What are the Different Types of Itchy Scalp Treatment?

M.C. Huguelet

Anyone who has experienced an itchy scalp knows that it is an uncomfortable and often embarrassing condition. Luckily, there are several types of itchy scalp treatment. The first step in choosing a treatment is to determine the cause of the itch. Common culprits include dandruff, ringworm, and head lice. Once the cause is understood, itchy scalp sufferers can treat their condition with an appropriate shampoo, oral medication, ointment, or behavioral change.

Visible white flakes of dry dead skin on the scalp are a sign of dandruff.
Visible white flakes of dry dead skin on the scalp are a sign of dandruff.

Perhaps the most familiar cause of itchy scalp is dandruff. Basically, dandruff is the buildup of dead skin cells on the scalp’s surface. The presence of these dead cells causes the scalp to itch. When scratched, the cells may fall from the scalp in flakes, a source of embarrassment for many. Dandruff has a number of potential causes, including dermatological conditions such as psoriasis, washing the hair too frequently or infrequently, or seasonal dryness.

Head lice is a common cause of itchy scalp.
Head lice is a common cause of itchy scalp.

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Dandruff-related itchy scalp treatment usually calls for a modification to one’s hair hygiene. Those who wash their hair just once or twice per week may wish to add additional washings, taking note of whether their itchiness decreases. Conversely, those who normally wash daily may wish to scale back their shampooing schedule to every other day or so. If scalp itch shows no improvement after adjustment to the washing schedule, a shampoo specially formulated to minimize dandruff may help. These shampoos contain active ingredients such as tar, salicylic acid, or zinc pyrithione, and are often successful in reducing scalp flaking and itching.

Medicated shampoos containing salicylic acid can usually treat dandruff.
Medicated shampoos containing salicylic acid can usually treat dandruff.

Another common cause of itchy scalp is ringworm. In spite of what its name may suggest, ringworm is not a parasitic insect, but rather a fungus which, when it infects the scalp, can cause round, itchy patches and temporary hair loss. Ringworm-related itchy scalp treatment usually involves prescription medications, and thus those who believe they may have ringworm should consult a physician. Commonly prescribed ringworm treatments include oral antibiotics as well as topical ointments.

If scalp itch shows no improvement after adjustment to the washing schedule, a shampoo specially formulated to minimize dandruff may help.
If scalp itch shows no improvement after adjustment to the washing schedule, a shampoo specially formulated to minimize dandruff may help.

Finally, itchiness of the scalp is sometimes caused by head lice — small mites which infest the hair and bite the scalp. In the case of head lice, itchy scalp treatment usually involves an over-the-counter wash which kills lice and their eggs. If this type of wash proves ineffective, head lice sufferers should consult a physician, who may recommend a stronger treatment. Head lice can be easily passed from person to person, and sufferers should thus avoid crowded environments until the lice have been successfully eliminated.

Ringworm-related itchy scalp treatment usually involves prescription medications.
Ringworm-related itchy scalp treatment usually involves prescription medications.
Dandruff, ringworm and lice can cause an itchy scalp.
Dandruff, ringworm and lice can cause an itchy scalp.

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