Here’s a head-scratcher: Your scalp itches constantly. How do you make it stop?
Itchy scalp, or scalp pruritus as doctors call it, is often a symptom of a larger problem. Dandruff and eczema (seborrheic dermatitis) are the most common culprits behind that itch. Both lead to dead and flaky skin, redness, and itching. Psoriasis is another skin disease that can make you scratch your head. It’s a disorder that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. Extra cells accumulate and form scales and red patches.
How can you ease your discomfort? You might find relief in these household items and over-the-counter products.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This kitchen staple is a popular home remedy for all sorts of problems -- including psoriasis. If that’s what’s behind the crawling sensation on your noggin, try organic apple cider vinegar.
Here’s how you do it: Test it on a small patch of skin. If it burns or otherwise hurts, dilute the vinegar in water. Try half water and half vinegar. You can spray it on your scalp with a spray bottle several times a week. Leave it on or rinse it off after it dries. But don’t try this one if you have an open cut or sore on your head.
It has several qualities that might explain the relief it brings:
- It cools skin, which can calm irritated, inflamed areas.
- It increases blood flow, which may alleviate itch.
- It may kill lice with its chemical components.
Here’s how you do it: Stir two drops of peppermint oil into one cup of cool water. Gently massage the mixture into your scalp for a few minutes. Then shampoo and condition as usual.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil may help because it’s a natural antiseptic, antibiotic, and antifungal. But, be careful. Some people are allergic to this oil.
Here’s how you do it: A little goes a long way. Use an eyedropper to add 8-10 drops of tea tree oil to 12 ounces of shampoo. Use only a small amount to wash and rinse your hair as usual.
This essential oil is a natural astringent, which means it can reduce bleeding from minor cuts as well as make skin less oily. It’s also an antiseptic. You’ll find it in some soaps, deodorants, shampoos, and lotions. Lemongrass may also ease the itch caused by dandruff flakes. A lab mix of lemongrass oil and hair tonic relieved itchy scalp in a recent study.
Here’s how you do it: Add two drops of lemongrass oil to one tablespoon of your regular shampoo. Gently wash and rinse your hair and scalp as usual.
Mineral Oil or Olive Oil
These household items relieve your itchy scalp because they soften and loosen scales caused by dandruff and eczema. Simply massage the oil into your scalp and leave it alone for about an hour. Then wash your hair.
How to Get Rid of Dandruff
Follow these lifestyle tips to ease or prevent an itchy scalp:
- Reduce stress. Believe it or not, your mental health affects your physical health. Stress can make your dandruff symptoms worse.
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet filled with zinc, B vitamins, and certain fats may prevent dandruff.
- Keep your hair clean. Gently shampoo at least daily to avoid an oily scalp. Try to cut back on hair styling products.
Several medicated shampoos are available over the counter. Different ones fight itchy scalp caused by dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis. What they do depends on which ones you buy. So, before you buy one, check to see if it contains any of the following:
- Zinc pyrithione, which is both antibacterial and antifungal
- Selenium sulfide, an antifungal medication
- Salicylic acid, an agent that rids the scalp of scales
- Ketoconazole, an antifungal medication
- Coal tar, which slows down the rate at which skin cells die and flake off
See your doctor if your scalp continues to itch after you try these home remedies or if:
The Cleveland Clinic: “Do You Have Itchy Scalp? 5 Common Problems and Fixes.”
National Institutes of Health: “The Itchy Scalp: Scratching for an Explanation.”
Psoriasis.org: “Herbs and Natural Remedies.”
Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research: “A Review of Peppermint Oil.”
The Mayo Clinic: “Home Remedies: Tips for Dealing with Dandruff,” “Dandruff,” “Seborrheic Dermatitis.”
Parasitology Research: “Activity of Tea Tree Oil and Nerolidol Alone or in Combination Against Pediculus Capitis and Its Eggs.”
Complementary Medicine Research: “Anti-dandruff Hair Tonic Containing Lemongrass Oil.”