Some of us have to deal with an itchy scalp which can drive us up the wall! Apart from going through an embarrassing situation where you are trying to “discreetly” scratch an itch during a romantic first date or important meeting, if not properly addressed it can snowball and get worse. ‘Prevention is better cure’ right? So in order to prevent an itchy scalp, one needs to understand what can cause it and then move onto solutions to heal the problem, if it has already happened.
Why is your scalp itchy? There are a number of different reasons why your scalp might be itchy; one such cause can be skin rashes or irritations such as dermatitis or seborrhea dermatitis. Lack of moisture or a dry scalp can not only lead to an itchy scalp but also to dandruff. If you are not eating a healthy or balanced diet you might be depriving your body of sufficient water, nutrients, vitamins or other dietary necessities that can impact the health of your scalp. Over cleansing (shampooing) your hair can also cause your scalp to be left dry and stripped of its natural oils (sebum). Product build up or even sweat can result in a dirty scalp or clogged up the pores which can also contribute to an itchy scalp. One aspect that some might forget is the ingredients found in our hair products. Regardless of if we are talking about products that we rinse out (e.g. shampoo, conditioners or deep conditioners) or those that we leave on our hair and scalp (e.g. leave-in conditioners, hair spritzes or styling products). Heat or even external elements beyond our control such as the weather can also factor into the health of our scalp.
Tips to avoid and/or treat an itchy scalp Skin Rashes/Irritations – the first thing you want to do is consult a dermatologist or your personal doctor. You might need to take a prescription or ointment to heal the rashes/irritation and the best person to give you that advice is a medical professional. From there you can discuss with a medical professional if whether a more naturalist approach will work for you or not (read below for some natural approaches).
Lack of moisture – if your scalp feels dry you need to provide it with moisture (obvious I know). Applying moisturizing ingredients in “Do It Yourself” (DIY) mixes such as Aloe Vera juice, honey, agave nectar or glycerin can greatly aid in quenching a “thirsty” scalp. Aloe Vera juice can be a little drying for some, in this case you can mix it with water, leave it on your scalp for 5 minutes and then rinse it off. Honey, agave nectar or glycerin are natural humectants that attract water molecules in areas of high concentration (humidity) in air to areas of low concentration where they are applied (a dry scalp). Depending on the climate you live in, humectants might actually do the reverse – mainly if you live in dry colder climates. Instead of drawing in moisture, they can lead to making your scalp feel dry if there is not enough humidity in the air so you need to determine for yourself if they will work for you).
Balanced Diet – being healthy internally is important for obvious reasons such as our overall health but you need to remember that everything related to the body is connected. Having a poor diet and not doing exercise impacts the body and since our skin is the largest organ covering all of our body, what’s going on internally is reflected on the outside – our scalp included. Drinking enough water (average 6 – 8 glasses per day) is such an essential part of a balanced diet but so too is eating fresh fruits and raw vegetables. Reducing the amount of sugar, starch, fatty and processed foods and doing exercise all contribute towards healthy skin as well.
Cleansing – the overuse of harsh chemicals that can sometimes be found in shampoos can lead to the stripping of sebum from our scalp. Try to use sulfate-free shampoos that are milder on the hair and scalp. You do not need (should not need) to shampoo your hair every day or every other day, but the frequency will ultimately depend on your hair, the products you use and how heavy handed you are with products. There are several chemical free alternatives to shampoo such as Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) that can be used to cleanse the scalp & hair and actually helps restore the natural pH balance of the scalp and hair, close our scalp’s pores and the cuticle of the hair, all resulting in clean yet not stripped hair and skin. Natural ayurvedic herbs such as Skikakai and Aritha can also be used as alternative shampoos.
Product Buildup– the solution to product buildup is not to completely strip our scalp dry, but to apply appropriate amounts of products that work for us without overdoing it. If you exercise a lot and feel like your scalp is sweaty you can use a light spritz of water with 3 – 4 drops of essential oil such as tea tree or peppermint directly onto your scalp or onto a cotton swab to fight through sweat and light product buildup up while at the same time provide a cooling effect on the scalp. ACV, water and an essential oil mixture can also be used in the same way (the ACV smell will dissipate once it dries).
Ingredient lists – in my opinion ingredient lists are something that is often missed but really important. Sometimes we can buy into names of products that claim to be “all natural” when in fact the ingredients in these products are everything but natural! If you are doing everything “right” but still suffer from an itchy scalp pick up your products and check the back for their ingredients. Look up words you are unfamiliar with and do your research on them. Also try to get products that at the very least have water listed within the first three ingredients. You want the natural “good” ingredients up at the top of the list as this means there is a higher percentage of them in the product. Silicones, parabens, mineral oil and alcohol (drying alcohols) are a no-no for some while others do not mind using them, just remember that the only way to “rid” them from your hair is to do a thorough cleanse because these ingredients can act like a coat and trap in dryness.
Heat and weather – it is not always easy or even possible to control everything around us but limiting the use of heat on our hair can actually effect our scalp especially when it comes to hair dryers. Therefore, reducing the use of heat can help an already dry scalp. The weather is something we all have to live with, but on days when it is cold and dry, using a moisturizing scalp spritz might be in order and on days when we know it will be hot a little less is more.