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What causes itchy scalp: 5 surprising itchy scalp causes

There’s nothing more annoying than an itchy scalp. We’ve all experienced it, but if your scalp is itchy over a long period of time there’s probably something more going on behind the scenes. When you itch, it’s the result of a complex process your body goes through in response to irritation. It’s no different for itchy scalp. Find out why your head is itching and what you can do about it. Discover your shampoo for itchy scalp. You might just be surprised at the causes of an itchy, flaky scalp.

Why do we itch?

Itch is the body’s response to irritation, whether it’s chemical – such as an allergen – or mechanical, such as an insect or fabric rubbing on your skin.

These things all trigger a neural pathway that results in itching:

  1. Neurons detect an irritating stimulus

  2. Information is sent to the spinal cord, where a protein known as NPPB is produced. This protein is the trigger for itch

  3. NPPB receptors in the brain release another protein called GRP, which sends the itch signal to the site of stimulus

Sound complicated? It all happens in an instant; you experience irritation and within seconds your body triggers an itch response at the site of the irritation.

Your itchy scalp could be dandruff

If you’re scratching your head, there’s a good chance it’s caused by dandruff. 

Dandruff is the body’s response to irritation, and this irritation can also trigger the body’s itch response.  

So if your scalp becomes irritated by dandruff, signals are sent directly to the scalp to trigger an itchy feeling. 

How dandruff causes irritation 

Itch can start before flakes

The body’s itch response is fast, and it’s often the first sign of dandruff and can happen before flakes even appear.

So, while you might think you don’t have dandruff, if you’re itching there’s a good chance you soon will.

Surprising causes behind an itchy scalp

While there are many different itchy scalp causes, there are certain habits that can send your itchy scalp into overdrive. Here’s what could be behind your need to scratch…

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1. Wearing a hat

So, can wearing a hat cause dandruff? Sorry to break it to you, but if you’re suffering from an itchy scalp it may be time to give the headwear a rest. When you wear something on your head, you create a warm and humid micro-climate – the perfect setting for the dandruff-causing microbe Malassezia globosa to thrive. The result? Flare ups or a worsening of existing dandruff symptoms. There is good news though, using a dandruff shampoo regularly will protect your scalp from the dandruff-causing microbe, so you don’t have to totally break up with your hat collection.

2. Being stuck inside

Air conditioning in the summer and central heating in the winter both suck moisture from the air, and this dry environment can aggravate an already sensitive scalp. So, add air-conditioning and heating to dry, itchy scalp causes. Washing your hair with Head & Shoulders’ Itchy Scalp Shampoo not only helps to clear up flakes but moisturizes your scalp so drying factors like air conditioning, central heating and heat styling don’t trigger itchiness.

3. Heat and pollution

Every day, your scalp is exposed to all sorts of external factors which can cause irritation, such as pollution, UV rays and heat. So, if you’re wondering what causes dandruff, the answer is all of the above. Make sure to keep using an anti-dandruff shampoo, even when you don’t seem to be suffering from flakes, as it will protect your scalp and help to prevent symptoms from coming back.

4. Going to bed with wet hair

If you leave your hair wet at bedtime, you’re creating the ideal damp, warm environment for Malassezia globosa to thrive which is what causes dandruff. This one is a nice easy issue to fix; always dry your hair before hitting the hay for the night – ideally on a low setting to protect your scalp.

Act fast before flakes appear

If you start to experience itchy scalp, reach straight for a proven anti-dandruff shampoo.

That way you’ll be tackling the root cause of the problem and can start to treat it before flakes appear.

More tips and advice from the experts

'Itchy scalp causes' infographic.