A woman scratching her itchy scalp

Dry and itchy scalp: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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A dry and itchy scalp is uncomfortable, irritating and can often be a cause of annoyance & discontent. 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?

Inflamed scalp because of scratching
If the itchiness causes you to scratch, your scalp may become inflamed.

  • 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.

Why do I have a dry & itchy scalp?

Causes of dry and itchy scalp

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

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

 

  • Atopic dermatitis - Redness and scaliness on scalp that can often itch and sometimes consist of a burning sensation.
  • Psoriasis - Red patches and flaking of the scalp that can cause an intense itch.
  • Dandruff- Flakes of dry scalp that appear in the hair.
  • Hives - A rash of itchy red bumps that can appear all over your body.
  • Neuropathy - Deep scarring can cause nerve damage and this damage can result in  a severely itchy scalp.
  • Skin cancer - You may develop an itch due to skin cancer cells developing on your scalp.
  • Excessive histamine build up in the scalp
  • Age – the older you get, the dryer your skin becomes
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Genetic factors
  • Hormonal changes - Higher levels of estrogen

 

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

 

  • Changes in temperature or seasons
  • Lifestyle factors, such as poor diet or smoking
  • Reaction to medication
  • Environmental pollution
  • Allergic reactions to cosmetic shampoos, soaps and hair treatments

 

What issues can a dry and itchy scalp lead to?

Microinflammations and your scalp

  • 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. This can usually result in the thinning of your hair or in more severe cases, substantial loss of hair.
  • 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)

  • 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.

Do you have a dry and itchy scalp?

You may have a dry and itchy scalp if…

You’re frequently scratching your scalp: Some people have even reported scratching in their sleep. This can be due to a lack of Diamine Oxidase caused by higher levels of estrogen. This is an enzyme that supports the breakdown of histamine.  If there is a severe build up of histamine, it can lead to constant itching of the scalp which can result in hair loss. 

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

 

You may have another scalp condition if…

You have white flakes or yellow scales in your scalp and hair: You may have dandruff or seborrhoeic dermatitis.

You have red, scaly, silvery-looking patches on your scalp: You may have Psoriasis.

Recommended Dry & Itchy Scalp Treatment

What are the best products for dry scalp?

Woman washing her hair
Eucerin DermoCapillaire CALMING UREA SHAMPOO is suitable for daily use.

Our medicated itchy scalp shampoo and dry, flaky scalp treatment can help relieve your itchy head. 

  • Eucerin DermoCapillaire CALMING UREA SHAMPOO. Dermatological and clinical studies prove very good efficacy and tolerability of this product on dry skin, atopic dermatitis and even on psoriasis. Eucerin DermoCapillaire CALMING UREA SHAMPOO is suitable for daily use.

 

Attention

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

Common myths when treating a dry and itchy scalp

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

  • 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.
  • There is a common misconception that vinegars, natural oils and even athlete’s foot spray are among the home remedies that have been used to successfully treat an itchy and dry scalp. There is no hard evidence, however, to support these remedies and could lead to allergic reactions if used improperly.

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