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Itchy Scalp Causes and Remedies: Which One is the Most Effective?

Medically reviewed by Martha Juco, MD · Aesthetics

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Feb 24, 2023

    Itchy Scalp Causes and Remedies: Which One is the Most Effective?

    A lot of things can cause an itchy scalp; from a mere hair product to a skin disease. Itchy scalp causes and remedies can be confusing and frustrating, especially since there could be a number of possible reasons. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause. 

    Thus,  it is important to consult a doctor and have them determine the best treatment for your condition. Self-medication may worsen the condition and cause more discomfort.

    What are the Most Common Causes of Itchy Scalp?

    The reasons for an itchy scalp can be wide and varied. But here are the most common itchy scalp causes and remedies.

    1. Lice

    When you first contract head lice, it takes up to four to six weeks before you experience itching. Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are tiny insects that live on human hair and feed off the blood from the scalp.  Their bites cause itching and irritation in the scalp. 

    2. Scabies

    A tiny bug called the human itch mite can burrow into your scalp causing you to scratch. You can get scabies from prolonged direct contact with a person who has scabies or from infested beddings and towels.               

    3. Scalp Ringworm

    Known as tinea capitis, this fungal infection usually appears as scaly, bald patches on the head that are itchy. Tinea capitis is more common in children and is contagious. 

    4. Dandruff

    Dandruff is usually coupled with itching on the scalp. It occurs when the scalp is irritated causing it to shed and flake. Dandruff can be caused by dryness, reactions to hair products, and skin diseases. 

    5. Allergic Reaction

    Hair products ranging from shampoos to hair sprays can cause adverse reactions to the scalp, causing it to turn red, flake, and itch. 

    6. Scalp Psoriasis

    People with psoriasis can have flare-ups on their scalp. When a flare-up occurs, reddish patches and flaking appear on the scalp. Itching can be mild or intense. 

    7. Sunburn

    Prolonged sun exposure can lead to sunburn on the scalp even if it is full of hair. Sunburn, especially when it is healing, can cause intense itching.

    8. Poor Hygiene

    An accumulation of dirt, oil, and sweat can cause an itchy scalp.

    9. Phantom Scalp Itch

    Scalp Dysesthesia, known as burning scalp syndrome or phantom scalp itch, is often associated with cervical spine disease. There is no visible rash or flaking. Phantom scalp itch involves burning, stinging, and itching sensations on or under the scalp. 

    10. Skin Cancer

    Skin cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma can also develop on the scalp. This type of skin cancer develops on the skin usually exposed to the sun. 

    11. Hives

    Hives is a skin condition where red or skin-colored bumps that resemble bug bites appear on your skin, including the scalp. They are itchy and are triggered by a variety of factors including food, medications, sun exposure, and blood transfusion. 

    12. Scalp Folliculitis

    Small red bumps or white-headed pustules resembling pimples form around the tiny pockets where the hair grows. It’s caused by either a bacterial or fungal infection. 

    13. Weak or faulty immune system

    When the immune system is not working properly, it causes the body to either fail in protecting the body or attack its own cells. Lichen Planopilaris, Alopecia Areata, Lupus, and Lymphoma are conditions concerning the immune system and can cause an itchy scalp. 

    Home Remedies for Itchy Scalp  

    Before trying any remedies, make sure you know the root cause of your itching scalp. The wrong treatment can irritate or damage your scalp, which can lead to more severe conditions and intense itching. 

    For more serious causes especially those relating to the immune system, visiting your doctor and getting prescribed medications and treatment is the best solution. 

    For mild cases that do not require medical attention, there are home remedies that can treat and relieve an itchy scalp.

    Cold Compress, for instance, can help in relieving intense itching in the scalp. This is a good practice especially if you are still unsure of what is causing the itch. Generally, doctors recommend over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo, discontinuing the use of irritating products (if you know the products that trigger flare-ups), and oral antihistamines.

    Key Takeaways

    There are a lot of factors that can cause the scalp to itch and there are just as many remedies to treat them. Itchy scalp causes and remedies come in different forms. It is best to seek advice from your doctor before doing any treatment. For mild cases, home remedies are available to relieve and treat an itching scalp. 

    Learn more about Hair and Scalp Care here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Martha Juco, MD


    Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Feb 24, 2023

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