Itchy scalp: Causes and treatments

Breaking down the most common itchy scalp causes.

Do you find yourself scratching your head more often than normal? Noticing white flakes? While most people would assume that dandruff is the sole source of the problem, it’s actually only one of many potential itchy scalp causes. Factors like diet, weather, overusing products, and even sensitivity to certain shampoos and conditioners can all affect your scalp’s health.

If you want to relieve itchy scalp discomfort and keep your hair healthy, read on to learn about what causes itchy scalp and the steps you can take to treat it.

What causes itchy scalp?

Dandruff

Dry Scalp

Product build-up

Poor diet

Dandruff

Cause: Dandruff is one of the most common causes of itchy scalp and the most well-known. If you notice persistent and stubborn grey or yellow flakes in your hair, accompanied by a strong itching sensation, it’s most likely to be dandruff.

The skin condition occurs due to an over-production of skin cells on your scalp and can be triggered either by Malassezia (a harmless yeast microorganism) or external influences like the weather, diet, and stress. Eventually, this production of cells leads to the build-up of dead skin, which disturbs your scalp and causes this itchy feeling.

Solution: While there isn’t a medical cure for dandruff, you can effectively treat and target it with any over-the-counter medicated shampoos that contain antifungal or antimicrobial ingredients. Because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, massaging a few drops of tea tree oil into your scalp is also thought to help keep irritation at bay. However, as always if you have any concerns we would always recommend you pay your GP a visit.

Dry Scalp

Cause: If you’ve found small white flakes on your scalp, dandruff might be your first thought but ask yourself: is it dry too? If so, you’re bound to experience some itchiness and tightness, though it’ll be less excessive to the irritation experienced with dandruff. When your scalp’s natural moisture balance is disturbed due to changes in weather, diet, or an allergic reaction to certain products or hair dyes, an itchy and dry scalp is what you’re left with. As a result, your tresses may also look dull, frizzy and be more prone to breakage.

Solution: In order to relieve this itchy scalp problem, you first need to address the dryness. Incorporating a hot oil treatment (like the VO5 Nourishing Coconut Hot Oilor a hydrating hair mask (like the Love Beauty And Planet Hope & Repair 2 Minute Magic Masque) into your hair care routine will help seal in moisture.

We also recommend you switch up your regular shampoo and conditioner for more moisturising ones such as the Dove Daily Moisture Light Shampoo and Conditioner as this may help reduce the discomfort.

Itchy scalp causes: Close-up image of a brunette woman's scalp
Product build-up can be the cause of an itchy scalp.Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Product build-up

Cause: Over-using products is a leading cause of itchy scalp. If you find yourself using lots of styling products on a daily basis, these can cause your scalp to react and lead to itching. The products aren’t solely to blame, though – but instead the way you wash your hair after use (or not wash it, as the case may be) that produces a build-up of oil and dirt, resulting in a scratch-inducing scalp.

Solution: In the case of product build-up, shampoo your hair more frequently, ensuring you focus on cleansing your scalp rather than your lengths. A clarifying shampoo is a great way to deep clean but should only be used once a week to avoid stripping your scalp and hair of natural oils. We recommend both the TRESemmé Cleanse & Replenish Deep Cleansing Shampoo and the Love Beauty And Planet Delightful Detox Shampoo for a really thorough but gentle cleanse.

Poor diet

Cause: As much as you love sugary and salty treats, not getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals from the food you eat can also result in a dry scalp – thus leading to more itching.

Solution: Tackling your diet and making it more balanced is a sure way to resolve the discomfort you may be facing. Make sure to load up on vitamin B and D, good fats and zinc to help combat the problem – read our tips on the foods you should be eating for healthier-looking hair here!

 

Right click and save our handy downloadable guide to treating itchy scalp, below or pin it on Pinterest.

All Things Hair UK infographic of how to treat itchy scalp, with product recommendations
Once you know the causes of itchy scalp, you can find out how to treat it.