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How to Treat Dandruff And Itchy Scalp

How to Treat Dandruff And Itchy Scalp

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff, medically known as pityriasis capitis, is a common scalp condition that causes dry, itchy, flakes on the scalp. 

A certain type of cell from the topmost layer of the scalp called the epidermis has a life cycle of 28 days. After the almost month-long period the cells shed and new ones take their place.

When a person is experiencing dandruff this life cycle of cell shedding becomes accelerated, and these cells fall off from the scalp in the form of tiny dandruff flakes.

Itchy Scalp

Itching is scientifically known as pruritus. It can appear anywhere on the body including the scalp. When you feel itching on the scalp and have an urge to scratch it, it is classified as an itchy scalp.

No human on earth can resist the urge to scratch their itchy scalp. But unfortunately scratching the scalp will only make the condition worse and you will end up in a never-ending itch-scratch cycle. 

Are Dandruff And Itchy Scalp Related?

Dandruff and itchy scalp are related when the itching is caused by dandruff. But in reality, there are many other common skin conditions that can cause itchy scalp. That is what differentiates both the scalp conditions. 

The key difference that sets both these conditions apart is what causes them.

What Causes Dandruff

Many reasons can cause dandruff, some of the most common ones are:

  • Dry Scalp

Sebaceous glands in the scalp are responsible for maintaining the moisture in the scalp. But when these are disrupted, their ability to retain the moisture and oil in the scalp is lost which causes the scalp skin to become dry. As a result small dandruff flakes form on the hair.

  • Overproduction Of Sebum

Sebum is an oily substance that is produced by sebaceous glands on the scalp. It keeps the scalp moist. 

When there is an overproduction of sebum, it provides a breeding ground for the Malassezia yeast. When this yeast comes in contact with the excess sebum it produces a byproduct that causes inflammation and irritation.

This reaction leads to the appearance of dandruff on the scalp.

  • Malassezia Yeast

Malasszia yeast or fungus is naturally present on the scalp. But when there is an overproduction of this fungus it can cause itching, and irritation and lead to dandruff

  • Reaction To Irritants

There are certain irritants such as extreme weather, dry air, and chemicals in the hair products that can irritate the scalp.

These irritants strip away the natural oil from the scalp causing it to become dry. This may cause intense itching. Scratching the scalp disrupts the life cycle of cells on the scalp and may lead to the formation of dandruff flakes.

What Causes Itchy Scalp

An itchy scalp is caused when it is irritated by anything. As a reaction to this irritation, your brain cells urge you to scratch the itch. Apart from dandruff, there are many other reasons that can cause itchy scalp:

  • Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis also referred to as seborrhea is often considered a severe form of dandruff. It is characterized by red, itchy, greasy scales on the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis can appear anywhere on the body where there are sebaceous oil glands. 

But the most common place for it to appear is the scalp. The accumulation of the scales that stick to hair can cause itchy scalp.

  • Cradle Cap

Seborrheic dermatitis when experienced by babies is known as cradle cap in babies. It appears as crusty, greasy scales on the scalp. The key difference between both conditions is that the scales in cradle cap are thicker, greasier, and can be hard to remove. 

Cradle cap is very common in babies under the age of 1, it usually appears on the scalp but can also show up on the baby’s eyebrows, nose, diaper area, and forehead. 

Itching is not a prominent symptom of cradle cap. However, the build-up of scales and inflammation on the scalp can cause irritation and itchy scalp. 

  • Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis appears as inflamed, thick, silver, or white-colored patches of scales. It is caused by a hyperactive immune system. 

The immune system attacks the healthy skin cells and kills them. The accumulation of these dead cells appears as silvery-white scales. These scales can cause intense itching on the scalp. 

Scalp psoriasis is often confused with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis because of the similarity among their symptoms. 

  • Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema. It is caused when the skin comes in contact with a certain irritant or allergen. There are two different kinds of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis

The type of contact dermatitis that commonly appears on the scalp is irritant contact dermatitis. It is when the scalp skin reacts to certain irritants such as chemicals in shampoo, hair dyes, and haircare products. 

These irritants may not be harmful to the scalp but our body’s immune system considers them dangerous. As a result, the scalp becomes red and inflamed which leads to itching and inflammation. 

  • Head Lice

An itchy scalp is the most prominent symptom of head lice. Head lice are tiny insects that mostly live on the scalp. They survive by sucking blood from the scalp.

The worst part is that they may lay eggs on the scalp and multiply their population within a few days. It is more common in children between the ages of 3 and 11, but it can happen to anyone.

The itching is usually caused as a reaction when the lice bite your scalp to suck blood. 

Treatment for dandruff and itching scalp

To treat itchy scalp it is important to recognize and understand the main reason that might be causing the itching. It can be dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, or maybe contact dermatitis. 

Once the core reason is treated and controlled, itching will also disappear. 

Dandruff Treatment

  • Anti Dandruff Shampoo

The most effective way to get rid of dandruff is by regularly washing your hair with an anti-dandruff shampoo. Look for a shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc. It is considered effective in controlling the itching and flaking associated with dandruff by targeting Malassezia yeast on the scalp.

  • Home Remedies

The use of coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and peppermint oil are some of the most common home remedies for managing dandruff. But the truth is these can have adverse effects on some people. Which is why we don’t support their use without the consent of the doctor

Itchy Scalp Treatment

Itchy scalp can be easily managed with the use of a medicated shampoo. Shampoo that contains natural ingredients like licorice root extracts helps in relieving the itching. But to treat itchy scalp related to common skin conditions you have to first treat the condition itself. 

  • Seborrheic Dermatitis and Cradle Cap Treatment

Seborrheic dermatitis in adults and cradle cap in babies can be managed with the use of a medicated shampoo. A cradle cap shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc can help reduce scaling, flaking, and irritation associated with seborrheic dermatitis.

Washing your hair regularly with a shampoo for cradle cap will help you reduce the scaly patches and will reduce the chances of future build-up. Use it at least twice or three times a week or as prescribed by the doctor. 

  • Treating Contact Dermatitis 

Contact dermatitis on the scalp can be managed by cleaning your scalp and hair with the help of an eczema shampoo. Look for a shampoo that is free from fragrances- artificial dyes, parabens, and sulfate. 

A daily shampoo for eczema that gently cleanses the scalp and normalizes its pH level is the best to reduce itching, redness, and rashes on the scalp. 

Wash your hair at least 2 to 3 times a week or as advised by the dermatologist. 

  • Head Lice Treatment

There are many OTC medications available that can help in treating head lice. Instructions regarding the use of these medications are mentioned on the label. 

These medications are usually left on the scalp for a few minutes and then should be washed away. You can also use a nit comb to get rid of head lice. Comb your hair every 2 to 3 days to protect your scalp from re-infestation. There are also many prescription lice medications.

Choosing The Best Medicated Shampoo for Dandruff And Itchy Scalp

Now that you know that dandruff and itching can be easily managed by keeping your scalp clean with a medicated shampoo you might be wondering which shampoo will be the best to use. We have got you covered.

Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo can manage dandruff and itching at the same time. It is specially formulated to reduce scalp scaling, flaking, irritation, and redness associated with dandruff, and it is suitable for all ages.

Our medicated shampoo is dermatologist-tested, BPA-free, and gluten-free which makes it safe to be used on babies and people with sensitive skin. This shampoo will help relieve itching associated with dandruff and will keep your scalp healthy.

When To Consult A Doctor

Itchy scalp and dandruff can be easily managed by following a proper scalp care routine. But if you suspect that the condition is getting worse and not improving with the existing treatment then it is best to consult a doctor.

If you are unsure about what scalp condition you are experiencing because many conditions share similar symptoms such as seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, and atopic dermatitis. Then contact a dermatologist they will properly diagnose your condition and provide you with the most effective treatment plan.


Dandruff is one of the most common scalp conditions that affects a huge amount of the population. It causes itching, irritation, and flaking on the scalp. 

Itchy scalp is a notable symptom of dandruff but it can also be caused by other scalp issues such as seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap, irritant contact dermatitis, and psoriasis. 

Dandruff and itchy scalp can be managed with regular use of a medicated shampoo. However, the treatment for an itchy scalp may differ if it is caused by causes not stemming from dandruff. 

Browse through Happy Cappy products to find the best solutions for different scalp conditions experienced by you or your loved ones. And experience a smooth, flake-free, healthy scalp.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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Why is my scalp so itchy?

There are many reasons that may cause itching on the scalp some of the most common ones are:
Seborrheic dermatitis
Tinea capitis
Head lice
Contact dermatitis

Can dandruff cause hair loss?

Dandruff itself doesn’t cause hair loss. However, the inflammation and itching from dandruff can lead to temporary hair loss.

Can I scratch my dandruff out?

No, scratching the scalp is a big no no for almost all scalp issues. Because scratching leads to a never-ending itch-scratch cycle. This itching and scratching can cause bleeding, rashes, and hair loss and may result in infections in some cases.

How to stop my scalp from itching?

The most effective way to stop itching on your scalp is by keeping it clean. Excess dirt on the scalp can worsen the itching. Wash your hair 2 to 3 times a week with a gentle medicated shampoo to get rid of itching.

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