An itchy scalp is an annoying and sometimes embarrassing problem. It can be caused by several factors and is a relatively common ailment. While it’s not usually a medically serious condition, it can be irritating, and most people look for itchy scalp treatments to help.
What Causes Itchy Scalp?
The most common cause of itchy scalp is seborrheic dermatitis, also known as dandruff. This happens when one of the oil secreting glands in your head becomes inflamed. This can cause itching, flaking, red skin, and yellow or white scales to develop on your scalp.
There are many reasons why you might develop a dry, itchy scalp. You could be sensitive to hormonal changes and stress, it could be brought on by seasonal changes, or you could be experiencing an allergic reaction to a new medication or hair product like shampoo.
There are also medical conditions that could contribute to itchy scalp symptoms like a yeast overgrowth on the skin, lupus, head lice, psoriasis, or ringworm. It’s always a good idea if you suddenly develop new symptoms in addition to an itchy, dry scalp to see your doctor to rule out more serious medical concerns. If you begin to see hair loss, sores forming on your scalp, or you start to run a fever, go to the doctor immediately.
Home Remedies for Itchy Scalp
In most cases, an itchy scalp is due to dryness, and there are several home remedies that are simple, inexpensive, and made from all-natural ingredients that you can do at home.
Tea Tree Oil
One of the components of tea tree oil, Terpinen-4-oil, is a potent organic compound that acts as an anti-fungal and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can soothe a chronically dry, itchy scalp and clear anything clogging hair follicles that could be contributing to the problem.
There are a few different home remedies for itchy scalp that use tea tree oil as the main ingredient. You can add between 10 and 20 drops of it to a mild, fragrance-free shampoo like baby shampoo and use it daily for itchy scalp relief.
You can also use it as part of an oil treatment. Combine one tablespoon of vegetable oil with two or three drops of tea tree oil and massage it into your scalp. Let the treatment sit for a few hours, like when you’re watching tv at night, and then wash it out with a gentle shampoo.
Most people see improvements within a week or two of using either of these methods.
Lemon juice is known for being a great natural cleaning agent and can be found in a lot of green household products. Its antibacterial properties can help to ward off bacteria that could contribute to infection, and its acidic nature can balance out the pH levels making it a great itchy scalp home remedy.
If you have dark hair take note, using lemon juice for an extended period could lighten your hair. Also, if you have any broken skin or sores as a result of scratching, the lemon juice will sting when you apply it. This treatment is best for those with light hair and can be used daily for a short period.
To use, massage fresh squeezed lemon juice onto your scalp. If you find that it’s too strong or your skin is sensitive, you can dilute the juice with water or mix it with a full-fat yogurt for a creamy, hydrating treatment. Leave the juice on for three to five minutes and then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Baking soda is another inexpensive home remedy for dry scalp. If you’re wondering how to make your head stop itching, try a two-part baking soda treatment. It works by balancing out the alkaline levels in your skin which will kill off any overactive fungi while at the same time serving as a mild exfoliant to slough away dead cells that can cause dandruff.
Start by gently massaging about a tablespoon of olive oil onto your scalp for hydration. Then, make a paste using one part baking soda to approximately three parts water. It should be coarse, but thick enough that it sticks together. Gently massage the paste into your scalp using small, firm circles. Let the treatment sit for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse with warm water. You may need to use a gentle shampoo to clean your hair completely.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a natural powerhouse that can balance the pH level of your scalp. It’s an excellent dry scalp remedy because it kills off fungi by creating an unlivable environment. At the same time, one of its ingredients, acetic acid, also works as a natural exfoliant and removes dead skin cells and hair product that may have built up on your scalp causing it to itch.
To make the solution, mix equal parts cool water with apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle. You’ll want to begin the treatment with clean, dry hair, so wet your hair with warm water and then let it dry.
Spray the solution onto your scalp, saturating the hair completely. Next, wrap a towel around your head, or put on a shower cap. Leave the treatment on for between 15 and 30 minutes. When time is up, shampoo the apple cider vinegar mixture out of your hair with a gentle shampoo. You can repeat this process up to once per week.
If you don’t have any sensitivity to the strength of the apple cider vinegar, you can also mix a stronger solution. Some people use undiluted vinegar and leave it on for a shorter amount of time, around 10 minutes, and experience great results as well.
Aloe Vera doesn’t just help with the stinging and itching you feel if you have a sunburn; it’s also a great itchy scalp home remedy. It’s best if you can use a bit from a fresh plant, but store-bought gel will also work. Just be sure to choose one that is 100% aloe vera without any harsh chemical additives.
Regardless of the form, it has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and natural moisturizing properties that can soothe dryness and stimulate the growth of new, healthy tissue. Aloe vera also has active enzymes that will gently exfoliate the area to remove any dead skin cells and help to manage dandruff.
To apply the treatment, simply squeeze the gel from a fresh aloe vera leaf and massage it directly into your scalp. Leave it in place for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash your hair with a gentle shampoo and warm water. You can do this up to two times per week to help to manage your itchy scalp.
If your itchy scalp is due to dryness, using a moisturizing itchy scalp remedy like coconut oil may get you the relief you’ve been searching for. This super hydrating oil is in a solid form at room temperature and has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can treat both infections of the hair follicle and fungal infections like ringworm.
As a daily treatment, you can add a few drops to your hypoallergenic shampoo when you wash your hair to help lock in moisture and nourish your scalp. Make sure that you add the oil as a liquid, and keep the shampoo warm until you apply it to your hair so that it doesn’t harden.
For a more in-depth treatment, warm up a tablespoon of coconut oil in the microwave just enough that it turns from a solid to a liquid. When it’s cool enough to touch, gently massage the oil over your entire scalp and onto the length of your hair. If this feels good, you can keep rubbing for up to 10 minutes while the oil penetrates your skin and follicles. Let the coconut oil treatment sit for a minimum of two hours, or if you apply it at night, cover with a shower cap and let it sit overnight. Wash the solution out with a gentle shampoo. You can do this up to three times a week.
Bananas aren’t just a delicious addition to a smoothie; they’re also a fruit with dandruff-fighting properties. Combined with avocados that are full of healthy fats that will nourish and moisturize your hair they are one of the best all natural dry scalp remedies you can try to reduce dandruff and inflammation of your hair follicles.
To make this tropical hair mask treatment, mash two ripe bananas and one whole, peeled and seeded avocado in a bowl. Once you make a smooth paste, apply it to your scalp and hair. Wrap your hair in a towel or shower cap and let the mixture sit for around 30 minutes then rinse your hair thoroughly.
Sesame Seed Oil
Sesame seed oil has the capability to lock in moisture and ease dryness of the scalp. If you’re wondering how to stop your head from itching, this could be a great option. Sesame seed oil is also a natural lubricant and can be used as a chemical-free treatment against another common itchy scalp culprit, head lice. It has a natural property that kills off the insects, but will not remove their eggs. See your doctor if you suspect you have lice to discuss this as a possible treatment protocol.
Try doing a deep sesame seed oil treatment at night before you go to bed. Start by warming up one to two tablespoons of sesame seed oil so that it’s warm, but not hot. Massage the warm oil into your entire scalp using a gentle circular motion that will promote circulation and break up any dead skin cells. Next, wrap your head in a warm towel for five to ten minutes. We like heating ours up in the dryer for the perfect temperature. You can leave the towel on once it’s cooled, or secure a shower cap around your head when you go to bed. In the morning, gently wash and rinse your scalp with a fragrance-free shampoo.
You can do this treatment up to three times weekly to help combat itchy scalp symptoms.
Witch hazel is an astringent that works naturally to soothe an irritated scalp. If you’re someone who frequently colors or heat treats your hair, you may be more prone to dryness. Witch hazel is an excellent herb to combat those issues.
For maximum benefits, create a solution of one part witch hazel and two parts water. Try starting with a tablespoon of witch hazel and two of water. Pour the mixture over your scalp and use your fingertips to massage it in for three to five minutes. Then, wash your hair with a mild shampoo and rinse out the formula.
Jojoba oil has powerful moisturizing properties. It is an all-natural extract from the jojoba seed that closely mimics the molecular structure of the oil that our body produces naturally. As such, it can deeply penetrate and hydrate your scalp and can help to ease both itching and dryness.
To get itchy scalp relief, massage a few drops of jojoba oil onto your scalp in the evening at bedtime. Let the oil soak in overnight, and in the morning shampoo with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser. You can repeat this up to two times per week for hydrating benefits.
Yoga, Tai Chi and other forms of exercise
If your scalp woes are the result of stress, hormone imbalances, lack of sleep, or other lifestyle based factors, exercise programs that foster a mind/body connection could be a cure. The National Psoriasis Foundation reported positive results from patients who did yoga, tai chi, or qigong regularly.
Why? In practices like yoga and Tai Chi, you hold or move fluidly through poses that increase oxygen levels in the body and improve circulation to your scalp. These side effects, combined with the overall positive benefits that exercise can have on your health, sleep, and stress levels can provide needed relief from dandruff symptoms.
Clean Your Hair, Brushes, and Combs
Over washing your hair can cause dryness of the scalp and lead to problems with itching. However, the same can happen if you don’t shampoo enough. If you go several days without using a gentle, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free shampoo on your scalp, you might experience buildup of sweat, dead skin cells, and hair products that could lead to itching and flaking. It’s important to massage your scalp and rinse it with warm water at least a few times per week to prevent this from happening.
If your scalp problems are fungal or have led to any open wounds or an infection, it’s also important to deep clean your brushes and combs so that you don’t continue to introduce those germs every time you brush your hair. First, remove all excess follicles from your accessories. Then, set them in a pot of hot or boiling water for a few minutes, stirring gently. You can even use an old toothbrush or scrub brush to separate the bristles and massage out any gunk or build up. Finally, remove them from hot water and give them one final rinse before patting them dry.
Use Hair and Scalp Mask
If you would rather purchase a pre-made hair and scalp mask from a store to use at home, there are lots of options to choose. Most will have deep nourishing ingredients like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or avocado that are like our homemade remedies above. You can also find masks with essential oils and other ingredients designed to balance the pH of your scalp and eliminate dandruff and flakes.
Some of these solutions will be natural and organic; others will contain chemicals. We highly recommend choosing an option without harsh chemicals that is fragrance and allergen free for best results.
Regardless of which you choose, it’s important to follow the usage instructions on the package to get the best results. Expect to spend anywhere between $10 and $50 on a prepackaged home hair and scalp mask.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Have you ever heard the expression, “you are what you eat?” Many times, what’s happening externally in our body is due to what we’re putting in it. If your itchy scalp is due to a fungal overgrowth, you could be making it worse if you’re eating inflammatory foods. Things that are over processed like fast food, or that contain ingredients like sugar, gluten, soy, and dairy, as well as alcohol, could be contributing to your itch. If you’re allergic or sensitive to a particular food, like peanut butter or strawberries, make sure to eliminate that from your diet all together until you get the itching under control.
Swap out these choices for healthy alternatives. For an added benefit, try working fungus-fighters into your diet like garlic, banana, avocado, ginger, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil to heal your problem from the inside out.
Avoid Harmful Chemicals
You might find a long list of chemicals in many of the hair products that you purchase at a drugstore or salon. While they are all FDA approved, many have been shown to cause rashes that could irritate the scalp and lead to itching and dryness. In some cases, you may be allergic to some of the fragrances, dyes, or other harsh ingredients in the product.
Someone who is allergic to the ingredients may also find that you break out in hives or see other general inflammation that’s not just limited to your scalp. If you find that you’re itchy on your neck, face, shoulders, arms, or hands, that could be a good indicator. You might also find that your eyes itch, you become congested, your throat gets tight, or you sneeze after using the products. These are all signs of an allergic reaction.
If you’re experiencing a chronically itchy scalp, consider switching to all natural products. The home remedies we suggest above are chemical-free, or you can shop online for pre-made alternatives that are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and safe for sensitive skin.
Causes and Symptoms of Itchy Scalp
Many different factors can cause an itchy scalp. Most commonly, it’s the result of inflammation of the hair follicle because of a yeast overgrowth or an allergic reaction. It could also be a symptom of something more serious, like a fungal infection like ringworm, head lice, or an autoimmune disease. Some people report itchiness due to dryness, especially those who frequently chemically treat their hair with dyes and perms, or those who use high heat to style their locks.
There are many factors thought to contribute to the condition. Stress, a compromised immune system, poor nutrition, and even your genetics could make you predisposed for having and itchy scalp. Some medical professionals believe that hormone imbalances and environmental factors may also play a role.
For many people, the symptoms associated with these causes aren’t just limited to needing to scratch. You might also experience dandruff or white flakes of dead skin that come off when you scratch. It’s possible to develop open sores from scratching, and those wounds could become infected and produce pus over time. You could also see just general inflammation to go along with the itching.
With some of the more severe conditions, you may also experience hair loss. If you find that you’re shedding more than a few strands, or you’re losing hair in circular patterns on your head, see your doctor immediately.
Finally, if you have head lice, you may notice small white flakes near the root of your hair, especially around your neck or ears. These are the egg sacks of the lice, known as nits, and are a tell-tale sign that you need to be treated to get rid of the insect. It’s usually much easier to see the white eggs in your hair than it is to see the actual lice.
Are There Any Risks Or Side Effects?
If the symptoms of your itchy scalp don't go away or if they get worse, it is important to talk to your doctor about medical treatments as these may be more effective.
Active ingredients in shampoos and essential oils can sometimes irritate broken or swollen skin. If you know that you have an allergy to certain ingredients, be sure not to use anything which contains them. Don't treat children with any products until you have approval from a pediatrician.
Itchy Scalp: Conclusion
Itchy scalp is a very common occurrence and has multiple causes. It can usually be treated at home, but may sometimes require medical treatment. If your symptoms don't go away easily or within a few weeks then you should talk to your doctor about the underlying cause of your particular condition and how best to treat it.
This article has provided some of the best ways to treat itchy scalp at home. Everyone's itchy scalp is different and will have a different cause and so while the treatments above may work for some, they may not for others. It is important to check with a doctor if none of the above home remedies proves to be effective.