7 Common Causes for Scalp Irritation

Scalp irritation can be frustrating, especially if it causes itchiness and discomfort. Typically, it’s nothing more than just a mild reaction to an ingredient - nothing severe. Nevertheless, here’s an explanation for some of the underlying causes of an irritated scalp so that you stop scratching your head. 

What Could Be Causing Scalp Irritation?

1. Visible Flakes

The number one cause for itchy scalp is seborrheic dermatitis. It’s a condition that causes irritation and stubborn dandruff due to an inflammatory reaction by the glands that produce natural oils. This may be caused by hormonal fluctuations and seasonal changes which cause itchiness and visible flakes on the scalp. 

There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies to treat it, but there are as many home remedies available. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory properties that will help alleviate irritation. Dilute it with another carrier oil - like olive oil- to massage your scalp. Essential oils maybe a little bit irritating if you have sensitive skin, which takes me to my next probable cause. 


2. Dermatitis or an Allergic Reaction

A condition caused by an allergic reaction happens most commonly to people who dye their hair. There’s an ingredient in hair dye called para-phenylenediamine (PPD) that is known to cause irritation. Another cause for an allergic reaction may occur because of potent essential oils. Even though essential oils are natural and known for their beneficial effects, people with sensitive skin might react to them negatively. 

Use coconut oil or aloe vera as ointments to alleviate any kind of irritation, aloe has antibacterial and antifungal properties and coconut oil has antimicrobial properties. 

3. Product Residue

Most often than not, an irritated scalp is just a sign that you’re not rinsing your hair thoroughly. Also, mineral oils found in many hand creams and other personal-care products can leave residues in your hair and scalp if you play a lot with your hair.

Take some extra time to rinse off every last bit of product, after all, this is your self-pampering time. 


4. Scarring Alopecia

It appears most commonly as tiny patches of hair loss that can expand gradually. The destruction of the hair follicle under the skin is a rare disorder that leaves scarring under the skin which is why the scalp looks smooth on the surface, but sometimes it gets irritated and it causes discomfort. 

To know if the infection is indeed alopecia, a dermatologist may take a sample to test for it.  There are treatments specifically for this condition that the dermatologist may prescribe. Unfortunately, alopecia leaves a permanent scar - hair loss -  because the hair follicle that gets destroyed never grows back. 


5. Bugs

Lice and scabies are more common in kids because they’re highly contagious and places such as schools, kindergartens, and summer camps are the perfect incubators for a lice infestation. Nevertheless, if you have kids or work with kids, there is no rule that says you won’t get them too. 

First of all check everyone in the same household. There is a very high probability that if someone at your home has it, the other members have it as well. There is over-the-counter medication to treat head lice, just make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. “To avoid chemicals or pesticides, use a fine-toothed-lice-comb to remove them. “Apply olive oil before so that the lice stick better to the comb.” (Healthline.com) Make sure to clean bed sheets, towels, and other garments in hot water.  You can help prevent lice by using hair products that contain eucalyptus and tea tree oil such as the Balancing Bundle from The Hair Routine. 


6. Ringworm

A fungal infection of the skin causes the infection, which is not really a worm. The most affected areas are the scalp, feet, and beards. It’s easy to recognize ringworm because the infection looks like a red circle on the affected area, and will most likely cause hair loss. “Three different types of fungi can cause ringworm: Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton.” (Healthline.com) The infection can be contagious and is transmitted from person to person, from the soil where the fungus grows, and even from animals.

Ringworm on the scalp may be treated with prescribed medication or over-the-counter antifungal creams. Wash bedding and clothing to prevent further infections. Essential oils such as lemongrass and tea tree oil are also recommended but discuss these with a professional before considering them as your only treatment. Visit your doctor if the infection persists. 


7. Scalp Psoriasis 

This looks like very fine scaling of the scalp when it’s mild, but can be much severe when it extends further than the hairline to the back of the neck and ears. It looks a lot drier than just a dandruff problem. It takes a long time to treat because finding the right treatment can take longer than one would expect.

There are many treatments available, but they must often be rotated because they lose effectiveness after repeated use. If psoriasis develops and becomes more severe, doctors may prescribe antimicrobial medicine.


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