Causes of an Itchy Scalp

Struggling with an itchy scalp is an embarrassing and frustrating affliction. There is nothing worse than an itch you can’t scratch, and the alternative often means channeling your inner caveman, which is simply not appropriate in most social settings.

It can be hard to treat an itchy scalp, especially if you don’t understand the cause. There are several potential causes. The five most common causes of an itchy scalp are:

Dandruff or Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common skin disease that causes a rash. It is similar to dandruff, but not exactly the same. Both, however are caused by an overabundance of yeast in the skin. When this happens, the skin begins to flake off in an attempt to dispose of the excess yeast. Aside from itching and flaking skin, you might also notice a yeasty smell as a symptom of this problem. It should be noted that seborrheic dermatitis can occur in other parts of the body as well.


Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease. It is also unfortunately common. This disease causes red patches of skin that are sometimes raised and often flaky. It is not uncommon for psoriasis breakouts to occur on the scalp, but again they can be anywhere on the body. This disorder is often confused with dandruff because of the flaking skin and itching, so if a yeast-control shampoo hasn’t made the problem better, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of another underlying issue such as this one.


Ringworm (Tinea Capitis) is a fungal infection. It got the name ringworm because it was once believed that the cause of the problem was a tiny worm under the skin that crawled in circles. This is related to its appearance, which is a raised circle surrounded by a rash that often causes hair loss. The fungal infection can go deep into the hair follicle, which makes it hard to treat. A good dermatologist can recommend a medication that will take care of the issue.


Allergies are a common cause of itching in general. When allergy medication isn’t cutting it, it can be a miserable situation trying to get through the day when your skin can’t be soothed. Again, a good dermatologist can help, but in the meantime you will still be looking for a way to cool the irritation.

Head Lice

Head lice are probably the most dreaded cause of an itchy scalp. They are also the reason why scratching your head in public can appear so off-putting. Everyone is afraid of getting lice because they can be very difficult to get rid of. Often, they are also mistaken as dandruff until the appearance of actual bugs. If you are noticing hard white lumps stuck to your hair, those are called nits and they are the egg sacs of the lice. You will need to speak to your physician about a quality shampoo that can eliminate the problem.

lady with itchy scalp

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The 10 Best Treatments for Itchy Scalp

Obviously, if your itchy scalp is caused by head lice, the only way to resolve that issue is to get rid of the lice. However, if your scalp is itching for another reason, there are natural treatments that can help. We have outlined some of our favorites for you here.

Baking Soda

baking soda in a bowl

Combine some baking soda with water to create a thick paste. You should apply this paste to the scalp, spreading evenly. Let the paste set on the scalp for about five to ten minutes, so the skin can properly react to the exposure. Then, shampoo and rinse the paste off as normal. This paste works because it is antifungal and also helps to exfoliate the skin.

Aloe Vera

aloe vera plant

Purchase a high-quality aloe vera gel. Be wary of any gel that is simply aloe-scented, as it might not be made with natural ingredients. Look for a 100% aloe concentration claim on the label. Rub the aloe vera across the scalp, spreading it evenly. Let it set for ten minutes to moisturize the scalp fully. You will actually feel this remedy cooling your skin as it works. Then, shampoo and rinse appropriately.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Essential Oils

Tea tree oil is naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. This makes it highly effective in treating all of our body’s itchiest spots. Add ten to twenty drops of tea tree oil to an unscented baby shampoo and shake, combining it thoroughly. Wash your hair with this mixture, massaging it into the scalp for good measure. Rinse it out completely when finished and towel dry your hair and scalp. You should notice almost immediate relief.

Sesame Seed Oil

Sesame Seed and a bottle of Sesame Seed Oil

Sesame seed oil has many healing properties, especially when treating an itchy scalp. Simply warm the sesame seed oil and massage it into the hair and scalp. You will then allow the oil to set into the scalp for about half an hour. During this time, be careful as to not let the sesame seed oil soak into clothes. It will leave a stain. When it finishes soaking in, wash and rinse your hair as usual.

Lemon Juice

lemon slices for lemon juice

Lemon juice is a natural antiseptic. Because of this, it works best when dealing with dandruff. Simply rub the lemon juice into your hair and scalp and allow it to soak in for five minutes. You might notice stinging in certain parts of the scalp- this is likely where you’ve scratched the skin raw. After the lemon juice has set in for several minutes, shampoo and rinse as usual. You will notice that your hair will have the added benefit of softness and shine.

Coconut Oil

coconut fruit and coconut oil

Coconut oil pretty much cures everything, right? From diaper rash to itchy mosquito bites, the internet is filling with coconut-based remedies. You will need to warm the coconut oil so that it liquifies, and then let it set in for an hour. This will help add moisture and heal the hair follicles and scalp. Let the oil set for twenty minutes, then wash with a fragrance-free shampoo and rinse well.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel tree

Witch Hazel is a natural astringent. It cleans and heals the hair and scalp as it takes effect. Mix one part witch hazel with two parts water and rinse into the hair, allowing it to soak for half an hour. Wash and rinse as usual and towel dry. You should notice immediate results.

Apple Cider Vinegar

bottles of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar kills yeast and helps to balance the PH properties of your skin. To use this remedy, dilute the vinegar with water at a 1 to 1 ratio and massage it into your hair and scalp. Allow the mixture to soak into your hair and scalp for about ten minutes. During this time, you will begin to notice relief because the vinegar has anti-inflammatory properties. When the mixture is finished soaking in, wash and rinse your hair as you normally do and then towel dry.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba Oil in top of table

Jojoba oil is known to cool, calm, and add hydration. This makes it a very useful tool to relieve an itchy scalp. Rub the jojoba oil into the scalp and let it set in for thirty to forty-five minutes. When the time is up, rinse the oil out, then shampoo and rinse again.


banana in suoermarket

Bananas – who knew, right? This fruit actually makes a great conditioner with anti-inflammatory properties. You will need to mash the bananas up completely, then rub the mash into your scalp and through your hair if you’d like, although that is not necessary. Let the potassium-rich mash set for half an hour, then rinse, wash, and rinse again, preferably with a fragrance-free shampoo. You should notice that your hair feels moisturized. As an added bonus, it will also smell great!

Precautions to Take When Treating an Itchy Scalp

If you have been trying to fix an itchy scalp and aren’t seeing results after the first week or so, you will want to make a call to your doctor or dermatologist. While we have outlined some of the most common causes of an itchy scalp, there are still many more. You could potentially be dealing with a far bigger problem.

Never try a treatment method that you are unsure about without speaking to your physician first. Also, be conscious of any allergies or other health conditions that might cause an adverse reaction in relation to any new treatment methods you try.

In Review

If you’re suffering with an itchy scalp, it is likely related to an underlying problem. Whether you are fighting with lice or producing too much yeast, relief is possible. There are a number of natural remedies that are known to combat the causes of an itchy scalp and provide a reprieve.

Of course, you should not disregard the suggestions of your doctor. Always seek their advice when trying a new treatment plan and definitely consult them if the problem persists, as you might be dealing with something worse.

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