Some skin conditions can be extremely uncomfortable and annoy you to an extent. Where you believe that there is no solution to your problem; one of them is an itchy scalp. A little itch here and there is okay but having to scratch your scalp in public constantly can be embarrassing, and what is worse is when flakes accompany the itchiness. Many people believe that scalp itch is due to lack of personal hygiene, but that is a misconception.
The itchiness is caused due to a variety of reasons, the most common one of them is dandruff, but it can be a sign of other skin conditions, some of which can be serious and need immediate medical attention; therefore, you shouldn’t ignore it.
The itchiness may also lead to skin infections, redness, swelling, balding so instead of ignoring the problem and controlling your urge to itch, you need to work on determining the cause and eliminating it. Let’s have a look at six common skin conditions that cause an itchy scalp.
Itchy Scalp Causes:
An irritated, itchy scalp is commonly associated with a skin condition known as dandruff or more specifically seborrheic dermatitis, a severe form of dandruff. It causes the skin on the scalp to become rough and flaky. Dandruff commonly occurs on oily scalps, but people with excessive dryness on the scalp may also experience this. The most common symptoms of dandruff are creamy-yellow flakes and clumps of dead skin. Some people may confuse other skin conditions such as a dry scalp with dandruff, but some signs may help you differentiate the latter from the former.
Although the flakes caused by the skin condition can be embarrassing when spotted on your scalp or clothes, the good news is that we can effectively treat dandruff and the market is full of treatment options.
Understanding the Factors that Cause Dandruff:
- An overgrowth of Malizia yeast is what causes dandruff, and since the bacteria thrives in oil, people with greasy hair are prone to developing the condition.
- Another cause is infrequent washing; when you don’t shampoo your hair sufficiently, it leads to the accumulation of skin cells resulting in an itchy and flaky scalp.
- Specific styling products such as hairsprays, dyes, etc. may contain substances that can trigger an allergic reaction causing a red itchy scalp which is another factor that may lead to dandruff.
- Regular brushing aids in removing dead skin so those who don’t brush their hair adequately may also develop dandruff.
- Other reasons include skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, a diet deficient in nutrients such as Zinc, B vitamins whereas mental stress may aggravate the problem.
People with sensitive skin can have an allergic reaction to specific hair care products which can cause an itchy rash known as Contact Dermatitis. Various shampoos, hair dyes, and other styling agents contain allergens, irritants, and sensitizers; the skin can absorb these resulting in inflammation along with itchiness.
So if you have added a new product to your hair care routine ending up with an irritated, itchy scalp, chances are you are experiencing contact dermatitis. But wait there’s more, not only new products can trigger the reaction, in fact, any shampoo that you were using for years may also be the culprit so look for the exact symptoms for the condition to be sure.
What Causes the Condition?
We have already established the fact that allergic reactions lead to contact dermatitis but what is crucial is to find out the agents responsible for triggering the condition. It’s also important to note that some people may react to a single exposure to strong irritants whereas others may react due to a series of exposures to mild irritants.
Here are a few common substances that may be the culprits behind dermatitis
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Bleach and Detergents
- Pesticides and airborne substances
Tinea Captis or Ringworm:
An infection caused by a fungus called Trichophyton rubrum, ringworm is a dangerous skin problem which is contagious and can lead to significant hair loss. It doesn’t mean that there is a real worm inside your scalp- the name refers to the patterns on your scalp that cause itchiness. The fungus responsible for the infection is active deep in your hair follicles.
The fungus that causes ringworm thrives on the sweaty skin so factors such as overcrowding and poor hygiene may aggravate the condition. Since it is contagious, it can be transferred by touching the scalp of an infected person or if you use combs or bedding that have already been used by the affected person.
Symptoms of Ringworm:
Apart from the itchy patches, you may notice bald areas and scaly red spots on the scalp. Other symptoms include brittle hair, a painful scalp, and fever. If you suspect that the ringworm bacteria have infected you, don’t waste time trying any remedies and seek medical assistance immediately. (I’ll discuss the specific topic in the next article with all the details about ringworm.)
Head lice are considered to be a sign of lack of hygiene – honestly, there can be nothing more embarrassing than when someone spots lice in your head and indicates that you need to improve on your cleanliness. On the contrary head, lice prefer invading super-clean hair and can be transferred as a result of head to head contact.
I have suffered an infestation of these pesky insects, and those few months were the worst ones in my life. They make you itch like crazy and feed on your blood.
How Do I Know if I Have Head Lice?
A common symptom of head lice is an itchy scalp. However, if the itchiness isn’t accompanied by flakes or clumps of dead skin, then lice are the culprit. There are shampoos available to help get rid of the pests as well as insecticide solutions; you can try any of these and use whatever works best.
Other causes behind an itchy scalp include skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, product build-ups, sunburns, etc.
You can also learn about
Treatment For Itchy Scalp:
In general, you will first have to switch to mild hair care products to help reduce the itchiness. You can also try a few other tips to control and prevent an itchy scalp:
- Some shampoos, conditioners or styling products may irritate your scalp so try avoiding such agents. Try to purchase products that are organic and don’t contain harmful chemicals that may damage the hair.
- Maintaining hygiene is crucial therefore make sure you wash your hair frequently. Insufficient washing may lead to the development of yeasts thereby causing dandruff and itching, Make sure you wash your hair at least once in 2 days. Keep your brushes and combs clean and avoid sharing these items.
- Avoid processed foods, gluten, foods with high sugar content and anything that can cause inflammation. Instead add antifungal foods to your diet such as apple cider vinegar, garlic, flaxseed, etc.
- You can use a shampoo containing salicylic acid as a treatment for psoriasis and contact dermatitis. Be sure to follow the instructions as advised on the back of the pack as some shampoos may be mild while others may be stronger or cause a reaction.
Home Remedies For Itchy Scalp:
If you look for a product to deal with the itchiness you will be spoilt for choices; from shampoos to hair masks, tonics and various over-the-counter treatments readily available in the market you can quickly deal with the problem.
However, as much as these products advertise to be effective and efficient in showing results, and sometimes a few of these do show excellent results, you never know what side-effect the chemicals may have on your scalp and hair. Another con is the high prices for good quality products, but that doesn’t mean you are out of options!
The best technique to get rid of an itchy, flaky scalp is to utilize nature’s gifts and use them to create at-home treatments that are beneficial, cost-effective and above all are free of side-effects, here are a few useful tips:
Create a hair mask to soothe the scalp using ingredients that are readily available in your kitchens such as a honey, avocado and banana mask. Honey can fight fungi and bacteria whereas bananas help in controlling and preventing dandruff while moisturizing your hair.
Just blend one mashed banana with half an avocado, and two tablespoons of honey and the hair mask is ready. Apply it to your scalp and wash it off after 15 to 20 minutes.
Apple Cider Vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar has a variety of benefits for hair and can help with quite a few conditions including dandruff. Due to its antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, ACV can kill bacteria and yeast that cause itchiness and resist fungal regrowth. It can also help soothe the scalp providing shine and luster to your hair.
So head over to the kitchen cabinet and take ½ a cup of apple cider vinegar and mix it with ½ cup water. Massage the mixture to your scalp keeping it for a few (5 to 10) minutes and washing it off with cold water.
Tea Tree Oil:
An essential oil with antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil, is the perfect product to eliminate itching caused due to dandruff, lice or seborrheic dermatitis. Mix almost 20 drops of tea tree oil in your regular shampoo; this is the simplest way to benefit from the goodness of the product. You can also create a spray by mixing 95 ml of water with 5 ml of tea tree oil.
Coconut oil consists of lauric acid which is an antimicrobial agent and helps soothe the scalp. It is beneficial for itchiness that occurs as a result of eczema, or even head lice. Make sure you get organic coconut oil; blend around 45 grams of the oil with 1 ml of tea tree oil and apply it to your head.
With antifungal properties and rich in vitamin C, cumin seeds can be used to fight itchiness due to dry, flaky skin, dandruff, psoriasis, and eczema. It can also help protect your scalp from fungus and bacteria.
You will need two tablespoons of cumin seeds; boil them in ½ cup water and apply the mixture to your scalp. Wash it out after 30 minutes of application.
Aloe Vera Gel:
Rich in vitamin A, which plays a crucial role in regulating sebum protection, aloe vera gel can be used as an agent to cool down and soothe the skin. It has antibacterial & antiseptic properties and aids in reducing itchiness by cooling down the area. You can use pure aloe gel; massage it all over your scalp and let it sit for 20 minutes and rinse it off.
Essential Oils for Lice:
If the itchiness on your scalp is due to head lice, we need to work on eliminating the cause which is the insects themselves. Essential oils can come in handy in the fight against these pests. Combine 2 ounces of olive oil with 20 drops of the essential oil (I’d recommend doing a patch test before using these.)
Apply the mixture on the scalp using cotton swabs and leave it overnight. Comb out the hair to catch as many of these insects as you can and then rinse with shampoo. Repeat the process weekly until you can end the infestation.
Since lemon is acidic, it helps maintain the pH of the scalp and therefore aids in preventing dandruff. It also has microbial properties due to which it helps in preventing fungal infections. Lemon can be used to fight dandruff in a variety of ways. You can directly apply two tablespoons of lemon juice onto your scalp and rinse it off with water or add one teaspoon of the extract to water and use it to rinse hair. Another beneficial method is to combine a tablespoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of curd and apply it to your hair, rinse it off after 30 minutes with a mild shampoo to see the best results.