An itchy scalp – what could cause it and how do I combat the problem?

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An itchy scalp can have various causes. Usually, the problem occurs with poor hair care, but sometimes it can be the first sign of illness. Read on to find out what causes it and how to deal with it!

Improper Care

If you notice itching and burning sensations on your head, first pay attention to the cosmetics you use and whether you use them in the right way. If you do not rinse out your shampoo thoroughly or apply conditioner close to the skin you may experience an itchy scalp, hair loss and dandruff. In some cases, the itching may also be caused by a cosmetic product with too strong a detergent, which irritates the epidermis or causes an allergic reaction. In this case, usually a change of shampoo is enough. Remember, the cosmetics you use for hair and scalp care should be gentle, without SLS or SLeS and be suitable for your hair and skin type. It is also important to rinse them thoroughly and remember not to apply masks above the ear line.

Skin Problems and Illnesses

Other causes of itchy scalp can be dermatological problems. Below, you will find the symptoms and remedies for some of them.

  • Dandruff – initially manifests as white flakes of scaly skin. Such dandruff is called dry dandruff. If not treated properly, it may turn into greasy dandruff, or seborrheic dandruff. It is characterized by itching, but also by greasy and yellow scales, which form scabs. The consequence of neglecting greasy dandruff is seborrheic alopecia. To control dry dandruff, an anti-dandruff shampoo is sufficient. However, to fight seborrheic dandruff you will need cosmetics that fight yeasts, including salicylic acid, selenium sulfide and imidazole derivatives.
  • Mycosis fungoides – typical for this problem are oval, scaly skin lesions that cause itching on the back or top of the head. Ringworm can also cause localized baldness, but once treated, hair grows back easily. If you are experiencing troubling symptoms, you will need to visit a dermatologist to determine the type of fungus responsible for the skin lesions. In most cases, a shampoo containing ketoconazole is used for treatment.
  • Folliculitis – in addition to the itching, there is also a burning sensation and small yellow pustules from which hair usually grows. In order to temporarily relieve the symptoms it is worth using a moisturizing shampoo. In order not to worsen the affected areas, scratching, rubbing and irritants should be avoided. For a complete cure of folliculitis, a visit to the dermatologist and a properly selected topical antibiotic will be necessary
  • Seborrheic dermatitis – in this case, erythematous and scaly lesions appear, sometimes covered with several layers of greasy scales. In addition to itching, patients struggle with burning, redness at the site of the outbreaks and hair loss. It is a chronic dermatological condition that, despite treatment, tends to recur. The most common treatment is topical antifungal, anti-inflammatory and keratolytic agents or shampoo with cyclopiroxolamine. If therapy fails, oral treatment is also used.
  • Atopic dermatitis – is considered a genetic disorder. Symptoms may appear once in a while, with varying severity. Patients develop a red and itchy scalp with numerous pustules that, when scraped off, form dry and exudative eruptions. This disease negatively affects the condition of the hair, can cause excessive hair loss and even premature baldness. Various specifics are used in the treatment, which are selected by the attending physician. In addition to medication, daily care is also important, which should be based on mild moisturizing preparations without artificial additives, fragrances and dyes
  • Scabies – is characterized by severe itching that increases at night. Thin red lines can be observed on the scalp. For parasitic diseases, special creams and shampoos available at pharmacies are used.

Hormonal and systemic disorders

Sometimes itching of the scalp is a symptom of diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism or complications after chickenpox and herpes. Occasionally, itching of the scalp can also have a psychological basis in people suffering from neurosis.


An itchy scalp can have various causes. There is no reason to ignore the problem. Sometimes, the solution may be trivial and a change of shampoo or care habits may suffice. However, sometimes you will need the help of a specialist.

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Main photo: HappyHaus/

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