Itchy Scalp And Hair Loss: What’s The Link?
Hair loss affects millions of people worldwide, and statistics show that Americans are increasingly turning to hair regrowth products to solve the problem (rightly so!).
There are many causes of hair loss, and an itchy scalp is one of them. An itchy scalp can indirectly contribute to thinning hair by causing scratching, and some conditions that cause an itchy scalp can also contribute directly to hair loss.
An itchy scalp is common, with one study reporting that 25% of the participants had the condition.
- An itchy scalp indirectly causes hair loss when an underlying condition makes a person excessively scratch their scalp.
- Conditions such as psoriasis, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and other inflammatory skin disorders can cause an itchy scalp.
- Before you treat hair loss caused by an itchy scalp, it's ideal to seek treatment for the underlying condition.
- Minoxidil and finasteride are among the most effective ingredients for hair regrowth.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about having an itchy scalp, outline some of the conditions that cause an itchy scalp, and also explain how it can result in hair loss.
Can an Itchy Scalp Cause Hair Loss?
An itchy scalp—which can also be called scalp pruritus—can cause frustration, discomfort, pain, and in some cases, even hair loss.
However, scalp itchiness alone cannot make your hair fall out. Hair loss from an itchy scalp only occurs when someone repeatedly scratches at their hair.
Excessive scratching damages the scalp and hair follicles (the tiny openings through which your hairs grow), which may cause hair loss or hair thinning.
Hair loss associated with an itchy scalp is reversible, unless your hair follicles are permanently damaged. We’ll go into more detail about the treatment options later.
How Do I Know If My Itchy Scalp Is Causing Hair Loss?
It's possible to experience an itchy scalp and hair loss that are unrelated—in other words, your itchy scalp is not the root cause of your hair loss. Before you assume that your constant scratching is causing your hair to fall out, consider a few of the options listed below. You may be losing hair due to:
- Hereditary hair loss: Also called androgenic alopecia, this type of hair loss runs in your family and it may affect both men (male pattern hair loss) and women (female pattern hair loss).
- Age: Hair growth may slow or stop as you get older.
- Chemotherapy: Cancer treatment can cause hair loss.
- Stress: Events that put strain on the body—such as a divorce, family death, pregnancy, or illness—can cause hair loss.
- Hair treatments: Certain hair treatments, such as coloring, perming, or relaxing, can contribute to hair loss or thinning hair.
- Certain hairstyles: Wearing your hair in tight ponytails or other styles that put a strain on the hair follicles can cause what's known as traction alopecia. Constantly styling your hair this way can cause permanent hair loss.
- Hormonal imbalances: Certain birth control pills and conditions such as PCOS that cause hormonal fluctuations can result in hair loss.
- Scalp infections: Infections of the scalp can cause inflammation and scaly patches of skin where balding can occur.
- Certain medications: If you've noticed hair loss shortly after starting a medication, speak to your doctor.
What Are Some Common Causes of Itchy Scalp and Hair Loss?
Before exploring ways to treat hair loss, we need to understand what could be causing your scalp to itch.
Once the cause of your itchy scalp has been identified, you can get the right treatments to find relief. To cure hair loss linked to an itchy scalp, you’ll need to first stop the excessive scratching.
Listed below are some reasons your scalp might be itching.
If you suspect you have any of the following conditions, contact your doctor to get the treatment you need.
Also known as tinea capitis, scalp ringworm is a red rash that causes itching and patches of scaly skin on the scalp.
Scalp ringworm is a fungal infection that can damage the hair follicles and make it difficult for hair to grow.
Scalp ringworm is contagious, and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests disinfecting or discarding contaminated items, washing your hands after touching the affected area, and not sharing personal items with others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ringworm of the scalp cannot be treated with the nonprescription antifungal lotions, creams, or powders used to treat ringworm on other parts of the body. More on this later.
Dryness, itchiness, inflammation, or flaking of the scalp may be an indication of an allergic reaction to a haircare product.
If a product like hair mousse or hair gel touches the scalp and causes a rash or irritation, you may be allergic to one or more of its ingredients.
In this case, it’s possible to experience a similar reaction in other areas exposed to the product(s), such as your hands. Shampoo and conditioner that are not properly rinsed out of the hair may also cause irritation when left on the scalp.
If you experience an itchy rash on the scalp each time you use hair dyes, you may have contact dermatitis—a relatively common condition among people who color their hair.
This is usually a reaction to an ingredient in black hair dyes.
Inflamed hair follicles
Hair follicles may become infected due to bacteria, fungi, ingrown hairs, and other factors.
If the skin turns red and begins to flake, or you experience scalp buildup, your hair follicles may be inflamed or irritated.
The main types of scalp inflammation include:
Folliculitis refers to the infection of one or more hair follicles. It is more common among people who suffer from acne.
The condition may resemble pimples or dark bumps on the skin. It commonly appears on the back, arms, legs, scalp, or face—but it can develop anywhere hair grows.
Shaving and friction increase your risk of developing the condition.
Lichen planopilaris (LPP)
The precise cause of lichen planopilaris is unknown, but experts believe it may be an autoimmune disorder that affects the hair follicles.
LPP may cause red bumps on the scalp that itch or burn.
The hair loss associated with LPP is sometimes reversible. However, if the condition results in scarring, hair loss can be permanent.
Often thought of as a severe form of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis causes itchy patches of scaly skin on the scalp and face.
The hair loss associated with seborrheic dermatitis is temporary and hair is able to regrow once seborrheic dermatitis has been treated.
Commonly known as eczema, atopic dermatitis is an itchy inflammatory skin condition known for causing severe itching.
Skin inflammation caused by atopic dermatitis can damage hair follicles, which prevents healthy hair growth.
The autoimmune condition known as psoriasis can cause patches of scaly red skin that can develop on the scalp and cause irritation.
Picking at psoriasis lesions or using harsh treatments can trigger temporary hair loss. Psoriasis very rarely causes permanent hair loss.
Also known as patchy hair loss, alopecia areata occurs when your immune system attacks hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out in round patches.
Although most people experience no symptoms besides hair loss, some do report a burning, itching, or tingling scalp sensation just before they lose their hair.
Hair can be lost anywhere on the body, and those with a family history of the disorder are most at risk.
It’s rare for dandruff to cause hair loss, but because it is a condition that causes dryness and scalp itching, it’s possible.
If you do not, for example, use anti-dandruff shampoo or other treatments to control your dandruff, it can cause excessive scratching that can trigger hair loss.
Cicatricial or scarring alopecia is a type of hair loss that completely destroys the hair follicle, often making hair growth impossible.
Scarring hair loss may be accompanied by itching, burning, and tenderness in the affected area. This type of hair loss is irreversible.
What Are Some Treatment Options for Itchy Scalp and Hair Loss?
If your hair loss is linked to scalp itching, you should treat the underlying scalp condition that’s causing the itching before starting a treatment plan to regrow your hair.
Your treatment will differ depending on the cause of your scalp irritation.
In the table below we’ve outlined the different treatments that can be used for all the causes of scalp itching mentioned earlier.
|Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis)||Prescription oral antifungal medication, such as griseofulvin, terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole. Prescription-strength medicated shampoo.|
|Allergic reactions||Stop using the product that’s causing your allergic reaction.
Oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Topical corticosteroids, such as shampoos and ointments.
Mild antiseptics, such as hydrogen peroxide.
|Inflamed hair follicles||Antibacterial soap or cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide.
Hydrocortisone cream, topical antibiotics, antivirals, or antiparasitic medication.
Surgery, UV light therapy, or laser hair removal.
|Seborrheic dermatitis||OTC anti-dandruff shampoos containing selenium, zinc, or tar.
Antifungal shampoos with ciclopirox or ketoconazole.
Medicated shampoos containing corticosteroids, such as betamethasone valerate, clobetasol, or fluocinolone.
|Atopic dermatitis||Antihistamines, topical antiseptics, and corticosteroids.
UV light therapy, wet dressings (sealing corticosteroid ointment with wet gauze), and counseling/biofeedback to curb scratching.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as prednisone and azathioprine.
Injectable biologics (drugs extracted from biological sources).
|Psoriasis||Topical corticosteroids (creams and ointments), anti-inflammatories, retinoids, and salicylic acid.
Light therapies—sunlight, excimer laser, PUVA, UVB broadband, and UVB narrowband.
Oral or injectable drugs.
|Alopecia areata||Corticosteroids that can be injected, applied topically, or taken orally.
Medications that can regrow hair, such as minoxidil and finasteride.
|Dandruff||Manual removal of scaly patches of skin.
Anti-dandruff shampoos with ingredients such as ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, and tar.
Home remedies, such as green tea, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar.
|Scarring alopecia||Antibiotics and isotretinoin.
Drugs like methotrexate, tacrolimus, and thalidomide—although these are experimental drugs.
How do I regrow hair now that I’ve treated the underlying scalp condition?
Once your scalp is no longer dry, flaky, or inflamed, you can focus on treating your hair loss.
Scalp health is a key factor in any hair loss treatment, so it’s important that you heal your scalp first to experience the best hair growth results.
Topical and oral treatments are great, noninvasive options for hair growth. Shapiro MD uses proven botanicals and FDA-approved ingredients to help promote hair growth. Our tried-and-true hair growth formulations include, among others:
- Vitamin B12
- Argan oil
- Caffeine extract
- Saw palmetto
- Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
What are some of the best products for hair regrowth?
Products containing minoxidil and finasteride have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of hair loss.
Research shows that, when used daily, minoxidil results in higher total hair counts and is safe for healthy men and women to use.
[Finasteride] (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969676/#:~:text=Oral%20finasteride%20was%20effective%20(excellent,other%20than%20on%20their%20head/) can also yield excellent hair growth results, with as many as 88.9% of test subjects experiencing hair growth on this oral medication. However, finasteride is only available for men, and it requires a prescription from a licensed doctor.
At Shapiro MD we offer a variety of hair loss solutions with powerful ingredients, including minoxidil and finasteride.
How Can I Prevent Hair Loss?
Sometimes hair loss is genetic—this is called androgenic alopecia—and can’t be cured, but there are steps you can take to slow the hair thinning process.
Some ways to prevent or slow hair loss include:
- Not scratching your scalp excessively.
- Getting treatment for existing health and skin conditions.
- Rinsing your hair with cold water to promote blood flow.
- Gently massaging your scalp.
- Following a good hair care regimen that includes gentle products.
- Ensuring your hair stays clean and dry.
Can an Itchy Scalp Cause Permanent Hair Loss?
An itchy scalp can only cause permanent hair loss if it results in scarring alopecia—this is when the hair follicle is entirely destroyed, making it impossible to regrow hair.
There is, however, some evidence to suggest hair transplantation may be an option for those suffering from scarring alopecia.
How Can I Regrow My Hair after Treating My Itchy Scalp?
Are you suffering from thinning hair and suspect your itchy scalp is the cause? You don’t need to scratch your head for a solution — Shapiro MD can help.
With proven natural solutions and prescription options prescribed by doctors online, we’ve been helping men and women stop hair loss and regrow their hair after all kinds of hair loss triggers.