If you’re experiencing scalp itching, you’ll probably go to any length to get relief. Constant scalp itching and irritation can have a variety of causes, ranging from a reaction to a new hair care product to a more serious skin condition such as psoriasis. Here are some of the most common causes of scalp itching and what you can do about them.
Scalp Itching Causes 1: Head Lice
This isn’t the most common cause of an itchy scalp, but head lice can cause a great deal of scalp irritation.
Although itching is one of the most common symptoms, particularly around the ears and neck, a small number of people with head lice have relatively few symptoms.
Most people think of this as being a disease of children, but it can affect all ages. Head lice are most easily detected by dampening the hair and combine it with a fine-toothed nit comb available at most drugstores.
After combing each section, the comb is carefully checked for the presence of lice eggs, also known as nits.
To treat the itchy scalp, the nits need to be removed by repeated combing followed by treatment with a special shampoo formulated to treat lice.
The combing and shampooing sequence may need to be repeated several times until the comb comes back nit free several times in a row.
Scalp Itching Causes 2: Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis can arise when a new hair product is used that the scalp is sensitive to. Itching is a prominent symptom, but a rash and skin flaking may also be present.
With these symptoms, it’s important to reassess all hair products, particularly new products that have recently been used.
Reactions to hair dyes and perm solutions can also be a cause. Usually, discontinuing the product will solve the problem, but for some people, the itching may be so severe that a steroid cream may be needed.
Scalp Itching Causes 3: Seborrheic Dermatitis
This is a scalp condition characterized by chronic inflammation that leads to itching, flaking, and, in more severe cases, areas of patchy hair loss.
This condition, more commonly known as dandruff, is more commonly seen in men, particularly younger males, although both sexes can be affected.
The cause is still not completely understood.
Genetic influences and hormonal factors may be important, although sensitivity to a yeast called Malassezia is also a proposed cause.
Treatment consists of medicated shampoos found at most local drugstores, although prescription-strength shampoos may be needed in severe cases.
Scalp Itching Causes 4: Psoriasis
This is a skin condition that can also affect the scalp causing itching, flaking, and the formation of thick plaques.
It can be difficult to distinguish from seborrheic dermatitis, although a personal or family history of psoriasis usually clinches the diagnosis.
This is one cause of scalp itching that needs professional treatment. Medicated shampoos containing coal tar may be useful in mild cases, but prescriptions will probably be needed for more severe outbreaks.
Sunlight has shown promise in the treatment of psoriasis of the scalp. Ultraviolet light combs are now available to treat psoriasis without the need to go outside.
The bottom line? If you’re unsure what’s causing scalp itching, it’s always wise to get a medical consultation. More serious causes such as psoriasis of the scalp are likely to be a chronic condition and should be evaluated by a dermatologist.