How to Best Treatment an Itchy Scalp - Thinning hair and itchy scalp sometimes go hand in hand. A healthy scalp is the foundation for hair development, and that's why treating the underlying condition causing itchy scalp is essential for optimal hair growth.
Understanding Dandruff and Scalp Itch
One of the most common causes of scalp itch is dandruff, small whitish flakes of dead skin. The culprit responsible for most dandruff is malassezia globossa, a fungus that occurs naturally on human skin. While most people live dandruff-free with malassezia onboard, some people are unusually sensitive to malassezia and develop itching and dandruff. But malassezia can grow in abundance and cause dandruff and itching even in people not overly sensitive to it. Stress, hormones, illness and infrequent shampooing are possible causes of excess malassezia growth.
Dry air can also cause dandruff and itching. According to the Mayo Clinic, when dryness is the culprit, dandruff flakes are typically smaller and less oily than dandruff resulting from other causes.
Less commonly, itchy scalp stems from psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis. These conditions can be identified by the presence of reddened areas on the scalp and crusty scales.
Treating Itchy Scalp
The Mayo Clinic recommends treating mild cases of itchy scalp with daily use of an over-the-counter regular shampoo. When such treatment is ineffective, the treatment of choice is specially-formulated dandruff shampoo. Mayo recommends using dandruff shampoo daily until the dandruff is under control, then reducing usage to two to three times per week.
Using a dandruff shampoo correctly is essential. It takes about five minutes for the active ingredients to do their work, so patience and attention to time is essential. A quick wash-through could give you the impression that the dandruff shampoo is falling down on the job when it's actually you falling down on the job.
Different dandruff shampoos contain different active ingredients, and finding the right dandruff shampoo to treat your itchy scalp may take some experimentation. Dandruff shampoos containing zinc pyrithione directly reduce the amount of fungus growth on the scalp. For most common dandruff problems, where malassezia is the underlying cause, a zinc pyrithione shampoo will reduce the malassezia population and eliminate the itching and flaking.
Other treatments for itchy scalp include tar and selenium sulfide-based shampoos which slow cell death and thus the flaking process. Shampoos containing salicylic acid are effective at removing scale when conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis are present but may actually contribute to itchiness rather than ameliorate it as they tend to dry the scalp. Ketoconazole-based shampoos are broad spectrum antifungals used as the first line of defense for seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, with prescription medications used as the last resort if the shampoos prove inadequate.
Avoiding Scalp Irritants
If treatment with a dandruff shampoo doesn't relieve your itchy scalp, make sure you aren't irritating the scalp with the harsh chemicals used in some hair care products.
Ron Renee, president of the Aestheticians International Association told Mother Nature that the ideal shampoo to prevent itchy scalp will have a pH value between 4.5 and 5.5. He noted that the residue of silicone, an ingredient often used in shampoo to make hair shine, can cause scalp itch, but even some dandruff shampoos contain it.
Avoid home hair dyes containing para-phenylenediamine and acid perms reliant on glyceryl thioglycolate as an activator. These harsh chemicals also can cause scalp itch.
With the right shampoo, an itchy scalp usually can be nurtured back to health, encouraging maximum hair growth.