Itchy Scalp: What Causes It, How to Deal With It, and How to Prevent It

Anyone who’s ever suffered from an itchy, irritated, or bumpy scalp knows that it can be a real pain—literally. And if you’re one of the many Filipinos who struggle with scalp problems, you’re probably all too familiar with the feeling.

An itchy scalp can be worse than uncomfortable if you don’t do something about it. But before moving to action, you have to understand what are the causes of an itchy scalp. See, an itchy scalp may be caused by dandruff and other scalp conditions.

Understanding the Causes of Itchy Scalp

An itchy scalp is referred to as a condition known as “scalp pruritus,” which is a common occurrence that comes with symptoms such as irritation, itchiness, and dandruff. In more severe cases, it can cause scabbing, scaling, and flaking skin. And while it isn’t a condition that requires immediate medical attention, it can be a sign of something else, like eczema and psoriasis.

Here are some of the most common causes of an itchy scalp in most Pinoys:

infographic on the causes of itchy scalp
  1. Dandruff

Among the usual causes of an itchy scalp are the dreaded snowflakes on your shoulder known as dandruff. It causes white, oily flakes to fall from the scalp that stick to hair or fall to one’s shoulders, which can be embarrassing. The exact causes of dandruff are not well understood, but it’s known that it can be triggered by stress put on your immune system, causing an overproduction of skin cells on your scalp, making it dry and itchy.

  1. Seborrheic Dermatitis

This condition is characterized by the overproduction of sebum, or oil, on the skin. This type of dermatitis is the result of the overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands in areas of the body, such as the scalp, where there is a high concentration of the oil glands. When these glands are inflamed, you are likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Itchiness
  • Irritation
  • Flaking
  • Red skin or scalp
  • White to yellowish patches of scaling

There are no direct and identifiable causes for seborrheic dermatitis, but it can be caused by any of the following factors:

  • Overgrowth of yeast
  • Weather changes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  1. Eczema

Eczema is an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to become inflamed and irritated. Symptoms of eczema include:

  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Crusting or scaling of the skin
woman with itchy scalp
  1. Psoriasis

Much like eczema, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin. It’s characterized by raised and usually round, scaly, and silvery patches of skin that turn red and itchy. It can appear on the scalp, the back of the neck, and ears, causing dandruff, dry scalp, and itching.

Medical experts believe psoriasis is hereditary but can also be triggered by environmental factors. Just like eczema or other skin dermatitis conditions, it is not contagious.  

  1. Tinea Capitis (Scalp Ringworm)

Tinea capitis is not caused by worms, but by a fungal infection that affects the scalp. It extends deep into the hair follicle, resulting in round patches of hair loss that can increase in size over time. You may get raised, bumpy rashes that have black spots or a stubbly appearance.

Fungal infections can cause hair follicle inflammation and damage, which can lead to hair loss. Scratching can also injure hair follicles, so make sure to avoid doing so!

  1. Head Lice

Let’s clear two most common misconceptions about head lice: they’re not caused by poor hygiene, and they do not cause illnesses. Anyone can catch them, but these tiny insects are most often caught by children in preschool or elementary schools.

Lice cannot jump or fly, so they need close person-to-person contact to crawl from one head to another. They can also be spread through shared objects, such as hats, combs, brushes, or towels. They die within 24 hours if they cannot feed on the scalp, which causes intense itching.

woman with head lice
  1. Sunburn

Sunburn can be caused by prolonged exposure to the sun, wind, or heat. Symptoms of sunburn include:

  • Itchy, red skin
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Blisters on the skin
  1. Stress

Stress is another common cause of an itchy scalp. It can bring about different changes in the body, including an increase in the production of cortisol, a hormone that can lead to dry skin.

  1. Medical Conditions

Other medical conditions can also cause a person to suffer from an itchy scalp. Some of the conditions that can be linked to it are the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Shingles
  • Mental health disorders
  • Discoid lupus
  • Migraine
  • Alopecia
  • Allergies

Symptoms of an Itchy Scalp

The symptoms of an itchy scalp will be apparent right away. It will cause extreme discomfort and uncontrollable scratching.

Your scalp may also feel tingly, and at times, painful. And while giving in to the urge to scratch your scalp provides immediate relief, it can result in more pain.

Aside from the common symptom of itchiness, you may experience the following:

  • Balding patches on the scalp
  • Dry scalp
  • Irritated skin
  • Low fevers
  • Appearance of blisters or pus-filled sores
  • Cracking skin
  • Redness in the scalp
  • Patches of scales and flakes on the scalp
  • Crusting skin
  • Swollen scalp

Home Remedies for Itchy Scalp to Get Instant Relief

Addressing your itchy scalp doesn’t always have to involve medical treatment. Here are some natural remedies you can try at home to relieve the itchiness:

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can help balance the pH of your scalp and reduce itching. To use it to relieve the itchiness, mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water and apply it to your scalp. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing.

  1. Baking Soda

baking soda

Baking soda can help exfoliate your scalp and remove dead skin cells, which can reduce itching. You can use it to relieve your itchy scalp by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda with water to form a paste. Apply the paste to your scalp and massage it in for a few minutes before washing it off.

  1. Coconut Oil

coconut oil

Coconut oil has moisturizing properties that can help soothe an itchy scalp. Warm up some coconut oil and apply it to your scalp. Leave it on for a few hours or overnight before rinsing.

  1. Moringa Oil

Moringa Herbal Therapy Oil for Hair, Scalp and Skin

Moringa oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce itching and irritation on the scalp. To use moringa oil, warm up a small amount in your palms and massage it into your scalp, focusing on the areas that are most itchy. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes or overnight before washing it off with shampoo.

You can also mix moringa herbal therapy oil for hair, scalp, and skin with other carrier oils, such as coconut or olive oil, for added benefits. However, if you have any allergies or sensitivities to moringa oil, it’s best to do a patch test before using it on your scalp.

  1. Aloe Vera

aloe vera

Aloe vera has soothing properties that can help reduce inflammation and itching. You can apply fresh aloe vera gel directly to your scalp and leave it on for 30 minutes before washing it off to help address the symptoms of your itchy scalp.

  1. Tea Tree Oil

tea tree oil

Tea tree oil’s antifungal and antibacterial properties can help reduce the itching and irritation of your scalp. To use it properly, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil for the hair, and massage it into your scalp. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes before washing it off.

  1. Shampoo for Itchy Scalp

2-in-1 Herbal Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner for Dry and Itchy Scalp

Another way to address your itchy scalp is to use a product specially formulated for this issue. An herbal shampoo, such as the 2-in-1 Herbal Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner with Argan Oil, can help soothe and exfoliate your scalp using natural ingredients. It contains a blend of moringa, olive oil, argan oil, and omega from sunflower oil for the hair that helps strengthen your strands and nourish your scalp.

When to Seek Medical Attention Due to an Itchy Scalp

While home remedies may provide temporary relief, it’s important to address the underlying cause of your itchy scalp. If your itchy scalp is a result of a medical condition, such as eczema or psoriasis, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional to treat it. Doing so will also help prevent your itchy scalp from recurring.

Additionally, if the irritation and itchiness persist for more than a couple of days even after trying different home remedies, you should consider visiting a specialist or doctor. You should also get medical help if you start to notice the other symptoms of an itchy scalp listed above.

Itchy Scalp Prevention

The doctor’s age-old adage goes, “Prevention is better than cure,” and we agree that when it comes to having an itchy scalp, prevention is always way better (and more affordable) than cure. Why spend so much on getting medical treatments when you can avoid the irritation, itchiness, and burdensome feeling of all this stress by adding a few steps to your natural haircare regimen?

Given the different causes of an itchy scalp, the best way to prevent it is by reducing risk and keeping your hair clean. Make sure to wash your hair regularly with a moisturizing formula to cleanse it of excess oils without completely stripping the scalp of the skin’s natural oils. Rinse thoroughly with warm water to avoid irritation.

Moringa-O2’s haircare line provides your scalp with antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Paraben-free and dermatologist-tested, our products are safe to use every day for showering, allowing your scalp and hair to feel free from the irritation and itchiness that accompany the causes of an itchy scalp. Our haircare products can also keep your hair strong, moisturized, and protected from harsh elements, effectively protecting it from the different causes of an itchy scalp.

Meanwhile, if allergic reactions cause your itchy scalp, avoid applying hair dyes and fragrances to it. You should also avoid coming into physical contact with people who have head lice. After all, these critters will want to move from one head of hair to another, so when you can, it is recommended to not share the following items:

  • Combs and brushes
  • Hats, caps, helmets, and other headpieces
  • Towels and clothes
  • Pillowcases and bedsheets

Keep Your Scalp Itch-Free

An itchy scalp is something that no one wants to deal with. Fortunately, there are different home remedies you can try to alleviate its symptoms. Learning about the cause of your itchy scalp and knowing how to prevent it can also help you live an itch-free life.

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