Itchy scalp: Close up of a woman's scalp and brown hair

Itchy Scalp Causes and Treatments: How to Diagnose Itching and Dandruff

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 scalp 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.


What makes your scalp itchy?

Itchy scalp: Close up image of a woman running her fingers through straight brown hair.
Itchy head decoded. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

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.


Why do I have an itchy scalp?

woman with itchy scalp
Source: Adobe Stock

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.


Itchy scalp treatment

Itchy scalp: Woman with brown hair in a updo with her fingers touching her scalp
Dealing with an itchy scalp and hair loss? Find out why. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

The best treatment for flaky scalp conditions is to first consult a medical professional. This will help 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.

Editor’s pick? Want to find the best shampoo for your hair? Scalp issues such as dandruff require the use of specially formulated products such as the Organics Anti-Dandruff 2in1 Shampoo.

Enriched with organic Green Tea, this 2in1 Shampoo helps to reduce dandruff while gently conditioning your hair and scalp.

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


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