controlled with the right products for your hair and scalp. But if the problem persists, you should consider changing your regime or seeing a doctor.

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