What Causes Dandruff And Itchy Scalp?

What causes dandruff and itchy scalp?

This happens to be such a complicated topic that no one knows exactly what causes itchy scalp and dandruff. Why do some people seem to have it really bad? And others not so much? We don’t know.

It has nothing to do with a clean or dirty scalp.[1] Although dirty hair can make flakes more intense and bring about other issues, it’s not the cause of dandruff specifically. You could wash your hair 4 times a day and still have dandruff.

What causes dandruff and itchy scalp?

But, there are three specific factors that may contribute heavily to severe dandruff.[2]

What are the three causes of dandruff and itchy scalp?

  1. Sebum or the oil your skin produces (sebaceous lipids)
  2. The organisms on your skin (Malassezia fungi)
  3. Skin allergies of each individual person (individual sensitivity)

I’ve written more specifically about why an oily scalp triggers dandruff here.

Treat itchy scalp and dandruff with an anti-dandruff shampoo like Nizoral.

Specific causes of dandruff, dry skin, or itchy scalp

Can dandruff cause an itchy scalp? Yes, but it’s not the only cause. Dandruff is only one type of skin irritation. It could be many other things too.

Flakes and an itchy scalp doesn’t necessarily mean dandruff either.

All of the following can cause or contribute to flakes, dry skin, or itchy scalp:

Skin conditions like Seborrheic Dermatitis or Scalp Psoriasis

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a more severe form of dandruff. Dandruff typically has flakes and itch associated with it but, Seb Derm usually has red irritated skin as well.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. Where your immune system targets cells that are completely healthy rather than sick ones. Scales tend to look more silver with psoriasis. It’s usually not as itchy as dandruff is. Unfortunately, psoriasis is more difficult to take care of and may require injections to treat. But, this disease is much less common than dandruff. Only around 2% of people in the USA are affected.[3]

Pityrosporum Folliculitis is a kind of fungal acne. Pityrosporum is actually the old term for Malassezia. How about that?

Allergies or reactions to certain products (hair dye, shampoo, etc)

An allergic reaction to any number of products can also cause irritation. It’s called contact dermatitis.

Hair dye is a common product that can cause an allergic reaction (allergic contact dermatitis). But, your shampoo or styling products can also cause irritation (irritant contact dermatitis).

Symptoms usually include:

  • Red rash
  • Itching
  • Dry and scaling skin

That’s why I recommend doing a patch test when trying new products. Especially if you want to try any home remedies.

Environment (cold dry weather or hot humid weather)

Cold or hot weather doesn’t usually cause skin conditions, but, it may trigger flare-ups or contribute to more intense symptoms. Changes in humidity can aggravate seborrheic dermatitis.[4]

Heat can also trigger an itchy scalp. Avoid showers that are too hot for too long. Shorter showers with warm water rather than hot are best.

Head Lice

Although lice are less common in adults than in children, it’s possible that you might have lice and not dandruff. Lice bites are responsible for an itchy scalp too.

Other contributors

  • Poor health like stress, bad eating habits, lack of exercise, not enough sleep, dehydration
  • Dirty hair (old products, not changing pillow cases, hats)
  • Genetics

There are a number of things that also increase your risk of developing dandruff. They are:

  • Nervous system disorders and mental health disorders like Parkinson’s and depression
  • Immunosuppression and immunodeficiency/Weakened immune systems (Aging, Malnutrition, Cancer, and HIV)[5]

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