You cannot take your fingers off your scalp when it is itchy. In some cases, this common scalp condition is linked with flakiness and hair loss. Aggressively scratching your scalp affects the structure of the hair follicles and may lead to hair loss. An itchy scalp and hair loss can have several causes, including certain scalp conditions and a harsh hair care routine. If you want to put a stop to either of them and preserve your hair, you are at the right place. Here, we have discussed the link between an itchy scalp and hair loss, the causes and treatment options, and how you can prevent this problem.
Table Of Contents
An itchy scalp and hair loss can occur independently. However, the two are almost always linked. Scalp inflammation, allergic reactions, and bacterial and fungal infections can cause scalp itchiness and subsequent hair loss (1). Scratching on the scalp can cause itching, potentially causing hair follicle damage and hair loss (2). The good news is this hair loss is temporary, and you can observe the hair regrowth after a while. That said, hair loss can also happen without any itching, as is the case with male and female pattern baldness or hereditary hair loss.
We discussed that itchy scalp and hair fall could have multiple causes. Let us look into those causes in detail.
Causes Of An Itchy Scalp And Hair Fall
1. Scalp Psoriasis
It is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to hair loss. About 50% of individuals with psoriasis can develop scalp psoriasis. The condition causes dry, red patches with silvery, dry scales on the scalp (3). It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. The scaly patches can affect the entire scalp. They are often itchy and can also spread to your forehead or behind and inside your ears.
2. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is a condition where the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles. It causes small patches of hair to fall out, along with scalp itchiness. This autoimmune disorder is common among people with an autoimmune disease or a family history of the disorder (4).
3. Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema that makes your skin red with scales on your scalp (5). It does not directly cause hair loss, though it can provoke one to scratch their scalp excessively, causing temporary hair loss. It is common among children but can occur at any age. It also can cause scalp burns.
4. Reaction To Hair Care Products
Improper shampooing practices can leave some residue on the scalp and irritate it. An itchy, dry, and flaky scalp is a sign that you need to do a better job of rinsing. An itchy scalp accompanied by rashes could sign allergic contact dermatitis, a condition common among people who dye their hair. Black hair dyes usually contain an ingredient known as para-phenylenediamine (PPD) that may cause allergic reactions (6).
Allergic reactions to shampoos, conditioners, and hair gels may also cause an itchy scalp.
An itchy scalp accompanied by flakes on your clothing could sign dandruff. Dandruff causes dry scalp, and the flaking is visible throughout the day (7). Scratch your hair may weaken the hair follicles and lead to hair loss. Frequent scratching and brushing on your itchy scalp can damage the hair roots, causing hair loss. Furthermore, dandruff only causes hair loss if left untreated for a prolonged period.
Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles. Typical causes of folliculitis include bacterial or fungal infections (8). Folliculitis often causes temporary hair loss and scalp itching. It can spread and cause small itchy bumps and crusty sores. A severe case of folliculitis may cause permanent hair loss.
7. Lichen Planopilaris
Lichen planopilaris is an inflammatory scalp condition (9). It occurs due to a compromised immune system that results in the selective destruction of hair follicles. It causes scalp itching and scales around the base of the hair follicle. This scalp condition most often leads to permanent hair loss.
8. Head Lice
Head lice are parasites that feed on blood from the human scalp. An itchy scalp is the most common symptom of head lice. It is caused by the saliva of the lice (10). The excessive scratching due to this itchiness may cause temporary hair loss.
9. Scalp Ringworm
Scalp ringworm (tinea captis) is a fungal infection that penetrates the hair shaft and causes itchiness (11). You will likely have a red and intensely itchy rash. This scalp condition can weaken hair follicles and lead to hair loss. It is highly contagious and can be accompanied by scaly rashes or black, bumpy dots on the scalp.
10. Nerve Issues
An itchy scalp without the signs of a rash could mean a nerve issue. A dysfunctional nerve may also cause an itchy scalp.
An itchy scalp can be a result of bacterial or fungal infections or any medical condition. But it can be treated with certain gentle hair care products, hair oils, and therapies. Let us understand these treatment options further in the following section.
How To Treat An Itchy Scalp And Hair Fall
If you have a dry scalp, wash with a gentle shampoo, and use a moisturizing conditioner. For mild dandruff, wash your hair every day with a gentle shampoo to reduce the amount of oil on your scalp. You may go for an anti-dandruff shampoo in case of severe dandruff.
Shampoos containing tea tree oil are an alternative remedy for dandruff (12). Anti-dandruff shampoos containing salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, and selenium sulfide can also help.
Essential oils like peppermint and rosemary can soothe an itchy scalp and reduce hair fall. Remember to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil. Furthermore, oral or topical steroids reduce scalp inflammation. Immunotherapy may also help with autoimmune scalp conditions.
An itchy scalp and associated hair loss can have multiple causes. But most often, the condition can be prevented. Read through the following section.
How To Prevent Hair Loss Due To An Itchy Scalp?
1. Avoid The Urge To Scratch Your Scalp
Scratching your hair more often can damage your hair follicles, leading to temporary hair loss. Restraining the urge to scratch your scalp can help. Find out the cause for your itchy scalp and minimize the dry scalp condition that is causing it.
2. Massage Your Scalp
Massage your scalp with oils of coconut, olive, and castor for improved blood circulation. A hot oil massage with nourishing coconut or olive oils can moisturize your dry scalp. These oils penetrate the hair shaft and keep the hair moisturized (13).
3. Use Gentle Shampoos
Use gentle shampoos free of sulfates, parabens, colors, fragrances, and alcohols. Shampoos formulated with harsh chemicals can damage your hair and cause hair fall. Check the ingredients on the label before making a purchase. Remember to buy products that suit your hair texture. The right products will prevent scalp irritation and product build-up.
4. Follow A Good Hair Care Routine
Follow a good hair care routine that includes cleansing, conditioning, and oiling. If your scalp is dry and itchy, a deep conditioning treatment and a hot oil massage will do wonders. An itchy scalp may lead to dandruff, scalp irritation, and flakiness, causing hair fall.
5. Eat Healthy
Foods rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals are beneficial for hair health. Increasing the intake of all essential vitamin-rich foods can keep your hair healthy. Staying hydrated can keep your scalp naturally moisturized and prevent dry scalp caused due to dehydration.
When To See A Doctor?
Itchiness and hair fall are common concerns that can often be treated by the aforementioned methods. However, visit your doctor if you notice itchiness that keeps you up in the night, bald patches and hair loss in clumps, scalp burning, or crusty patches on the scalp.
Although hair loss and scalp itchiness are not always avoidable, you can prevent or alleviate them with gentle hair products, a balanced diet, and the right treatment options. Ensure you visit your doctor if the condition shows no improvement.
- The Itchy scalp – scratching for an explanation
- Anatomy, Hair Follicle
- Alopecia areata
- Atopic Dermatitis: Natural History, Diagnosis, and Treatment
- Para-phenylenediamine allergy: current perspectives on diagnosis and management
- DANDRUFF: THE MOST COMMERCIALLY EXPLOITED SKIN DISEASE
- Therapeutic management of classic lichen planopilaris: a systematic review
- Prevalence of Head Lice Infestation and Its Associated Factors among Primary School Students in Iran: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
- Diagnosis and management of scalp ringworm
- Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo
- Hair Cosmetics: An Overview
- Can Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?
- Diabetes And Hair Loss Understanding The Connection
- Scalp Psoriasis Vs. Dandruff: What Are The Differences?
- Trycone Onion Shampoo Benefits
- Itchy Scalp Braids – How To Treat Them