What is Causing My Itchy Scalp?

It’s not uncommon to have an itchy scalp. The skin on our scalps has a unique structure, with each hair follicle linking to four different types of nerve. Often, the itching is caused by an underlying condition, but in some cases, it occurs without an obvious diagnosis. This is known as ‘idiopathic’ in medical terms, meaning that the cause is unknown. 

Itchy scalp can often be uncomfortable, and sometimes unbearable, but understanding more about the potential causes can help you to better care for your scalp.


Scalp Skin Conditions

If your scalp is itchy, you may have a skin condition that is affecting the area:



It’s thought that around 50% of people will experience dandruff at some point in their life. The primary cause of dandruff is the overgrowth of a fungus called malassezia. Malassezia is present on the scalp naturally, but can cause an adverse reaction for some people. The symptoms of dandruff are itching and flaking, without any visible inflammation. It’s considered to be a mild form of seborrhoeic dermatitis.


Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can cause itching, flaking and inflammation in the scalp area. The condition affects parts of the skin which have sebaceous, or oil-producing, glands. Aside from the scalp, you may experience these symptoms on the face, nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids and chest. Like dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis is also caused by the fungus malassezia.



Another skin condition that can cause the scalp to become itchy is psoriasis. Though it’s less common than dandruff, psoriasis is still estimated to affect around 2% of people. It’s an autoimmune condition meaning that it’s caused by an immune system response; new skin cells are produced at a faster rate than normal, which leads to scaling and flaking. The appearance differs from dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis; psoriasis typically causes dry, red patches of skin which are covered in silver scales.


Contact Dermatitis

Triggered by contact with an allergen or irritant, contact dermatitis is a type of eczema which causes the skin to become dry and irritated. The reaction normally takes place within hours or days of contact. Often, symptoms will clear if the skin is kept free of the substance that caused the irritation. The ingredients in certain dyes, hair care products - and even hair accessories - can trigger contact dermatitis.


Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema caused by a gene variation that prevents the skin from protecting itself fully from external factors. The affected areas of skin can become dry, itchy, bumpy and cracked. It’s a chronic condition, therefore it can reoccur in cycles, with periods of remission.



Itching can also be caused by folliculitis, a condition that stems from a bacterial or fungal infection and leads to the hair follicles becoming inflamed. This can appear as small red bumps, or white pimples, which can develop into sores if left untreated.


Other Causes of Itchy Scalp

If your itchy scalp isn’t accompanied by any other visible symptoms, it may be linked to a wider health condition:

  • Facial neuralgia, migraines and diabetes are all conditions relating to the nervous system, which have also been known to cause the scalp to itch.
  • Scalp itching has been linked to the organs too; with liver disease, kidney disease and lymphoma all reported to have affected the scalp area in some cases.
  • Certain mental health illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, have been associated with itching in the scalp area too.

At times, having an itchy scalp can be distracting and embarrassing, but there are steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms. Over-the-counter products, like Nizoral Care Scalp Tonic, can provide relief to itching and dryness. With natural extracts from magnolia and cactus, Nizoral Care Scalp Tonic is a leave-in formula that moisturises and soothes the scalp, while helping to restore its natural balance, leaving you free to concentrate on what’s important. 


If you’re concerned about your scalp health, and think you may have an underlying condition, speak to a healthcare professional for more information on managing your symptoms.