Dry and itchy scalp: Symptoms, causes and solutions

A dry and itchy scalp is uncomfortable, irritating and can often be a cause of embarrassment. Many people experience skin irregularities on their scalp, and these irregularities have both internal and external causes. In this article, we discuss the causes of itchy scalps and then present our solution to this issue.


What is a dry and itchy scalp?

When your scalp’s natural moisture balance is disturbed, an itchy head and a dry scalp are often the result. A dry and itchy scalp can be associated with ageing and skin conditions, such as Atopic Dermatitis or Psoriasis, and the symptoms range from very mild to extreme.

One's scalp can become inflamed as a consequence of excessive scratching
If the itchiness causes you to scratch, your scalp may become inflamed.

Major causes of a dry and itchy scalp

Internal factors that can cause a dry and itchy scalp include:

  • Skin conditions, such as Atopic Dermatitis or Psoriasis
  • Age – the older you get, the dryer your skin becomes
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Genetic factors
  • Hormonal changes

External factors that can cause a dry, itchy scalp include:

  • Changes in temperature or seasons
  • Lifestyle factors, such as poor diet or smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Environmental pollution
  • Cosmetic shampoos, soaps and hair treatments

Once your scalp’s natural moisture is lost, its protective layer can become compromised. This allows harmful substances to penetrate the skin, leading to microinflammations of the scalp. These microinflammations can cause your scalp to become even more irritated, leading to itching, redness and a sensation of tautness.

How a dry and itchy scalp develops, in three steps
1. Moisture is lost, causing dryness 2. Microinflammations cause further irritation 3. The scalp becomes itchy

Microinflammations and your scalp

What are microinflammations? Microinflammations are mild inflammations of the skin. They’re so mild, in fact, that even clinical testing won’t pick them up. But if we study skin tissue that has been affected by microinflammations, we can detect the presence of inflammatory immune cells – in other words, the skin is responding to irritation with inflammation and thereby attempting to repair itself. If these skin cells are then subjected to further irritation, the skin can flip into a 'true' inflammatory response.

Illustration of healthy skin, microinflammation and inflammation
1. Healthy skin 2. Microinflammation 3. Inflammation (Erythem)

How are they related to scalp conditions? There’s growing evidence that microinflammations of the scalp are involved in most common scalp disorders, from thinning hair and dandruff to scalp dryness, itchiness and sensitivity.

If you experience sudden hair loss or brittle hair, you may have an underlying health problem, such as thyroid disease, iron deficiency or an autoimmune disease. Some medications can also cause hair loss. Contact a dermatologist in all instances to get further information.


Common myths

Vinegars, natural oils and even athlete’s foot spray are among the remedies that have been used to treat an itchy and dry scalp. There is no hard evidence, however, to support these remedies.

A woman having natural oils sprayed on her hair
Natural remedies such as oils haven’t proven to be effective treatments for a dry and itchy scalp.

Recommended solution

Our itchy scalp shampoo and scalp treatment can help relieve your itchy head. Eucerin DermoCapillaire CALMING UREA SHAMPOO and Eucerin DermoCapillaire CALMING UREA SCALP LEAVE ON TREATMENT have been proven to soothe scalp itching and dryness whilst also making your hair softer and giving it a healthy shine.

A woman washes her hair with Eucerin's itchy scalp shampoo.
Eucerin DermoCapillaire CALMING UREA SHAMPOO is suitable for daily use.

Do you have a dry and itchy scalp?

You may have a dry and itchy scalp if…

You may have another scalp condition if…

You’re frequently scratching your scalp: Some people have even reported scratching in their sleep.

You’ve recently been exposed to one or more of the causes listed above: Especially if your symptoms developed soon afterwards.

You have white flakes or yellow scales in your scalp and hair.
You have red, scaly, silvery-looking patches on your scalp.

You may have Psoriasis.

See your doctor or your dermatologist if you’re concerned, your symptoms are severe, or your scalp feels sore or becomes weepy and inflamed.

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