Itchy Scalp: Common Causes and Treatments

Dry and itchy scalp is a common problem that often results in dandruff. This condition isn’t particularly dangerous. Although in some severe cases, it can contribute to hair loss. There are many different reasons that can make the skin on your head become itchy. Treatments for this condition are often similar regardless of its direct cause, but there may be differences in the more severe cases. Therefore, it’s imperative to determine the reason first, and then choose an appropriate treatment program.

Why Is My Scalp so Itchy?

Itchy scalp and subsequent dandruff are often caused by some type of dermatological problem. The most common reasons for this condition are:

  • Yeast infections – Fungus malassezia is considered one of the main causes of dandruff. This yeast is present almost on every person’s skin, and this is completely normal. However, if you have too much of it, malassezia stops being harmless. This results in infection, inflamed and clogged follicles, and overproduction of sebum and dandruff.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis – This is a common condition that can occur anywhere on your skin. If it affects the scalp, it results in itching, dryness, and dandruff. This condition is treatable and doesn’t pose any danger to your health.
  • Scalp psoriasis – Psoriasis is a condition that occurs when your immune system malfunctions and forces your body to produce too many skin cells. This makes the outer layer of your skin flake off as your body tries to shed the dead cells. One of the consequences of this abnormal cell activity is clogging of your pores, which can eventually lead to dandruff. Although the symptoms are similar and psoriasis does cause your scalp to be itchy, it is not dandruff.
  • Eczema – The causes of eczema are unknown. This condition usually affects babies, but one can develop it at any age. It makes your scalp itchy and flaky, which makes you want to scratch it rather vigorously. If you manage to break the skin, fungi and bacteria can cause infection and make the condition much worse. Topical treatments can help relieve the symptoms.
  • Parkinson’s disease and HIV – Although there isn’t sufficient research to prove that these conditions are the direct cause of dandruff, it has been noted that people who suffer from them have a higher chance of developing this type of skin problem.
  • Poor hygiene – Not washing your hair often enough makes dead skin cells accumulate on your scalp and clog the pores. The fungi present on your skin will make the problem worse as overproduction of oil caused by clogged hair follicles will create a perfect breeding ground for yeast. This results in dandruff.
  • Lice infestation – Lice are parasites that suck blood. The condition is highly contagious as parasites can jump from one person to another. They breed very fast and their bites are extremely itchy. If there are any bacteria or fungi on your skin, scratches can become infected. In this case, you will have to deal with both infection and parasites.

Regardless of the direct cause of your dandruff problem, stress can aggravate the condition and make it much worse. Therefore, stress management is an important part of any treatment program.

Itchy Scalp Treatment

In order to choose the right treatment, you need to know the reason behind your condition. If the only problems you have are itchiness and dandruff (no blisters, visible inflammation or discoloration of the skin), you can start with using common over-the-counter topical treatments.

  • Anti-dandruff shampoo – There are various types of anti-dandruff shampoos available in stores. The majority of them aim to normalize pH balance of the skin. If your scalp is moisturized properly, and you clean it often enough to remove dead skin cells, dandruff should disappear quickly.
  • Creams – If the infection that causes your problem is too severe to be eliminated by shampoo, you can try various anti-dandruff creams. Although they are considered over-the-counter treatments, you should consult a dermatologist to determine which one will be most effective in your case. The majority of those creams are based on either antibiotics or steroids.

If the problem is caused by lice, over-the-counter treatments should solve it quickly. However, if the parasites are too persistent, you will need to seek medical attention. Your doctor will prescribe specialized shampoos or lotions, which will be able to kill the parasites. You have to be very careful with them, especially if these products are to be used on a child, as they can have several dangerous side effects.

For psoriasis, over-the-counter treatments are usually effective. If the condition is severe, you will require either laser or non-laser therapy. In this case, you may also require additional prescription medications.

The most common active ingredients in effective anti-dandruff treatments are:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Coal tar
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Ketoconazole

Look for these names on the labels of over-the-counter products you consider purchasing for this condition.