6 Reasons Why Your Scalp is Itchy and What to Do About It

woman with itchy scalp

In the winter time, it is not uncommon for your skin to itch. The dry weather and, depending on where you live, the cold conditions can make your skin dry, itchy and uncomfortable. Many people experience this condition on the skin of their arms, legs and chests, but also on their scalps. In addition to dry weather, there are other reasons why your scalp might be itchy. In this article, we are going to explore the most common reasons that you may be experiencing an itchy scalp and what you can do about it. 

6 Reasons For An Itchy Scalp

When your scalp itches, you can think of little else. Not only is it annoying, but itchy, scaly skin can leave residue on your shirt and be embarrassing when talking with other people. The good news is that there are some common conditions that can create an itchy scalp, many of which can be treated at home or with the help of a board-certified dermatologist. 

If you are suffering from an itchy scalp, the best thing to do is to consult with your dermatologist right away. As an expert in the skin, including the skin of the scalp, your dermatologist can evaluate your condition, provide you with an accurate diagnosis and get you started on a treatment plan so you can get back to your normal life. Itchy scalp is uncomfortable- you don’t have to live like that! 


We’ve all seen the commercials. A crisp black t-shirt covered in white flakes. A full head of hair speckled with white dots. These are the telltale signs of dandruff. If your scalp is dry and itchy and you are covered in white flakes of skin, you are most likely suffering from dandruff.

Dandruff is a common condition which can generally be solved by using a special dandruff shampoo that you can purchase at your local pharmacy or big-box store. Other over-the-counter scalp treatments can also be helpful in treating dandruff. If over-the-counter shampoos and scalp treatments don’t work, a visit to your dermatologist will help you determine whether dandruff is the true cause of the flakes and offer you a more potent treatment to cure the condition quickly.  

Haircare products 

Sometimes the skin or hair care products that you use can cause a reaction. If you do not thoroughly rinse shampoo, conditioner or other treatment products from your hair, the residual product may begin to itch and irritate your skin. 

Some hair dyes have also been known to cause irritation on the scalp. If you are using a new hair care product and notice that your scalp is becoming itchy, you may be allergic to some ingredients in that product. In this case, you should discontinue use of the product to see if your symptoms resolve within a few days. If they do not, consult with your dermatologist. 


Severely itchy scalps can be a sign that you have head lice. Although we commonly hear about head lice occurring among schoolchildren, anyone can get lice. Lice are tiny bugs that lay eggs on hair follicles and can spread through contact and on pillowcases and bedding. If you suspect you may have lice, ask a friend or family member to inspect your scalp for signs of tiny bugs or of motion. Both of these are signs that lice may be present. 

There are over-the-counter products that can help solve a lice problem. However, it is best to consult with your dermatologist first to get an accurate diagnosis and to be provided with a full treatment plan to get rid of your lice quickly and prevent spreading them to others. 

Scalp Ringworm 

Another common cause of itchy scalp is ringworm. Even though its name implies that it is due to a worm, ringworm is actually a fungus. It can result in a very itchy rash on your scalp. You must consult with your doctor or dermatologist to receive a diagnosis for ringworm. It often requires prescription medications that cannot be obtained from your local pharmacy. 


Similar to lice, scabies are tiny bugs that are also called human itch mites. Scabies can burrow into your scalp and other places on your body and become extremely itchy, often to the point of severe discomfort and the inability to sleep. Scabies requires the treatment of a dermatologist. Often, scabies and lice are misdiagnosed, so be sure to get to your doctor right away. Scabies treatments require prescription medications and cannot be successfully treated with over-the-counter products. 


Psoriasis flare ups often present on the scalp. It will typically look like a red patch with flaky or white scaly skin. Psoriasis is generally itchy but the severity can range significantly. Your dermatologist will help you determine the best treatment based on the severity of your condition. There are medicated shampoos available that can be successful in treating mild cases. However, for more severe cases, you may require prescription medications from your dermatologist 

An itchy scalp can be more than just uncomfortable, it can be embarrassing in social situations and prevent you from sleeping soundly. If you are suffering from an itchy scalp, do not hesitate to contact your Atlanta-area dermatologist at Buckhead Dermatology. Dr. Straughn has over 25 years of experience treating dry, itchy skin including the skin on the scalp. She can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and get you on the right treatment plan right away so you can get back to living in comfort.