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An Extremely Itchy Scalp

By Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell ; Updated August 14, 2017

There are a number of possible causes for an extremely itchy scalp, which is often accompanied by redness and flaking. Fortunately a number of topical treatments are available to help stop the itch and diminish flakiness.


Dandruff typically begins in young adulthood and persists through middle age, reports the Dandruff can be a lifelong problem in some cases. Men are more likely to develop dandruff than women. Seborrheic dermatitis is a common cause of dandruff that causes an itchy rash characterized by flaky yellow or white scales and red, greasy skin.

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes cells to buildup on the skin at an accelerated rate resulting in itchy, dry, red patches and thick silvery scales.

Head lice causes an itchy scalp along with small tears and red bumps, reports the American Academy of Dermatology or AAD. School-age children are most susceptible to head lice.


Seborrheic dermatitis appears to be hereditary although fatigue, stress, obesity, infrequent shampoos and extreme changes in temperature can increase your risk, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center or UMMC.

Psoriasis occurs when white blood cells mistakenly attack healthy skin in an attempt to treat a nonexistent infection or wound. Head lice can be spread when you share hats, brushes, combs and other such items with someone who has the condition.


Seborrheic dermatitis cannot be prevent or cured but it can be controlled, reports the AAD Over-the-counter medicated shampoos that contain tar like Neutrogena T/Gel); selenium sulfide, brand name Selsun Blue; zinc pyrithione, sold commercially as Selsun Salon and Head & Shoulders; ketoconazole, sold as Nizoral; and salicylic acid, found in Ionil T, may help relieve itchiness and flaking.

Treating Psoroais and Head Lice

Standard treatments for head lice include the over-the-counter topical treatments permethrin and synthetic pyrethroids, sold as Acticin and Nix Creme Rinse, notes the AAD.

Coal tar, found in Denorex Medicated Shampoo, is one of the oldest treatments for psoriasis, according to the It can reduce itching, scaling and inflammation.

Topical corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications often prescribed to treat psoriasis. Corticosteroids suppress the immune system, which decreases inflammation and relieves itchiness.


Contact your health care provider if over-the-counter shampoos fail to relieve an extremely itchy scalp or if your scalp becomes swollen or red, advises the

Lifestyle adjustments such as reducing stress, limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking may help ease the symptoms of psoriasis.

It's impractical to prevent all types of contact that can spread head lice, notes the The best prevention strategy is to eliminate existing lice and their eggs to guard against future infestation.

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