How an Itchy Scalp Is Treated

An itchy scalp causes irritation on the scalp. Many conditions can lead to an itchy scalp, such as dandruff, allergic reactions, and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Treatment depends on the exact cause of your itchy scalp.

Home Remedies for Itchy Scalp

Verywell / Katie Kerpel

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

There are many home remedies and lifestyle changes that you can do to help soothe an itchy scalp, but they should only be used if you’re certain of the cause. If poor hygiene is the culprit, make sure you clean your hair and rinse off any products. It's also important to maintain a regular hair-washing routine.

If your hair is tightly curled or textured, washing your hair once a week may be enough. For people with straight hair, excess oil can build up more easily, which means they should wash their hair daily or every other day.

If the skin on your scalp is dry and causing your itchy scalp, moisturizing the area can help. You can do that with different kinds of oils, such as coconut, peppermint, or tea tree. Tea tree oil, in particular, has other uses, including being an effective agent to rid the hair of head lice, small insects that infest the head and neck.  

Meditation may also be effective for helping treat an itchy scalp caused by stress-induced hives, a skin rash triggered by a reaction, or flare-up of eczema, itchy inflammation of the skin. Meditation has been proven to reduce overall stress, with one particular study finding that people who practiced meditation regularly saw a reduction in eczema symptoms.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience an itchy scalp that lasts longer than a few days and that's accompanied by rash, you should see a doctor. Although the conditions associated with an itchy scalp are rarely serious, symptoms can be difficult to endure. Getting treated quickly can help reduce the irritability quickly and effectively.

When contact dermatitis, a skin rash caused by contact with a certain substance, is the cause of an itchy scalp, the best way to treat it is by eliminating the product that caused it, such as new soaps, shampoos, or detergents. You can relieve the itchy sensation of hives with a cold compress. Figuring out the cause of your hives can also help you reduce the risk of getting an itchy scalp in the future.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Therapies

If your itchy scalp is caused by dandruff, which leads to flakes on the scalp, using an anti-dandruff shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione can help. These products can also treat seborrheic dermatitis, which causes scaly patches and red skin on the scalp.

Shampoos that contain salicylic acid are effective for treating scalp psoriasis, where skin cells build up and form scaly patches on the scalp. Salicylic acid can help reduce the scales caused by the condition and improve the scalp’s ability to absorb topical medications such as corticosteroids.

Ketoconazole is a strong antifungal, and a shampoo containing this ingredient is especially helpful for an itchy scalp caused by seborrheic dermatitis. It is also available as a prescription.

OTC shampoos and kits are available for helping you get rid of head lice. Hives can also be treated with OTC products such as an antihistamine or calamine lotion.

Prescriptions

Prescription shampoos containing the corticosteroid clobetasol propionate have been shown to be the most effective agent when treating psoriasis on the scalp.

Head lice can also cause an itchy scalp. It is common in children ages 3–11. You can treat head lice with an OTC shampoo, but if that doesn't help, you will need to see your dermatologist for prescription treatment. They may recommend a Ulesfia (benzyl alcohol) lotion, Soolantra (ivermectin) lotion, Ovide (malathion) lotion, and spinosad suspension.

Surgeries and Specialist-Driven Procedures

If skin cancer is causing your itchy scalp, a doctor will surgically remove the skin cancer mass and surrounding tissue. Skin cancers often don't cause bothersome symptoms until they have grown quite large. When they reach a bigger size, they may itch, bleed, or even hurt.

The type of surgery used to treat basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is called Mohs surgery. During this procedure, your doctor will remove cancerous growths layer by layer.

Summary

An itchy scalp can be caused by a variety of conditions, from dandruff to allergic reactions to chronic conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Some cases can be treated with OTC medications, while others require prescription treatments. It's therefore important to first identify the cause of your itchy scalp so appropriate and effective treatment can begin.

A Word From Verywell

Having an itchy scalp can be uncomfortable, but there are ways to soothe the itch and get any underlying conditions taken care of promptly. If you experience an itchy scalp often, see your doctor, who will determine the cause. An itchy scalp is rarely the result of a serious medical condition, and treatment is typically a simple process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best treatment for an itchy scalp?

The best treatment for an itchy scalp depends on the cause. For example, an itchy scalp caused by ringworm, a fungal infection that causes a ring-shaped rash, is best treated with a shampoo that contains ketoconazole, while you will need a shampoo with salicylic acid to treat itching of the scalp caused by psoriasis. Talk to your doctor to find out what's causing your itchy scalp so you can get the most effective treatment.

How do you get rid of dandruff and itchy scalp?

You can get rid of dandruff with anti-dandruff shampoos, which can be found in your local drugstore or supermarket. These shampoos are typically effective at eliminating dandruff and the itch that comes along with it.

How can you prevent an itchy scalp?

To reduce your risk of developing an itchy scalp, you should practice good hygiene. Wash your hair regularly and make sure that all built-up oils, residue, and products are rinsed clean. Also, use warm water instead of hot water while washing your hair to decrease the risk of drying out your scalp, which can lead to itchiness.

What essential oil is good for an itchy scalp?

There are a few essential oils that can be helpful if you have an itchy scalp, such as coconut, peppermint, and tea tree oils.

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10 Sources
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