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Here’s Why You Have an Itchy Scalp

March 24, 2017

Is incessant scratching putting a damper on your day? We speak to Adeline Chen, a certified trichologist from Link Hair Centre, Trichology Centre of Link to find out more about the conditions that may cause an itchy scalp.

According to Chen, pruritus (severe itching), along with scaling, flaking, and bumps on the scalp are among the most common complaints by Singaporeans when it comes to their scalp. These symptoms may come about because of scalp disorders such as dandruff, dermatitis, folliculitis, and even auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis.

 

The scalp skin can have a high rate of sebum production because of factors such as hormones, diet, and external environment, shares Chen. Along with a density of hair follicles, this creates a dark, warm and moist environment where microorganisms can thrive. But while each scalp disorder may have overlapping symptoms, each may also have unique clinical manifestations, which we will explore in greater detail here.

 

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis results from exposure to allergens or irritants in chemical treatments such as hair dyes and perms, or in haircare products. Simply avoiding exposure to irritants can help prevent this problem from arising. Those with sensitive skin should avoid ingredients such as sulphates, parabens, drying detergents and other allergens. Anti-itch treatments may also go a long way in soothing irritated or inflamed skin.

 

Neurodermatitis (Lichen Simplex)

Neurodermatitis is a skin condition that starts with a patch of itchy skin and is characterized by a cycle of scratching that causes the affected skin to become thick and leathery. Stress and anxiety can trigger the itching too. Treatment for neurodermatitis is aimed at controlling the itching, preventing scratching and addressing underlying causes. Anti-inflammatory and anti-itch solutions, light therapy, and even psychotherapy may also be effective remedies for the problem.

 

Dandruff and Seborrheic dermatitis

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis can be caused by the Malassezia species, a type of fungus that feeds off lipids. These are more commonly found in patients with high sebaceous gland activity. For serious flare-ups, treatment by a trichologist is recommended. The patient may also consider using a medicated shampoo to help reduce yeast on the scalp, or topical solutions that control the accumulation of sebum.

 

Folliculitis

This refers to an inflammation of the hair follicles, which may be caused by bacteria, yeast or fungus. It may also be induced by irritating chemical substances, or physical irritants such as shaving and certain drugs. Antibacterial medications are often used to treat folliculitis, while good hygiene practices have been shown to prevent the condition from arising in the first place.

 

Psoriasis

This is a genetically determined auto-immune problem. In the genetically predisposed individual, it can be triggered by factors like viral infections, stress and trauma to the skin, or even tinting and perms. However, it’s hard to predict when such a reaction will arise. Treatments range from the application of certain creams, topical solution, organic oils, to the use of light therapy, internal medications and changing of one’s diet. But this may vary greatly from individual to individual, as a treatment that works for one person may not work for another.

 

Caring For Your Scalp

It goes without saying that you need good lifestyle habits to care for your scalp. And yes, there is a proper way to wash your hair. “The correct method is to rinse hair with warm water to remove dirt before shampooing,” advises Chen. “Wet hair makes it easier to lather up a rich foam, which picks up oil and dirt.” When shampooing, lather up the shampoo thoroughly. Always avoid using your fingernails when scrubbing – this aggressive technique can lead to unintentional scabbing. Use your finger tips to work the shampoo in and massage the scalp gently in circles. Rinse it off thoroughly and pay attention to commonly neglected areas such as the sides and back of the head, as well as behind the ears. Apply conditioner onto hair strands, and not the scalp. If you do need to condition from the roots, use a non-comedogenic conditioner. Thoroughly rinse off conditioner with warm water from the back of the neck to hair ends. Skin problems can occur if shampoo or conditioner are not washed off properly.

 

Try not to go to bed with your hair still wet, and this may lead to scalp and hair problems in the long term. When blow-drying, be sure to keep the hairdryer at least 15 to 20cm away from the scalp, and use a cool setting where possible.

 

Chen also reminds us that besides keeping our scalps clean, we also need to regularly wash our combs and brushes so bacteria doesn’t breed on them. Lifestyle factors such as a balanced diet, sufficient rest, and proper stress management can prevent scalp problems from occurring or flaring up. Beyond all of these, however, are there any truths to the following beliefs? Chen clues us in.

 

Hair and Scalp Myths, Busted!

True or false? A scalp massage can help your hair grow faster

Somewhat true

A scalp massage helps us relax and improves our mood, lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has shown to be partly responsible for hair loss. A scalp massage may also soothe muscle tension, facilitating blood circulation which, in turn, encourages hair growth. However, good hair growth is dependent on many factors and scalp massages alone may not be enough to counteract hair and scalp problems.

 

True or false? Cutting your hair often and using rubbing spirits on your scalp will make hair grow faster

False

Quicker hair regrowth is dependent on factors such as genetics, general health, nutrition, etc. Leading a healthy lifestyle will promote healthier hair growth.

 

True or false? Plucking white hair causes more white hair to grow

False

Plucking white hair does not cause more white hair to grow. However, it is not advisable to pluck the hair as this can damage hair follicles. Plucking and pulling of hair can lead to traction alopecia (gradual hair loss). The causes of white hair can be due to many reasons such as genetics, congenital defects, deficiency in melanin production, hormones, nutrition deficiency, stress, chemical hair products (such as hair dyes/bleach), extrinsic factors (such as climate, pollution and exposure to hydrogen peroxide). Identifying the cause and treating it accordingly may delay the premature greying of hair.