Itchy scalp - help with scalp itching
Itchy scalp is a phenomenon that probably everyone encounters from time to time. Occasional itching is completely normal and no cause for concern. However, if you find yourself constantly scratching your head, you should take action. There can be numerous causes behind long-lasting scalp itching.
You can eliminate many triggers yourself, e.g. by changing to a different shampoo. Sometimes, however, an inflammation or allergy is behind it. In this case, the treatment of the itchy scalp belongs in the hands of a doctor.
What causes an itchy scalp?
Scalp itching can have many different causes. Triggers are often responsible, which can also lead to itching in other parts of the human skin. If you permanently suffer from an itchy scalp, this can have the following reasons, for example:
- dry scalp
- oily scalp
- skin diseases (e.g. psoriasis)
- fungal infections
- nutritional deficiencies
- psychological causes (e.g. stress)
- head lice
- Incorrect hair care or styling products that are not appropriate for the type of hair
Once you know the cause, you can initiate the appropriate treatment for the itchy scalp either by yourself or in collaboration with your dermatologist.
Scalp itching due to lack of moisture
Dry scalp is one of the particularly significant causes of itching on the head1. If the scalp lacks moisture, its important barrier function is disturbed. This means it becomes more susceptible to microscopic injuries, irritations and infections. Small cracks in turn cause even more moisture to be lost, and a real vicious circle begins.
You may be familiar with this phenomenon from your lips, as dry skin is particularly evident there. Especially in the cold months, small cracks appear and the thin skin of the lips looks brittle and dried out. This is exactly what can also occur on the scalp, for example due to cold temperatures. The drying heating air in winter does the rest.
But great heat also leads to dry skin, as do strong temperature fluctuations. A perfect example: you are on a summer vacation, you enjoy the warm temperatures all day and then come into a well air-conditioned hotel room. This promotes dehydration and thus itching.
There are many other factors that promote dry scalp:
- Washing hair with very hot water
- Very hot, long and frequent blow-drying
- Certain medications (especially diuretics, which promote the excretion of water from the body)
- Too little fluid intake throughout the day
- Regular use of tobacco and alcohol, which dehydrate the body.
- Certain medical conditions (e.g. diabetes mellitus)
- Unsuitable hair care or styling products2,3
Dry skin also promotes the formation of dandruff. These are not only annoying, but also make itching on the scalp even worse. An unbalanced diet also promotes skin dehydration, e.g. by lacking important trace elements. A zinc deficiency, for example, can promote dry skin and thus itching4. Incidentally, a mineral deficiency often also accelerates hair loss.
Hair care products: Sometimes shampoo and conditioner are to blame
As mentioned, unsuitable hair care products can dry out the scalp and thus promote itching. However, shampoos, conditioners and hair lotions can also cause an itchy scalp in other ways5, for example if they do not suit your skin type.
Do you have a sensitive scalp? Then aggressive and harsh products are inappropriate. Because they irritate the tissue, this becomes increasingly sore, and the skin burns and itches.
Scalp itching due to overproduction of sebaceous glands
An excessively oily scalp also frequently causes itching. The cause is an overproduction of the sebaceous glands, which are particularly numerous on the hairy head. Sebum is an ideal breeding ground for microorganisms. That is why bacteria in particular settle here.
In addition, they metabolize the sebum, producing degradation products which in turn increase itching. As with dry skin, excessive sebum production also promotes the formation of dandruff as well as clearly visible greasy hair.
Skin diseases and allergies as triggers of itching
Skin diseases and allergies are also possible causes of an itchy scalp. Neurodermatitis and psoriasis are particularly common. Itching is typical for both diseases. Other diseases that can cause scalp itching include:
- Fungal infections
- various eczemas
- parasite infestation
- head lice
But not only skin diseases cause annoying itching on the skin. It is also possible that one of the following triggers is behind it:
- hormonal disturbances (e.g., disorders of the thyroid gland)
- Diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases
- deficiency symptoms
- psychological illnesses
Which shampoo for itchy scalp?
Choosing the right shampoo is crucial for treating itchy scalp. After all, inappropriate hair care products are a common trigger of scalp itching because they can dry out and irritate the skin. By choosing the right products, you can make a contribution to relieving annoying itching.
But which shampoo is best for this purpose? The answer to this is: It depends on the cause of the itchy scalp.
Proper hair washing for dry, itchy scalp
Return the scalp the missing moisture and rebalance the disturbed skin barrier: That is the goal of treating dry, itchy scalps. The right shampoo is the most important thing. Give preference to hair care products that moisturize. This regenerates the tissues and relieves irritating itching.
Aggressive washing substances cause dehydration. Therefore, it is better to use mild and gentle products, because they also have a beneficial effect on the condition of the scalp. There are a number of shampoos and other care products that are specially formulated to meet the needs of dry and itchy scalps.
These include, for example, the Hybrid Caffeine products from Alpecin. They are characterized above all by the fact that they moisturize the scalp and relax it:
- Hybrid Caffeine Shampoo: Due to the mild formula, this Alpecin product is particularly suitable for dry, itchy scalp. In addition, caffeine stimulates the hair roots and promotes growth.
- Hybrid Caffeine Liquid: The hair tonic is the perfect complement to Hybrid Caffeine Shampoo, as it immediately moisturizes and soothes the scalp. Thanks to the mild formulation without ethyl alcohol, scalp itching is immediately reduced. At the same time, caffeine prevents hereditary hair loss.
Proper hair washing for oily, itchy scalp
Oily scalp not only causes annoying itching, but can also be aesthetically disturbing. Because quickly oily hair is a cosmetic problem for those affected, as the hair condition is visibly affected. In this case, shampoos specifically designed for oily scalp are recommended. This way, the scalp is degreased and your hair will look well-groomed again with regular use.
In addition to the appropriate shampoo, a tonic can also help the scalp restore its natural balance.
A shampoo specially developed for oily and flaky scalps is the Double Effect Caffeine Shampoo from Alpecin. The combination of salicylic acid and piroctone olamine enables precise and gentle shedding of dandruff and reduces scalp itching. Medicinal FORTE tonic also relieves itching, soothes irritation and refreshes the scalp with menthol.
How often to wash hair with itchy scalp?
Opinions among experts differ on this question. Basically, with the right care product, you can wash your hair every day even if you have a dry scalp. In most cases, the fear that washing your hair too often will further dry out your scalp is unfounded6. This is especially true if you use a shampoo specifically formulated for your needs. So with a moisturizing product, you can definitely wash your hair every day.
The situation is somewhat different for oily scalps: Here, the hair should be washed frequently in any case. Tip: Massage the shampoo intensively into the scalp. This helps to empty the sebaceous glands and prevents greasing back too quickly7.
What to do about itchy scalp? Tips and home remedies
With the right hair care, you can treat scalp itching in a professional way. But beyond that, there are still some tips on how you can additionally get the annoying itching on the head under control. In addition to general advice, some home remedies have also been handed down in this case.
Hair conditioner with apple cider vinegar
It helps especially with oily, itchy scalp. Simply mix a liter of water with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and apply and massage after shampooing. It is not necessary to wash out the conditioner.
Olive oil: Not only for heart and circulation very healthy
Ideal especially for dry scalp is olive oil. Spread several drops of it on the head and gently massage the valuable ingredient. Repeat this regularly, e.g. twice a week.
Honey moisturizes and disinfects
You certainly know honey as a proven home remedy for colds. Make use of the healing effects of the sweet food also for itchy scalp. Honey moisturizes and disinfects. Annoying itching is relieved.
Unusual but helpful: mayonnaise has proven itself many times over
World-famous as a popular ingredient for French fries, mayonnaise is also a powerful mixture against itchy scalp. No wonder, the ingredients have it all. Eggs provide valuable proteins, vinegar disinfects and oil moisturizes. Simply massage in a handful, leave on for 15 minutes and then rinse.
Lavender oil relieves itching
Lavender can do much more than smell soothing. For example, the oil is often used against mosquito bites. The purple plant is also good for the scalp, relieving itching for a long time and thus keeping you from scratching.
General tips against itchy scalp
Even in everyday life, there are some ways you can counteract annoying scalp itching:
- Do not use too hot water when washing your hair.
- Do not set your hair dryer too hot and do not blow dry for too long
- Even if it is difficult: Scratching aggravates the itch in the medium term.
- Make sure that you drink enough
- Prefer a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals
An itchy scalp is undoubtedly annoying. But as versatile as the possible causes are, as many options are open to you for treatment. The important thing is: if you notice redness, the skin burns or the itching does not decrease even with correct hair care, consult a doctor.
Suitable products for itchy scalp
You might also be interested in:
- Bin Saif GA, Ericson ME, Yosipovitch G.: The Itchy scalp - scratching for an explanation (nih.gov) Exp Dermatol. 2011 Dec; 20(12): 959–968
- Bährle-Rapp M.: Springer-Lexikon Kosmetik und Körperpflege. 2. Auflage, Springer-Verlag, Berlin/Heidelberg, 2004, S. 2004
- Draelos ZD.: Essentials of Hair Care often Neglected: Hair Cleansing - PubMed (nih.gov) Int J Trichology. 2010 Jan;2(1):24-9
- Takai Y, Hiramoto K, Nishimura Y, Uchida R, Nishida K, Ooi K.: Association between itching and the serum zinc levels in patients with varicose veins (nih.gov) J Pharm Health Care Sci. 2017; 3: 24
- Rattanakaemakorn P, Suchonwanit P.: Scalp Pruritus: Review of the Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Management (nih.gov) Biomed Res Int. 2019; 2019: 1268430.
- Trockene Kopfhaut: Wie häufig sollte man die Haare waschen? | Bayern 1 | Radio | BR.de veröffentlicht am 31.05.2019
- Ellsässer S.: Körperpflegekunde und Kosmetik: Ein Lehrbuch für die PTA-Ausbildung und die Beratung in der Apothekenpraxis. 2., überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage, Springer Medizin Verlag, Heidelberg, 2008, S. 246