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Why Do I Have Itchy Scalp and How to Treat It?

Written by Alexa Adler
Why Do I Have Itchy Scalp and How to Treat It?

Scratching away at an itch you just can’t seem to satisfy? Constantly dusting off your shoulders from flakes? We’ve all been there. The good news? There are lots of solutions.

Depending on the underlying cause, remedies range from drinking more water to over-the-counter medicated products to making an appointment with your dermatologist. We’re here to help guide you through them all. 

What’s Causing the Itch?

An itchy scalp can be a symptom of a variety of conditions. It’s essential to know the root cause of your symptoms so you can effectively treat them. These are the five most common scalp issues related to itchiness and irritation.


This one probably comes as no surprise. Dandruff is the extremely common culprit of many people’s head-scratching. Let’s talk about what dandruff means because there are some real misconceptions out there. Dandruff is not the same as dry scalp. While the symptoms are similar — flaking, itching, irritation — the two conditions have pretty different sources. Flaking as a result of dandruff tends to be denser, oilier, and more yellow in color. While flaking from a dry scalp tends to be whitish in color and more like powdered sugar. Take a look at what’s falling on your shoulders for a better sense of what you’re experiencing.

Dermatologists tie dandruff with a microbial imbalance. Just like your stomach, the skin on your scalp is part of a microbiome. That’s right, there are fungi, bacteria, and microbes up there, and that’s exactly where we want them. 

Dandruff tends to happen when the balance of our scalp’s microbiome is disrupted. An excess of sebum, the scalp’s natural oils, helps feed a fungus called Malassezia, and before you know it, you see build-up 


The dreaded little critter known to pop up on our scalps is known to cause itching. While we all remember lice checks from our schoolyard days, it’s actually totally normal for adults to catch a case as well. Lice are a parasite that feeds on blood, breaking the surface of the scalp and preventing it from clotting. We know, that didn’t sound good to us, either. Lice are about the size of a sesame seed and range in color, from white to tan to brown. Because of that, they can be hard to spot. A thorough scalp check is required to identify if lice is the cause of an itchy scalp.


Allergic reactions can also cause an itchy scalp. If you’re allergic to ingredients in your hair care products, you may experience redness or hives. Many people report contact dermatitis from introducing dye to their hair follicle, especially with black dyes. Symptoms can range, but typically this can mean itching, or even a burning sensation. In this case, it’s good to track down when your symptoms started to appear. 

Have you tried a new product or dyed your hair? If so, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction.

Dry Scalp

Lastly, you may be feeling an itch on your scalp due to dryness. A dry scalp can manifest from several conditions. Everything from the weather to your diet can dry out the scalp. It’s kind of finicky like that! Here are the most common causes of itchy scalp related to dryness.

  • Weather: Colder temperatures in the winter make our skin less efficient at retaining moisture. Just like we may experience dry skin on our hands or face, cool dry temps can dry out the skin on our scalp as well.

  • Over-Washing: Cleansing your hair too often and with the wrong products can strip it of its natural oils. 

  • Over-Styling: Heated tools like blow dryers and hair straighteners can have damaging effects on your scalp. 

  • Dehydration: Just like the skin on the rest of your body, your scalp can suffer a great deal from not drinking enough water.

Dry scalp tends to show up with flaking, itching, and mild irritation. The flaking will be smaller and lighter than what you’ll see with dandruff.

An itchy scalp can be a symptom of a variety of conditions. It’s essential to know the root cause of your symptoms so you can effectively treat them.

How to Approach Each Cause of Itchy Scalp

Now that you know what you’re dealing with let’s talk about how to treat your itchy scalp. 


As we learned above, dandruff tends to be tied to an overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia. To restore balance to your scalp, you need to reduce the number of Malassezia cells. 

To do that, you’ll need a handy little compound called Zinc Pyrithione. This active ingredient appears in most medicated dandruff shampoos because it effectively curbs the growth of fungus with its natural antifungal properties. That’s why we included it as the key ingredient in our Balancing Shampoo.

In addition to bringing dandruff to a stop, Jupiter’s shampoo makes your hair soft, hydrated, and shiny. Added bonus? We’ve left out harsh chemicals like parabens and sulfates, so you can relax knowing your hair is getting the best treatment possible. 


Treating lice can be a complicated process as the critters are very resilient and reproduce rapidly. In most cases, it’s a three-step process: 

  1. Kill the lice

  2. Remove the eggs

  3. Decontaminate your clothing or other affected areas

Killing the lice and eggs will require a medicated shampoo, which is available over-the-counter. Nit combs are also helpful at removing eggs that are mainly attached to hair shafts. This can be a long, laborious process, but you must act fast with lice.


More often than not, hives tend to go down after a few hours. If you can identify the product that irritated your skin, toss it. To avoid allergic reactions on your scalp in the future, always do a test patch with new skin and hair products to make sure they agree with you. If your reaction is long-lasting or you want to get more information on what you’re allergic to, consult a dermatologist. 

Dry Scalp

Lastly, let’s talk about how to treat dry scalp. There are many remedies for an itchy scalp due to dryness, and most of them don’t require a doctor’s visit.

  • Get serious about moisture. Dryness can usually be alleviated by introducing deep conditioning products and restoring the skin’s natural barrier to retain it.

  • Manage your stress levels. Stress and tension can impact your skin, and that includes irritating the skin on your scalp your scalp. Engage is stress-reducing activities like meditation and yoga to bring some peace to your scalp as well. 

  • Eat an omega-rich diet. There is a lot of evidence that foods high in omega fatty acids like fish and eggs can help your body produce more of its natural oils, an important part of keeping your scalp naturally moisturized.

  • Protect your scalp from the elements. Apply sunscreen to your scalp, even in the winter, and reach for a hat on cold and wet days.

  • Take a close look at your hair care products. Shampoos that contain sulfates remove too much oil when they cleanse your scalp, leaving you itchy and irritated. If your products contain sulfates, ditch them. 

Ready to say goodbye to itching for good? With a bit of help from your dermatologist and the right products, you can stop scratching. 

Advanced Oil Control Trio
Advanced Oil Control Trio

The award-winning medicated Shampoo and Serum target your flaking, and the Conditioner keeps your locks bouncy and beautiful. Safe for everyday use. Consider the Oil Control + Exfoliation Set if you're looking for maximum control and comfort.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.