What is an Itchy Scalp?
An embarrassment which is common to many an adult and adolescent is the urge to itch the scalp which occurs due to several problems such as excessive perspiration, drying of the scalp & other fungal infections. It may also affect infants for a short period of time. All of which can be treated with the help of various natural methods and other medical treatments.
Itchy Scalp Causes
There are a number of causes for an itchy scalp :
Dandruff is cited as the most common cause of an itchy scalp which is triggered by the excessive shedding of the flakes of dead cells owing to an exposure to chilly winters or blazing summers, fungal or yeast infections and a high production of sebum by sebaceous cells. This may lead to the deposition of the flakes of dead cells over the scalp, the ear canal, the eyebrows, the neck and the chest.
Sebaceous or Epidermal cyst
Sebaceous or Epidermal cyst is a kind of cyst formation on the scalp that occurs due to the enlargement of the hair follicles or the blockage of the passage of the oil glands. It may also be caused by an injury or an acne problem. It may also take place in other parts of the body such as the armpits, the neck or at the genitals.
Sunburn which leads to the production of dead cells caused due to the burning of the superficial cells, thus causing a damage to the DNA. A high exposure to the sun causes one to sweat in an excessive manner leading to the itching of the scalp. Excessive itching of the scalp may cause an infection giving rise to a red itchy scalp.
Head Lice or Pediculosis Capities
Head Lice (Pediculosis Capities) is a condition caused by hair louse to try and suck the blood from the scalp giving rise to very itchy conditions. Besides being parasitic in nature, they do lay eggs and make the scalp the breeding ground for millions of them. Further scrathing may cause bacterial infection leading to the swelling of the scalp and the formation of ulcer,thereby aggravating the poor condition.
Head Lice on head -> Source: TreeHugger
Seborrheic Dermatitis is a disease caused by a kind of fungus named Malassezia furfur which dwells on the scalp and causes baldness leading to irritation and scaling.It may also be caused by the excessive secretion of oil by the oil glands leading to the inflammation and reddening of the scalp. Those who have more sweat glands are also vulnerable to the disease.A lack of vitamin B, fatty acids or zinc may also cause this disease.
Tinea capitis (commonly known as Scalp Ringworm) is a contagious disease caused by a fungal infection harming the hair. Specifically a fungi named Dermatophytes acts on the border of the scalp and raises and reddens it. Sweating gives vent to this problem and causes excessive itching. It causes a great loss of hair, formation of black dots on the areas where hairs have broken or withered, inflammation of the affected area and formation of yellow crusts on the scalp and the enlargement of the lymph nodes on the nape.
Cradle Cap in infants -> Source : Wikipedia
Psoriasis of the scalp is characterized by the occurance of thick scales giving rise to yellow patches over the surface of the skin, the scrapping of which may cause bleeding, a condition similar to the Auspitz syndrome. Chronic in nature it affects the scalp gradually and usually occurs on the outer parts of the body. The basic cause for its occurance may be the over production of the skin cells or some kind of immunary defects. The extent of its affects varies from person to person but if left unchecked may assume a severe form.
Contact and Allergic Dermatitis
These are allergic infections that can be discerned out of symptoms such as swelling, reddening, oozing, scaling, crusting and excessive itching of the scalp. It is basically caused by the ill-effects of the use of shampoos, creams, gels, lotions or hair dyes which have a high PPD content.
- Stress may also cause an itchy scalp also affecting the neck and the face.
Dry and Flaky Scalp
Unhygienic conditions such as not taking a bath regularly leads to the deposition of the dead cells over the scalp which if not cared may be the cause of severe itchy scalp, dandruff or may lead to other itchy scalp problems. However frequent use of warm water or vigorous aggressive shampooing of the hair may lead to a dry itchy scalp or itchy flaky scalp.
Prevention of Itchy scalp
There are several ways to prevent itchy scalp problems which have been recommended by medical experts.
- In the case of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis one has to abstain from using hair styling products which have high alcoholic content since it is normally causes dry scalp. Being regularly exposed to the sun helps in the treatment of fungal infection. Diets such as meat, milk which are rich in saturated fatty acids or trans fatty oils must be avoided since they dramatically increase the secretion of oils from the oil glands. Moreover simple sugars such as fructose and glucose are also supposed to be avoided because they reduce the level of Vit B6 which is responsible for the breakdown of proteins in the body.
- Avoidance of Anaesthetics and lotions are suggested for dealing with sunburn effects as its use amy cause allergic reactions.
- Pediculosis capities commonly known as head lice is a higly contagious disease for which several preventive measures are recommended which includes no physical contact with the infected person.
- To protect oneself from getting sunburned one has to apply sun protective lotions and wear cap outdoor.
- The best possible way to avoid the outbreak of such a disease is to properly maintain personal hygeine and get well treated by medication.
Itchy Scalp Remedies and Treatment
There are a number of remedial measures for itchy scalp relief which may protect us from social embarrasment.
Natural Home Remedies for Itchy Scalp
To relax and be de-stressed is the first and the best way to keep the problem of itchy scalp at bay. The use of natural bathing oils such as Valerian, Lavender or Almond helps in the process of cooling one’s temperature and eeping relaxed.
Similarly it is also of prime importance to maintain one’s personal hygeine which includes washing and cleaning one’s hair on a regular basis inorder to avoid any such hair or scalp related diseases. One should brush the hair properly in order to improve blood circulation and avoid the tuftness of hair. However there are various ways of brushing one’s hair depending on the size and texture of the hair. The best brushing way recommended by hair experts is to bend towards the ground, comb straightly from the nape towards the head top. For instance, a single stroke is enough to brush a short length hair but for a hair going beyond the shoulders or the waist line shall require double strokes so as to prevent it from stretching.
A thorough massage of the scalp is needed to prevent the occurance of such diseases. Massage conducted in a proper manner on a regular basis enhances the circulation of the blood, prevents the deposition of dead cells or dirt on the scalp and encourages the growth of hair.There are a number of proper massaging methods recommended by therapists. One such method is to place the fingers on the scalp in such a way as to rotate them over the skull so as to make the skin of the scalp move and tingle.
Shampoo for Itchy Scalp
Shampoos based on natural ingredients like the Tea Tree Oil or the coconut oil are usually anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-fungal in nature which helps in the treatment of scalp infections and soothes itching. It is also effective in the treatment of dandruff, psoriasis, eczema ands other such common diseases. Shampoos containing Jojoba and Zinc pyrithione are extremely helpful in the treatment of dandruff and moisturizing of the scalp by re-balancing the secretion of sebum by the sebaceous cells. Salicylic acid and coal tar helps in the tretment of dermatitis. They make the best shampoos for itchy scalp.
Besides these, a combination of natural herbs and leafs offers a great tretment of such diseases such as the mixture of Rosemarry and Chamomile Tea is best suited to reduce the inflammation of the scalp. Similarly the formation of a paste of Fenugreek seeds with water and lime juice helps to combat dandruff.
Medical Remedies For Itchy Scalp
- Gentle or medical shampoos should be applied while regular washing of the hair to prevent the deposition of dirt on the scalp which is a major cause of itching.
- Epidermal cyst is treated by injecting steroids or surgically removing the cyst.
- Sunburn of the scalp causes a burning sensation which can be dealt with the application of apple cidar vinegar or sun protection lotions.
- Pediculosis, commonly known as head lice has medical treatments in the form of shampoos contaning permethrine, salicylic acid, lindane or malathion, anti- lice oil and powders. Repeated shampooing helps to get rid of lice.
- Seborrhic dermatitis shares a common treatment with dandruff with added anti-fungal agents such as terbinafine and ketokonazole as well as the use of steroids.
- Scalp Ringworm or Tinea capitis has a treatment duration of around four to six weeks with the help of anti-fungal drugs like itraconazole, gresiofulvin, ketoconazole, or terbinafine which have the approval of the USFDA.
- Cradle cap in infants can be treated by the application of baby oil or mineral oil after the use of shampoo which makes the scales discernable to get rubbed off.
- In the case of Psoriasis drugs such as Etanercept, infliximab, alifacept, adalimubab are prescribed which are antibodies targetting the specific immune component of the body.
- Anti allergic medicines are prescribed for diseases such as folliculitis and acne vulgaris. Chichken pox and shingles can be cured within a short span of time with the intake or use of medicines such as gancyclovir and acyclovir. Pain killers help in giving temporary relief.
- Lichen planus is treated with steroids and the various kinds of dermatitis is cured with the intake of corticosteroids or antihistamines.
Therefore if one has to get rid of itchy scalp problems, one should properly follow the preventive measures because as the famous saying goes “Prevention is better than cure”. But a severe itchy scalp problem should be treated under the medication of a Dermatologist to prevent the disease to take a serious turn.
Written by Simran Goyal
on September 11th, 2010. The article was last updated on September 26th, 2011