Itchy scalp |

Itchy scalp |

Why do I have itchy scalp? Why is my head itching?

There is not just one cause for itchy scalp, but different situations that can cause an itchy scalp. First of all, we must differentiate:

  • itchy scalp without any other part of the body scratching (localized itching);
  • itching that affects the scalp, but also the face and/or other skin areas (extensive or even generalized itching);
  • itching which is the only symptom;
  • itching that accompanies other abnormal signs in the scalp; scales or dandruff, plaques, scabs, redness, hair loss, …

Depending on the situation, it is then easier to understand the cause of the itching and therefore to find a solution to relieve it effectively.

Do dandruff or scales itch?

The presence of dandruff in the scalp is not always associated with itchy scalp. Dandruff can be linked to excess sebum in people with oily scalps. The skull can scratch, without there being dandruff, but the presence of dandruff does not always scratch. Itching and dandruff can be associated but not always, it all depends on the cause of these two hair symptoms!

What are the causes of itchy scalp?

An itchy skull, itchy scalp can have several causes, including:

  • the existence of a scalp infection (usually a fungal or parasitic infection);
  • the existence of a skin pathology on the scalp or extended to the rest of the body, for example the psoriasis or the atopic dermatitis ;
  • a allergy contact with a cosmetic product used on the scalp (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, coloring product, styling gel, etc.);
  • dry skin, sometimes linked to nutritional deficiencies or lack of hydration;
  • the excessive use of cosmetic or hygiene products for the hair or the use of inappropriate products for the scalp, which dry out or attack the scalp.

While some of these causes are preventable or modifiable, other causes require medical advice and appropriate treatment.

Dry scalp, irritated scalp, red scalp, …

It is common for itchy scalp to be associated with other abnormal signs:

  • scalp irritation;
  • dry scalp associated with different situations, pregnancy, stress, cancer, severe fatigue, unbalanced diet;
  • the presence of redness on the scalp;
  • the existence of crusts on the scalp;
  • the presence of dandruff or scales on the scalp and/or hair: dandruff results from the desquamation of the scalp, that is to say the detachment of small strips of the upper layer of the skin of the scalp;
  • signs elsewhere than on the scalp: skin lesions in other parts of the body, general allergic signs, ….

The presence of one or more of these signs can point to the cause of the itching and therefore help find the most suitable method to relieve it.

Scalp fungus, scalp scabies, ringworm…

Scalp infections can cause severe itching. The scalp can be the site of infections by fungi (especially ringworm), but also by parasites, such as scabies or lice.

The ringworm of the scalp, also called dermatophytia of the scalp is a fungal infection of the scalp. It occurs mainly in children, is very contagious and can thus cause epidemics, especially in schools and early childhood establishments. Itching of the scalp is not the main symptom of ringworm, which is mainly manifested by:

  • round spots
  • dry scales (kinds of dandruff)
  • isolated alopecia (localized hair loss).

Treatment for ringworm of the scalp is based on topical or oral antifungal treatments.

Infection with lice headache, called pediculosis, is very common in young children and leads to real epidemics every year in nurseries and especially in schools. The presence of lice and nits causes intense itching on the skin of the skull. The infestation is mild, but should be treated to avoid possible complications from scratching lesions. In fact, if the child scratches too much, the skin lesions can favor the development of a secondary bacterial infection, for example a impetigo. The treatment of pediculosis is based on:

  • a pellucid treatment, based on chemical pellucid or natural products, to kill lice and nits. These products exist in the form of lotion or shampoo;
  • the removal of lice and nits using a specific, very fine comb;
  • a second treatment between 7 and 10 days later to prevent the nits remaining on the scalp from causing a new infestation.

Most often, it is not necessary to consult a doctor, and pediculosis can be treated in two weeks at home.

Head lice, body lice or pubic lice

Lice aren’t just confined to the scalp. There are actually three types of lice:

  • head lice, the best known, which infest the heads of children and cause epidemics in nurseries and schools;
  • body lice, which can infest all areas of the body. Rare, they are generally observed in people with precarious hygiene;
  • pubic lice, more commonly known as crabs, which is a sexually transmitted infection.

Itchy scalp and scalp psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is a common form of psoriasis, associated or not with cutaneous psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Scalp psoriasis requires medical advice and appropriate treatment.

Scalp psoriasis is manifested by:

  • sometimes very severe itching of the scalp;
  • the presence of scales at the hairline or at the limit between the scalp and the neck or face;
  • crusty lesions or patches on the scalp or at the edge of the scalp.

Appropriate treatment is necessary, either topical (local) or general (oral or injectable). Local treatments for scalp psoriasis are:

  • shampoos;
  • lotions;
  • gels.

General treatments are prescribed on the advice of the dermatologist, depending on the extent and intensity of the symptoms.

Atopic dermatitis of the scalp, eczema of the scalp

Atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema is a skin condition, which can also affect the scalp. Most often, the lesions are not only located on the scalp, but also affect the face and limbs.

A dermatological opinion is necessary, and an appropriate treatment, local or general, can be prescribed, depending on the intensity and extent of the skin lesions.

Itchy scalp and cancer

Cancer treatments can cause scalp problems, especially severe dryness, whether or not the treatments cause hair loss. It is therefore essential to take care of the scalp during treatments.

Other chronic disease treatments can promote a dry, itchy scalp. If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Itchy scalp and pregnancy

The physiological and hormonal changes of pregnancy can promote dryness of the scalp, with the occurrence of itching and the appearance of dandruff. Most often, suitable hair products and a healthy lifestyle are enough to relieve these inconveniences.

However, if the itching does not only affect the scalp, but the whole skin is itchy, the pregnant woman should quickly consult a doctor, a midwife or a gynecologist. Indeed, the occurrence of generalized itching can be a sign of a serious complication of pregnancy, toxaemia of pregnancy, which requires appropriate emergency medical treatment. If in doubt, ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

Mild dry scalp itching may continue or even intensify in the weeks following pregnancy. Appropriate care and above all a good coverage of nutritional needs, as well as a sufficient dose of sleep are essential to find a healthy scalp.

Drug treatment is rarely needed to relieve itchy scalp. A short-term antihistamine treatment can be prescribed, when the cause of the itching is allergic. In the event of an infection or skin disease, appropriate treatment is prescribed by the doctor or dermatologist.

In case of allergy, it is advisable to find the product at the origin of the allergic reaction, to avoid any new contact with the product. The symptoms disappear in a few days, but can sometimes reappear in a more intense way in the event of new exposure to the product. Be careful, an allergy is not necessarily specific to a cosmetic product, but often to an ingredient that can be found in different cosmetic products. An allergological opinion may be advised to determine the allergen in question.

In other cases, proper scalp skin care is often needed to relieve itching. There are different anti-itch hair products, in particular:

  • shampoos
  • conditioners (gels, creams)
  • masks.

Diet and lifestyle also play a fundamental role in scalp health. To take care of your scalp (of your body in general), you should, as far as possible:

  • get enough sleep and good quality sleep;
  • avoiding sources of stress;
  • eat well;
  • engage in regular physical activity;
  • take care of your hair, with suitable, non-irritating products (without perfume, without chemical products, with a hypoallergenic formulation), without abusing it (the hair does not need to be washed every day, otherwise the scalp becomes oily, which promotes itching and dandruff);
  • have a healthy, balanced and diversified diet, in particular rich in fresh fruits and vegetables (for vitamins and minerals) and with varied and sufficient vegetable oil intake.

Food supplements, specifically dedicated to hair health, exist but most often a healthy lifestyle is sufficient. Consult your pharmacist.

How to soothe itchy scalp naturally?

When the itchy scalp is mild, it is possible to turn to natural solutions to relieve dry or irritated scalp. Among the natural solutions, we can mention:

  • The application of baking soda, then vinegar;
  • The application of certain essential oils (lavender, tea tree, lemon, ylang ylang) at the rate of a few drops diluted in a shampoo or in a vegetable oil;
  • An oatmeal mask after the shampoo.

Hair and scalp are a bit of a barometer of the body’s health. Itchy scalp can occur in different contexts, but also indicate an imbalance, related to a lack of sleep or intake of certain nutrients. Unpleasant, embarrassing, this itching can be effectively relieved to regain a better quality of life.

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