Skip to contentSkip to search
Head & Shoulders LogoHome page

Itchy scalp causes and treatment

When your body releases high levels of histamine, you can feel the uncontrollable urge to scratch it and, as a result, leave your scalp even more red and irritated.

Itching is an annoying reaction you get when your skin is in distress. Find out what is causing your scalp to itch.

More information on shampoo for itchy scalp.

There is nothing more annoying than the uncontrollable urge to scratch. Itching is triggered by histamine, a chemical in your body that is released as part of an inflammation response.

Histamine helps cause the itchiness and the redness you see when you suffer from insect bites, rashes and aggravated skin.


Many things can cause itching, from irritating insect bites and plants like poison ivy, to clothing fibres. It’s thought to be a defence mechanism meant to alert our immune system to dangers such as getting bitten by a mosquito. The itchy sensation, also called “pruritus,” comes about when receptors on the surface of the skin are triggered. These receptors then send a signal to the brain via the spinal cord, which then causes you to react.

An itchy scalp is most commonly caused by dandruff. It’s how your body responds when irritants bother the scalp: your body sheds the top layer of skin on the scalp rapidly.

As long as your scalp is irritated, the shedding continues. This causes the scalp to become dry and itchy.

Our natural instinct when we feel an itch is to scratch it in an attempt to relieve the discomfort.

Scratching temporarily interrupts the “itch” signal going to the brain, which then reduces the itching sensation. Some scientists believe that the purpose of scratching is to help your body trigger an immune response to fight off invaders.

However, giving into temptation and scratching that annoying itch can damage the skin barrier, sometimes leading to further itching. Scratching your scalp can also permanently damage your hair by stripping away its protective outer cuticle.


Dandruff is one of the most common causes of scalp itch. This is because about half of the population is irritated by oleic acid that is produced by Malassezia globosa (a naturally occurring microbe on the scalp). This irritation does two things:

  1. makes you itch

  2. makes your body start to rapidly shed skin cells (as dandruff flakes!)

By tackling the root cause of the itch, you help eliminate the temptation to scratch your head, and avoid causing serious damage to your hair.


As you scratch, there is a possibility that you can damage the scalp more and cause bumps to appear.

But there are a number of other conditions which can cause bumps, so it’s best to rule out dandruff by looking for the other symptoms too:

  • white flakes on your scalp and in your hair

  • a dry, tight feeling on the scalp

You can also rule it out by using a dandruff shampoo to see if it gets rid of the problem before considering if it could be something else. If after a few weeks of regular use your symptoms haven’t improved then it could be something other than dandruff.


How to get rid of an itchy scalp fast? The worst thing to do is to scratch. The weakened skin will only become more irritated, leading to pain and perhaps even infection.

An itchy scalp needs to be treated by the right products, like shampoos and treatments that do the following:

  • Start relieving itch immediately after use

  • Contain cooling extracts like mint or eucalyptus that calm your irritated scalp

  • Tackle the root cause of the itch by getting rid of dandruff**

Our Itchy Scalp Care Shampoo with eucalyptus works on contact to give cooling relief, and powerful protection from dandruff. It is ideal for fast-acting relief from an itchy scalp. The formula with eucalyptus and mint extracts provides your scalp with cool, calming relief while anti-dandruff actives in the shampoo tackle the root cause. With regular use, it tackles the root cause of scalp itch, leaving you feeling comfortable and up to 100% flake free.**

Our Itchy Scalp Care 2-in-1 leaves your scalp free from dandruff** and itchiness while making sure your hair is conditioned, glossy and smells great all day long.


There are a whole host of conditions from folliculitis and seborrheic dermatitis through to hives and lice, which could cause bumps on the scalp.

So, if you’re sure it’s not dandruff it’s a good idea to visit your doctor or dermatologist to get a diagnosis and get the symptoms under control.

Use anti-dandruff shampoo every time you wash your hair, to help keep both the flakes and itch at bay.

More articles about itchy scalp

* due to dandruff
** visible flakes with regular use