What Causes an Itchy Scalp?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2018
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An itchy scalp is one of the most common, and most annoying, problems that a person can encounter when dealing with scalp-related issues. There are a number of things that can cause the head to itch, including dermatitis, parasites, and drys skin, and sometimes the best way to approach the problem is through trial and error. There are some things an individual can do to help determine the cause and find a quicker solution, however.

Even thinking about an itchy scalp can cause people to scratch their heads, but in most cases, the cause is not mental, but physical. Contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, head lice, and dry skin all can play a role, and each needs to be discovered or ruled out in order to come up with an effective treatment strategy.

The most important thing to do is determine whether or not the scalp itch is caused by lice. These small parasites, if present, often move around in the hair laying eggs and causing severe itching, especially behind the ears and at the base of the neck. Lice are often treated with a specially-medicated shampoo, available at most pharmacies. They can usually be seen by a person when checking the hair. If treated, it is also important to thoroughly wash all clothes, hats, bedding material and furniture to ensure future infestations do not occur.


Lice should be detected as soon as possible because they can spread to other people very easily. Children who have lice can often pass them on to classmates or siblings, especially those living in the same household. These parasites are a serious nuisance and a public health concern, and therefore should be treated immediately.

Seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff, is another common cause of an itchy scalp. This is caused by an overproduction of skin cells that can lead to excessive dryness. Dandruff is easily recognizable in the form of white flakes. A number of shampoos are available to specifically combat this condition, and most also offer a great deal of relief for itchy conditions as well.

Contact dermatitis is caused by an irritation that develops when the scalp comes into contact with something. This could be a type of clothing, but most often, it is caused by the type of shampoo or soap a person uses. The best way for a person to combat this problem is to switch shampoo brands and always make sure the hair is thoroughly rinsed and dried after each shower.

The scalp may also itch if the head becomes excessively dry. The best way for a sufferer to relieve dry scalp is to switch soaps or shampoos to one that is gentle and moisturizing. Making sure hair is thoroughly dried after showers and swimming also helps because it allows the natural oils in the scalp and the hair to return uninhibited. Brushing with a clean brush helps distribute these oils uniformly over the entire head.


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Post 6

@Oceana – I used to use a clarifying shampoo, too. It made my itchy scalp and dandruff worse, because it dried my scalp out even more.

I had thought that maybe I needed a strong shampoo to clean off all the dead skin cells. This was not the way to go.

Now, I use a dandruff shampoo that contains coal tar. I use it whenever I have flakes, and it works with just one use.

The rest of the time, I use a moisturizing shampoo for dry hair. I now know that dandruff is related to having a dry scalp, so I choose my shampoo accordingly.

Post 5

I had an itchy scalp and a rash around my forehead caused by a cap I had been wearing. I discovered I must be allergic to the material, so I had to stop wearing it.

I started wearing a cotton cap instead. I knew that my skin was fine with cotton, since most of my clothes are made of it.

Post 4

Sunburn can cause a dry itchy scalp, too. I didn't even think to put sunscreen on my part when going to the beach, and it burned badly.

It was sore for days, but after a few days, it started to flake terribly. I knew it wasn't dandruff.

It really hurt to wash my hair while my part was sunburned. I've learned my lesson, and now I either slather sunscreen on it or wear my hair in a French braid to cover my scalp completely.

Post 3

I had an itchy scalp caused by shampoo. I had been using a clarifying shampoo every day that was supposed to get rid of residue and oil, and it did the job a little too well.

I started using a shampoo for dry hair, and the problem cleared up. Sometimes, it's just a matter of choosing the right product for your scalp.

Post 2

i have severe itching on my head around my neck and face and also becomes those area lighter (yellowish color)and also have some scalp. i've consulted a doctor for treatment. he says that i was having fungus on my head. he has given me "keto plus" shampoo to wash every day. i use the product! the itching is reduced for a while when i use it. i do get severe itching mostly, when i eat spicy foods and when i walk under hot sun. pls help me! i don't have any cure for that.

Post 1

I am a female aged 26 years old & I have a history of contact dermatitis to wool. I also have a family history of contact dermatitis & bronchial asthma.

Recently I suffered from itchy scalp in addition to a rash on my neck.

I've been wearing a veil for 5 years, but recently I've suffered these symptoms every time I put my veil on.

Could it possibly be a topic dermatitis caused by wearing veils & what shall I do about it?

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