Nothing feels better than scratching your scalp when you have an itch. You may have used your fingernails, a tail comb, hairpin, or bobby pin to get relief from an itchy scalp. Although these methods seem harmless in the moment, using objects or your finger nails to scratch your scalp can cause flaking, cuts, bleeding, redness on the scalp, and increase the chance of getting an infection on the scalp.
Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael of RadiantSkin Dermatology and Laser says a person who has a scalp condition and scratches excessively can get a scalp infection from combs, brushes, towels that are contaminated with the infectious agent. For example, fungi causes ringworm and bacteria cause folliculitis among other infections.
Hair loss from scratching
Dr. Dele-Michael says itching may be triggered by inflammation, which can cause the scalp to be unhealthy and lead to hair loss.
What causes the need to scratch when you have a scalp condition?
Dr. Dele-Michael says inflammation and infection can cause immune cells in the scalp to release cytokines, which contribute to itchy scalp.
What are cytokines? According to Dr. Ananya Mandal, “Cytokines are cell signaling molecules that aid cell to cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma”.
What is inflammation? Inflammation is how the body heals itself when there is a problem. Sometimes inflammation works for a long time and causes auto immune responses, and by mistake the immune system attacks healthy cells mistaking them as harmful. This explains why hair loss can occur because of inflammation.
Reducing the urge to scratch your scalp
Is there anything that can be done to reduce the urge to scratch? Dr. Dele-Michael says, “If you have itchy scalp, make an appointment to see a board certified dermatologist so they can treat the condition and reduce the risk of permanent hair loss.” Get the proper diagnosis so that an appropriate treatment program can be created for your needs.
Can oils and creams moisturize the scalp?
One of the symptoms that people who have itchy scalp complain about is that their scalp feels tight and dry. There is always a question of whether it is ok to moisturize the scalp using oils or creams. According to Dr. Dele-Michael, “Oils and creams are generally good to moisturize the scalp. However, if you have a skin allergy to an ingredient in your hair care product, this may cause inflammation and itching. Fragrances and preservatives are common allergens in hair care products these can cause inflammation and itching in some patients.”
You can be allergic to ingredients from products that market themselves as “natural”. Do not assume that a product that is “all natural” is better for your hair and scalp. Plus, every brand has different standards of what “natural” means. You can find out what ingredients you are allergic to by seeing a board certified dermatologist.
When to see a dermatologist for your scalp condition
Dr. Dele-Michael recommends seeing a board certified dermatologist once a year for an annual checkup. In addition, if you should see a board certified dermatologist if your symptoms persist or worsen.
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Have you experienced an itchy scalp problem? What did you do to help it?