Itchy scalp or dandruff is a common medical condition that causes scaling of skin. Hair growth on the scalp is a process which continues in a cyclic pattern. The skin on the scalp would wither off its cells which are replaced by new cells. But the process of shedding of cells does not take place at the same time.
So some cells are always dead cells on the scalp ready to be shed whereas other cells are new healthy cells. When dead cells join together they form flakes (white powder like substance) that are seen on your shoulder. Itchy scalp can be managed by keeping the hair clean and by using anti-dandruff shampoo regularly.
It is common for many people to scratch their head due to persistent itching. So repeated scratching can cause crusty sores on the scalp which increases dandruff causing further scratching. There are many other skin conditions that cause itchy scalp apart from dandruff. In this article you will get to know about the various causes of itchy scalp and the ways to manage it.
Facts On Itchy Scalp
- More than 50% of people have itchy scalp and you are not alone.
- Itchy scalp is nothing to worry about and is caused by dry skin or dandruff or dermatitis.
- Regular cleaning and using medicated shampoo can give complete relief from itchy scalp.
Itchy Scalp Symptoms
- Itchy scalp can easily be identified by repeated scratching. It is quite common in teenagers and even adults due to excess of hormone secretion.
- Flakes of dead skin that can be detected on your shoulder and sleeve of your shirt are nothing but dead cells of skin or flakes. This process of falling of cells from the scalp is called as flaking.
- Flaking can be influenced by weather condition and it increases in winter months and during fall and decrease during summer.
- Itchy scalp does not cause any problem for the concerned person except embarrassment to scratch the head in public places.
Itchy Scalp Causes
Several factors can cause itchy scalp. Some of them are discussed below:
- Dry Skin – Nature of your skin also decides whether you would get itchy scalp or not. Very often dry skin is the major cause of dandruff. Dry skin can cause flaking of cells from the scalp and even from other parts of the body. You can see flakes of cells falling on your arms and even legs.
- Dermatitis – Seborrheic dermatitis is another frequent cause of itchy scalp. This can cause red greasy skin on the scalp which gets covered with flaky white scales often. Dermatitis can be seen in areas where there is excess of oil glands in the body. Some people may get dermatitis in eyebrows, nose edges and at the back of the ears. They would be repeatedly scratching these areas without their knowledge due to flaky scales. For some people dermatitis can affect the groin area and even the armpits.
- Improper Maintenance Of Hair – Some people will ignore hair-care and they don’t care to wash it regularly. This in turn can pile up the dust particles from the air causing itchy scalp and dandruff.
- Skin Infections – Skin infections like eczema or psoriasis can cause itchy scalp. In this case dead skin cells group together to form scales (thick layer) causing dandruff. Often these skin conditions are recurrent and chronic and require long-term treatment and maintenance.
- Fungal Infection – Some kinds of fungus called malassezia grow on the scalp causing irritation. More and more skin cells continue to build up forming thick scales on the scalp leading to itchy scalp.
- Changing Shampoo Often – Some people are in the habit of trying new products. They resort to use new kind of shampoos and cleansers which can cause irritation of the scalp.
- Stress – Sometimes stress can affect your skin condition causing dermatitis and itchy scalp.
- Other Medical Conditions – Some types of neurological problems like paralysis or Parkinson’s disease can cause dandruff and itchy scalp.
Who Are At Risk For Getting Itchy Scalp?
Anyone can get this condition irrespective of sex and age. But certain factors make them riskier than others.
- Teenage – If you are in adolescence you are more likely to develop dandruff/itchy scalp than others. This is due to the excess secretion of many hormones that make the scalp oily and sticky.
- Being Men – Males are more likely to develop itchy scalp than females. Exact cause is not known but is believed it can be due to male sex hormones.
- Dry Skin – If you have dry skin you have increased chance for dandruff.
- Poor Nutrition – People below poverty line can never eat healthy diet and hence their body does not contain enough proportions of zinc, vitamins and other minerals. This can cause increased itchy scalp.
Itchy Scalp Treatment
Mild form of dandruff and itchy scalp can be managed without any medical treatment. Regular cleansing of hair can gradually reduce oiliness in the scalp. If you have persistent dandruff in spite of daily washing you can buy dandruff shampoos from the pharmacy. You need to be patient in choosing the right brand of shampoo that gives positive results. Check whether your shampoo contain zinc pyrithione in it. There are many popular brands that contain this chemical which serves as antibacterial agent thus controlling the dandruff and itchy scalp.
Select tar based shampoos like Neutrogena T in which you can find coal tar. This product is effective in controlling psoriasis and dandruff. Regular usage of this shampoo will remove the dead cells (flakes) from the scalp completely making your hair dandruff-free. Similarly use shampoo that contains salicylic acid which is efficient scalp scrubbers. Selenium sulphide shampoos like Selsun Blue can also be used regularly. If you have hair-lice you can use ketoconazole shampoo which is a good antifungal agent.
Given with many brands of medicated shampoo you may find some difficulty in selecting the right one. Only some brands set for your hair and hence you need to find that one. After applying shampoo on the scalp wait for few minutes before rinsing so that it can work on the scales and flakes effectively. Read the instructions given in the label before using any shampoo. You can use shampoo daily or at least twice in a week for getting good results. In case you have tried all the above shampoos and still not comfortable in managing the dandruff you need to check with a dermatologist.
Home Remedies for Itchy Scalp
Plenty of home remedies are available for treating itchy scalp.
- Tea tree oil can be added to regular shampoo for washing your hair thoroughly. By repeated usage you can get relief from itchy scalp.
- Add few drops of lemon juice on your palm and gently massage the scalp for few minutes. After a while wash your hair with plain water.
- Mix one portion of water with equal portion of apple cider vinegar and massage the mixture on your scalp. Wash the hair with normal water after few minutes.
- Alternatively you can use Aloe Vera gel on your scalp for getting positive results. Witch Hazel herb is effective in treating itchy scalp.
- Above all remedies, you need to manage stress. Let alone dandruff, stress can cause serious health problems in vital organs. Hence practice meditation to control stress.
- Do not use styling gels or hair waxes often since it can build up scales on your scalp causing dandruff.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits of the season and drink plenty of water each day.