Everything You Need to Know About Itchy Scalp Causes and Cures

Itchy scalp? It doesn't have to be a problem. Let's tackle it.

Do you find yourself scratching your head more often than normal? Noticing white flakes? While most people would assume that dandruff is the source of the problem, it’s actually only one of many conditions that fall under itchy scalp causes. Factors like diet, weather, product overuse, and even sensitivity to certain shampoos or conditioners can also affect your scalp’s health. And if you aren’t careful, it eventually leads to you digging your nails into your head and scratching away, which in turn causes further damage. Well, thankfully, there’s no need to suffer in silence—we’re here to lend a helping hand.

If you want to relieve itchy scalp discomfort and get down to the source of itchy scalp causes, read on to learn about the common causes of itchy scalp and how to deal with it:

itchy scalp causes natural hair
These may be the causes of your itchy scalp.

1. Dandruff

Dandruff is one of the most common causes of itchy scalps. If you notice persistent and stubborn grey or yellow flakes in your hair, accompanied by a strong unending itching sensation, it’s most likely to be dandruff. The over-production of skin cells on your scalp 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.

While there isn’t a medical cure for dandruff, you can effectively treat and target it with any over-the-counter shampoos that contain antifungal or antimicrobial ingredients. Because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, we also recommend you try massaging some tea tree oil into your scalp, to keep the irritation at bay.

2. Dry Scalp

If you’ve found small white flakes on your scalp, 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 you experience with dandruff. When your scalp’s natural moisture balance is disturbed due to changes in weather, diet, or sensitivity to certain products, an itchy and dry scalp is what you’re left with. As a result, your tresses may also look dull, frizzy, and easily break.

In order to relieve this itchy scalp problem, you first need to address the dryness. Incorporating an oil treatment (like Suave Coconut Oil Infusion Damage Repair Oil Treatmentor a hydrating hair mask (like the Dove Nutritive Solutions Intensive Repair Deep Treatment Mask) into your hair care routine to help seal in some moisture. We also recommend you switch up your regular shampoo and conditioner for more moisturizing ones, as it will eventually help reduce the discomfort you may be feeling.

Product build-up can be the answer to: What causes itchy scalp?

3. Product Build-Up

If you find yourself using too many styling products on a daily basis, these can sometimes cause your scalp to react and lead to itching. The products aren’t solely to blame, though: It’s actually 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.

In the case of product build-up, shampoo your hair more frequently and ensure you focus on cleansing your scalp – not your tresses. 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 love the Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo and the Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Conditioner.

4. Poor Diet

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.

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.

5. Sunburn

Just like a sunburn anywhere else, a burnt scalp will be sore, red, and can feel super itchy.

The best way to keep a sunburnt scalp at bay is to wear a hat when you will be out in the sun. If you do end up with a sunburn turn to your moisturizing products. If you do get a sunburn on your scalp, massage some aloe vera gel onto your scalp and gently wash your hair and scalp.

6. Eczema

Though commonly afflicting babies and young children, eczema has also been known to affect some adults. It’s a medical condition that causes an itchy, sometimes blistery rash on the skin’s surface, causing it to be red and inflamed. People have attributed eczema to several causes, which can range from feeling stressed to dietary choices. Eczema is even associated with reactions from some soaps and cosmetics.

7. Sebborheic dermatitis

Another medical condition that can cause itching, flaking and irritation on the scalp is called sebborheic dermatitis, or sebborhea. Some experts interchange scalp sebborhea with actual dandruff. Again, it’s relatively common (so don’t panic!) and can be treated with steroids, topical creams and targeted shampoos.

8. Scalp psoriasis

One other chronic condition is psoriasis, which is characterized by itching and flaking. The condition occurs when our immune systems prompt an overproduction of scalp skin cells. Affected areas can be most obvious along the hairline and again can be relieved by some oral medication, steroidal creams and even medicated shampoos.

9. Ringworm

We know, major cringe, but ringworm, or tinia capitis is also a cause for scalp irritation. The usual soil-borne cause for toenail fungus and athlete’s foot can also find its way onto our scalps via contact with our pets (sorry, Fido), towels, beddings and hair brushes. It can cause itchiness, scaling and sometimes even hair loss when left untreated.

10. Lice

These pesky little bloodsuckers aren’t solely a schoolyard problem. Lice (and their eggs, or nits) are a highly contagious parasite spread through contact with towels, headphones, brushes, beddings, headgear and accessories, meaning anyone who shares these things may be at risk. They’ve even been reported at movie theaters and in dressing rooms! Lice can cause extreme scalp itching and an overall creepy, crawly feeling. A lice infection can be cured by washing with medicated shampoos that are available over the counter, as well as treating your head with some prescription-grade medication.

11. Oiliness

On the flipside, a greasy scalp that isn’t washed regularly, or one that has too much product or grime buildup, can also cause dandruff-like irritation. Irregular or poor hair washing hygiene can impair the normal turnover of scalp skin cells, causing flakes, itchiness and even a slight odor.

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