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Itchy scalp concerns? We asked an expert to decode the science behind this condition

If you're suffering from an itchy scalp, be prepared to bookmark this page as ATH's expert explains what you need to know... 

Itchin’ to know why your scalp is irritated? We’re here to help. Not only can an itchy head be an uncomfortable and even embarrassing condition to deal with, it can also raise concerns about your overall scalp health.

To explain more, Peter Bailey, Global Technical Manager, Hair Care, at Unilever, lends his expertise as ATH unpacks the A-Zs of having an itchy flaky scalp – one query at a time.

Itchy scalp causes

Woman scratching itchy scalp with hand
Flaky scalp concerns: decoded. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock.

What makes your scalp itchy?

Not surprisingly, the causes and symptoms of an itchy scalp usually lie within the skin itself. “The main root cause of scalp issues is the integrity of the scalp stratum corneum barrier,” reveals Peter. “The role of the barrier is to protect against irritants and other things in the environment from penetrating into the human body.”

If irritants of any kind do penetrate the dermis, they can start to disrupt the biological and physiological process that occur there.

In turn, this sometimes leads to a variety of internal and external symptoms, one of which can, unfortunately, be a very itchy scalp.

Blonde woman with itchy scalp
Itchy scalp treatments and cures. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

Why do I have an itchy scalp?

It’s important to remember that people will respond differently to biological conditions or issues. In the same way that some people have dandruff (mild or severe) and some simply don’t. The same reigns true for an itchy scalp – it’s essentially a person-to-person issue.

If you find yourself wondering “why do I have an itchy scalp?” the answer may lie in your skin itself.

“Some people will have a naturally weak scalp barrier,” says Peter. “In these individuals, the resident microflora (bacteria & yeasts) ‘eat’ sebum and produce irritants that more easily penetrate to cause inflammation and itch.”

In addition, having a dry or flaky scalp (aka dandruff) can be a reason for irritation or itching, but from person to person, the scalp can respond differently.

P.S. If you want to know more about dandruff and how it affects your scalp, check out our in-depth guide, here.

Woman scratching itchy scalp
Itchy head? We’re here to help… Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

Itchy scalp treatment

The best treatment for itchy scalp conditions is to first consult a medical professional to determine the cause of your symptoms. From a skin condition to sunburn, there are a variety of reasons why you may have an itchy scalp and a professional will be able to diagnose this for you correctly.

For dandruff-related woes, it’s key to look for specific ingredients in your grooming routine. According to Peter, “use of an anti-dandruff shampoo conditioning ZnPTO will remove the attacking microflora from the scalp which allows the scalp barrier to recover its protective properties.”

In general, when washing your hair, make sure to use a shampoo and conditioner designed for the specific needs of your strands. And be sure to consult a medical professional if you have any concerns about your scalp health.


And there you have it – we hope that scratched your itch!




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