There can be many causes of sore itchy scalp problems. In rare cases it can be put down to a lack of hygiene, though that is generally not the case for most people and it can in fact more likely be attributed to excessive washing or the use of harsh shampoos and conditioners that cause the scalp to dry out and leave the follicles open to infection (folliculitis). Many of today’s shampoos and conditioners contain a number of toxic chemicals which dry out the skin, stripping it of its natural oils and thereby causing a sore, itchy scalp. Without these essential oils the skin is open to a number of infections and yeast organisms like Melassezia Globbosa (the fungus which causes dandruff) or Pitysporum Ovale – which result in dandruff and flaking of the scalp. An example of one of these toxic chemicals is Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS) which is an aggressive cleaning and foaming agent commonly used as an engine degreaser. Although proven to strip oils from and prematurely age your skin, damage eye membranes, retard healing, inhibit hair follicle growth and more, it is added to 90% of shampoos on the market. Silicon is also often added to conditioners as an artificial shine enhancer.
Some other possible causes are:
- A skin condition, such as acne, which can occur for a number of reasons – often hormonal, but also via infection, ingrown hairs and blocked pores, or incorrect diet.
- A fungus like Ringworm (tinea capitis). This is a superficial fungal infection of the scalp and is caused by mould-like fungi called dermatophytes. It is more common in children and the symptoms include red, itchy patches on the scalp, which cause hair loss and leave bald areas. The skin might itch and be red and peel or be scaly, have swollen blisters or a rash (that can spread) and looks like black dots. The rash is highly contagious, and I would highly recommend seeing your doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible to get further advice and prevent it from spreading further.
- A cyst, such as an epidermal or sebaceous cyst, a sac beneath the outer layer of the skin that is filled with a greasy white material. These cysts most often appear on the scalp, ears, face or back and are caused by plugged ducts at the site of a hair shaft.
- An allergic skin reaction (contact dermatitis). This usually comes in two forms – Irritant Contact Dermatitis and Allergic Contact Dermatitis. The former is normally a reaction caused by the direct effect of an irritant substance on the skin, while the latter is a hypersensitivity reaction, acting through the body’s immune system, due to a particular substance or group of related substances. This goes back to what I mentioned above about the harsh irritant chemicals that you find in many of today’s shampoos and hair products.
- Stress – brought on by exhaustion, work pressures, emotional tension. Stress can also cause acne to develop.
- Viral infections, such as chickenpox and shingles
(Please note that every case is different and if you have an extreme case of scalp problems or are worried and uncertain about anything I would highly recommend you consult your doctor or dermatologist).
To soothe the itching on your scalp there are a few things you can do. Natural oils such as Lavender, German Chamomile, Eucalyptus, and Avocado Oil are excellent at relieving the itchiness. Simply mix them together and add water (4 parts water to 1 part oil), then apply locally to the affected areas on your scalp for relief. This mixture can also be added to your shampoo or conditioner to give your skin an extra boost (try to use a pH neutral shampoo with natural oils such as Tea Tree – this will stop your scalp from drying out further and will help to prevent any infection).
Neem oil is an excellent dandruff preventative and is also great for relieving psoriasis and eczema. As above, it can be added to your shampoo to soothe and aid your scalp problem.
(As with all oils, consult your doctor first if you are pregnant. It is also recommended you patch test all oils/formulas before application or addition to your shampoos).