Itchy Scalp? What are the Causes and some Tips

Worried that despite just after having a shower, your scalp continues to itch? It is time to dig the causes and give you some remedies to prevent this possible embarrassing moment. Itching of the scalp is caused by several sources and knowing that particular source of itching and how to treat it is very important to prevent the further occurrence of an itchy scalp.

Clinically termed as seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is the most common cause of an itchy scalp. While yeast naturally lives on the scalp and other hairy areas of our body, this condition will take place when there is an overgrowth of yeast where your body’s inflammatory response will cause the flaking and itching of the scalp.

In mild cases, you can control the growth of yeast using over the counter shampoos that specifically has the ingredient selenium or zinc pyrithione. In serious cases, you must use a prescribed anti-fungal shampoo, a topical cortisone or medicated ointment.

Possible Causes of having an Itchy Scalp?

Eww – Ringworms?

Did you know that ringworms can also invade your scalp? Yes, you read it right. Clinically termed as Tinea capitis, this fungal infection can extend deep into the hair follicle creating round patches which becomes very itchy and bigger over time. Aside from the round reddish patch, you can easily distinguish that it is a ringworm infection just by looking for a black dot at the center of the infected part. As for the treatment, it is different with a typical skin infection where you just apply a topical solution of anti-fungal ointment. In the case of scalp infection, you need to orally take anti-fungal medications as the infection is rooted deep within the scalp.

Yikes – Lice?

Commonly occurring in children, head lice can cause itchiness to the scalp. They may look like dandruff, but they are not easily fallen as they are glued to the hair strand. The worst part of having head lice is it is highly contagious and can invade anyone’s scalp. Contrary to our belief, having head lice does not mean you have a poor hygiene as this parasitic organism loves to live in a clean environment. A good treatment for head lice is the use of shampoos containing insecticides like pyrethrin or permethrin.


Chronic auto-immune diseases can also cause scalp itching. In particular, psoriasis can cause raised, reddish and scaly patches of the skin. You should note though that scalp psoriasis, as the characteristic of this skin disease will tell you, has no cure but is not contagious. In order to control the onset of psoriasis and scalp itching, you can use shampoos that has coal tar or salicylic acid. In extreme cases, shampoo alone cannot prevent itching and the application of a topical cortisone may be recommended.


In my case with Eczema, the inflammatory area tends to be very dry at the start and becomes worse over time because of it being very itchy and irritated.  It has nothing to do with dandruff.

Other issues that may cause high level of itchiness on the scalp caused by Eczema is high Stress level and lack of sleep(sleep is always important).  I find this happens to me a lot when I do not get enough sleep and under a high stress, then my scalp becomes really extremely irritated and itchy.  As I am writing this my scalp is at its worse right now because I’m working two jobs, hence why I am writing this article.  The last time I had it this bad was back in my last year of University during finals.

Tips to Reduce Itchy Scalp

Couple of hours before shower or the night before, make sure to apply your prescription cream if you are prescribed one.  Another option is to apply coconut oil as it will condition your scalp as it will somewhat help with reduce the itchiness for minor eczema only.

1)Avoid SLS(more info) and Parabens shampoos if possible (commonly found in shampoos).  I use a shampoo called live clean whenever I have bad itchy scalp as it is apparently 98% organic and affordable.  In other words look for organic shampoos (no chemicals, no sls, no parabens, no sulfates).

My dermatologist recommends head and shoulders that has almond oil in it, but I notice that there is a little SLS in the ingredient list.  I haven’t tried it yet because of the SLS but I heard it is very popular and effective against dry scalp (something to maybe consider, especially if you do not suffer from Eczema or you are not effective by SLS).

2)Try using a head massager(5 mins a day) for short term relief and helps reduce stress a little.  It helps stimulates the circulation and blood flow throughout your head which benefits indirectly your hair health.  Also it is much better than using your nails to scratch because is harder/sharper and furthermore can cause infection if your nails are dirty.  The head massager is much softer to use and you can check out my video review below.

3)When you are showering make sure to use warm/Luke warm water because if you use hot water, your skin (overall) will end up being even drier.  And do not take long showers!!  Try to keep showering time up to five minutes (optimal) and do not ever go past 10 minutes.

Extreme Itchy Scalp?

Lastly, if your scalp is extremely itchy for a number of days especially if you cannot sleep at night, then please see your dermatologist or Doctor.  Excessive itchiness may mean something else, especially if the recommended shampoos do not work, and the infected spot are very sore to touch or the itching keeps you up at night.  So seek an expert opinion.

One more note: If you suffer from common dry skin not just on your scalp but all over you body, then please follow this link to read my article on dry skin as I provide more tips.

I grew up with a mild to severe case of Eczema. I'm all about skin care tips, good eating, skin cream reviews, and healthy & positive living!