Itchy scalp and hair loss can both be frustrating and potentially embarrassing conditions. But can scalp itching cause hair loss? What about vice versa? The two often go hand in hand, and if you’re experiencing both, it’s helpful to see where they may cross over. Read on to learn about potential connections between the two.
The Link Between An Itchy Scalp And Hair Loss
The condition of your hair can reveal a lot about your overall health. Changes in your hair’s texture, appearance, and thickness may be signs of underlying health issues. A certain amount of hair loss can be hereditary and is often normal. But, if you’re experiencing sudden hair loss and an itchy scalp, you’re right to investigate a little closer into what may be going on.1 Call your doctor if you’re concerned.
While you can have one without the other, people often experience scalp itchiness and hair loss at the same time. This suggests that there may be a link between the two. Here are several scenarios where these two issues may be linked:
- A fungal infection causes both scalp itchiness and hair loss.
- An allergic reaction damages the hair follicle, which leads to scalp itchiness and hair loss.
- Scarring on the scalp leads to hair loss and scalp itch.
- A number of potential skin conditions can cause the scalp to itch, causing so much aggressive scratching that it damages the scalp or hair follicles. This damage may lead to temporary hair loss.2
Conditions That May Cause An Itchy Scalp And Hair Loss
Allergic Reactions To Hair Products
An itchy scalp and hair loss can follow the use of a hair product that you’re sensitive to. In severe cases, an allergic reaction to something like hair dye can cause an irritated, itchy scalp, and increased hair loss. This is most often seen in hair dyes that contain a common ingredient called paraphenylendiamine (PPD). If you have an allergy to this ingredient, you may experience itchy scalp and hair loss.3
Dandruff (also called seborrhea) is a common scalp condition that many people experience from time to time. The telltale signs of dandruff are loose, white flakes of dead skin and an itchy, flaky scalp.
Researchers believe that dandruff is related to oil on the scalp. Oily skin might trigger a yeast infection of the hair follicles, which can lead to an itchy scalp and weak hair roots. While not common, both of these things may lead to hair loss.4,5
Scalp psoriasis can look like dandruff, but it’s another condition entirely. Where dandruff flakes are white, psoriasis often appears powdery with a silvery sheen. It can also look like a crusted plaque that covers the entire scalp. Psoriasis can lead to itch and hair loss.6,7
Skin infestations, like lice or scabies, can also cause severe itching, irritation, and hair loss. If left untreated, these insects can affect the health of the scalp and block hair follicles, potentially leading to hair loss — especially with aggressive scratching on a sensitive scalp.8,9
A fungal infection like scalp ringworm (tinea capitis) may also cause severe scalp itching and abnormal hair loss. Symptoms of ringworm are red bumps, pustules, and scaly, sensitive skin. Over time, this rash may spread and become itchy. If left untreated, hair loss may also occur.10
Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune condition that results in unpredictable patches of hair loss. The hair loss is typically sudden, happening over a few days or weeks. Occasionally, the scalp will itch or burn at the site of hair loss.11
Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema or atopic eczema, is a common skin condition that causes itchy rashes to come and go. It can happen to school-age children and adults. It causes skin to become dry, red, and itchy, especially when scratched until the skin breaks. Excessive scratching may also lead to temporary hair loss.12,13
Folliculitis is a common skin condition caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. With folliculitis, the hair follicle becomes inflamed. This can look like small red bumps on each hair follicle. In some cases, this can lead to scarring and hair loss.14
Should You Worry About Scalp Itchiness?
If you’re concerned about scalp itchiness and sudden hair loss, the first thing you should do is call your doctor. Your doctor can give you personalized advice and help make a plan to address any underlying issues.15
What You Can Do About Scalp Itchiness At Home
If your doctor has ruled out underlying health conditions, there are several things you can do at home to address itchy scalp.
- Switch to high quality hair care products that don’t contain known allergens.
- If dandruff is your issue, try over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos.
- Incorporate more hair-healthy nutrients into your diet – like biotin, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, and amino acids.16
- Mix peppermint essential oil with a carrier oil and massage it into your head. Scientific evidence is limited, but it may help with healthy hair growth. And always do a patch test first.17
- Practice gentle hair care – use gentle shampoos, and avoid vigorous scratching, even if your head is really, really itchy.
Be Gentle With Yourself
If you’re experiencing issues like scalp itchiness and hair loss, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Try to relax as much as you can, follow your doctor’s advice, and make time for self care.