What Causes a Itching Scalp?


If your scalp is itching, it could be because of dirty hair that needs washed. Oily hair, in particularly, can cause skin cells to build up on the scalp that results in dandruff and itching. However, there are a number of other conditions that can cause scalp itching that aren’t as benign as simply having dirty, oily hair.


There is a condition called tinea capitis (scalp ringworm), which is a fungal infection. This fungal infection generally strikes children, but adults can get it, too. Sometimes dermatophytes, which are fungi that normally live on the skin, might overgrow, and this causes itching of the scalp as well as hair loss, scaling, yellow crusts, thick, rough inflamed areas on the scalp and the development of black spots, which are parts of the broken hair in the scalp skin. This condition is contagious, so don’t share a brush or comb if a family member has it. A doctor will prescribe oral anti-fungals to clear up this condition, according to Healthyhype.com (see Reference 1).

Another Possibility

Dandruff is sometimes caused by a fungus called Malassezia furfur. This fungus lives in the scalp and can overgrow, which causes irritation, scaling and itching. Dandruff might be related to seborrheic dermatitis, which is a condition that causes the oil glands to produce too much oil, which makes the scalp inflamed and red.

Stay Out of the Sun

If you get your scalp sunburned, be prepared to itch. Applying vinegar to your scalp might reduce the pain and burning. You can also put sunscreen on your scalp after the fact, but the next time, put it on before you venture out. If the burn is severe, oral corticosteroids might be required.

Bacteria and Infections

If you are infected by staphylococcus aureus, which is a bacterium, this might result in folliculitis, which results in pus-filled red bumps on the scalp that itch. Over-the-counter antibacterial shampoos should help, but if they don’t you might need to take oral antibiotics. Occasionally, a skin inflammation called lichen planopilaris affects the scalp and causes itching. It can also result in partial hair loss and permanent scarring. This condition is treated with steroids.


You can get psoriasis on your scalp, and this causes itching. Psoriasis will manifest in thick, large yellow patches on your scalp, which will turn red. Use a dandruff shampoo or coconut oil ointment that has salicylic acid, sulphur and coal tar to treat psoriasis.

Dermatitis Might be the Culprit

If you are using a shampoo or other hair products that you are allergic to, this can result in contact dermatitis or allergic dermatitis. When you are experiencing contact dermatitis, your skin will itch, and red papules or vesicles will appear on your scalp. If you are experiencing allergic dermatitis from hair dyes, for example, your scalp will become red, swollen and itchy.

Lice and Dry Scalp

Lice definitely cause head itching and are very contagious, according to Skinsight.com (see Reference 3).

Dry scalp alone can cause itching. If you don’t have an adequate layer of protective oil in your scalp, this can lead to irritation and make your scalp vulnerable to infections. Dandruff might result. Consider using moisturizing hair products.

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