A lot of people experience dry, itchy, flaky and irritated scalps. There’s so many reasons that it can happen, so I will try to address as many causes of itchiness and solutions as possible here. The bottom line is that if you cannot manage the itchiness with some simple changes to your routine, please seek a medical opinion so you know exactly what you are treating!
Itchy Scalp? Try This:
1. Shampoo more often and/or use a different shampoo. Never ignore your itchy scalp! If it means you need to shampoo a bit more often do just that. Use a nice lathering shampoo and consider washing it twice to stay ahead of the itch. If you are just using a spray bottle of water and maybe even fully wetting your hair this might not be enough. In fact, the wet/dry cycle can cause more irritation.
When I say a lathering shampoo, you want either a clarifying shampoo that contains Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate or a low poo with a combination of cleansers like cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocyl isethionate, or decyl glucoside. If you aren’t strict with the Curly Girl / Hair Method go ahead and use a sulphate shampoo!
These shampoos from Malibu C clarify and chelate: Hard Water Wellness Shampoo and Scalp Wellness Shampoo (with added menthol for extra scalp care). If you want something a bit gentler, the Soothing Mint Gentle Cleansing Shampoo is a nice lathering low poo with mint from Inahsi Naturals.
As an accessory, this scalp brush allows you to massage your scalp longer when shampooing as fingers tire out quickly. Remember to keep it focused on your scalp. Place it down, move it around just a little, lift it up (don't drag it through your hair), and move to the next spot.
2. Stop removing humectants from your routine. This might be a surprise to some of us but humectants (yes, I am talking glycerin too) help hold moisture to your scalp as well as your hair. Plant gels like aloe and flaxseed also help, but if you dropped humectants from your routine and find your hair and scalp dry and itchy, think about adding some back in.
3. Try an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse. Apple Cider Vinegar (1tbsp/25mls per 1 cup/250mls of water) could also help. Not all hair likes vinegar so do a patch test first. We carry products have this ingredient built in if you don't want to create a DIY version, including: Ouidad Ready Set Clean Scalp and Hair Rinse (closer to a co-wash than a shampoo) and Hair Dance Clarifying Growth Shampoo. This is a low poo (contrary to the name) that has ACV and menthol.
4. Remember to try to cover your hair in wind, heat, and at night as that helps keep your scalp from getting dehydrated.
5. It’s possible that you may need to rotate through different cleansers, oils or treatments to manage your scalp. Some scalps are happiest with variety.
6. Use a shampoo designed for dry and itchy scalps. There are over-the-counter products in drugstores and you can get some here at Curl Warehouse. These have ingredients like zinc pyrithione, piroctone olamine, ketoconazole (fungus), tar and salicylic acid that are go-to ingredients for itchy scalp.
These products from As I Am have zinc pyrithione + piroctone olamine.
- As I Am Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Shampoo
- As I Am Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Conditioner
- As I Am Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Co-Wash
The As I Am Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Oil Treatment has salicylic acid + piroctone olamine.
The Care Taker Scalp Soothing Tonic from Noughty is reasonably priced and has piroctone olamine too.
Should you prefer a different approach using probiotics, the Scalp Recipe Detox Kit from Curlsmith may do the trick. Separate bottles of each product are also available if you'd prefer to try just one or two.
7. Reduce your reliance on dry shampoo. See #1 about shampooing more frequently. You can also try a scalp or root refresh spray instead of a dry shampoo, which tends to be (by nature) drying. Root Refresh from Boucleme has humectants, probiotics, and oils that is a nice alternative to dry shampoo.
8. Don't forget to care for your scalp if your hair is in a protective style. It is important here to avoid product build up and retain moisture to prevent breakage along your hairline.
Here are tips for keeping your scalp happy in a protective style:
- Take the time to wash with a product that will remove build up, oil, dead skin, etc. from your scalp such as Boucleme Scalp Exfoliating Shampoo, Mielle Organics Mongongo Oil Exfoliating Shampoo, or Innersense True Enlightenment Scalp Scrub. For an extra boost to your shampoo or cowash these Dry Scalp Serum drops from Boucleme will last a long time. If needed between washes, reach for something like Defunk by Uncle Funky's Daughter or a product with a soothing ingredient like tea tree oil.
- Be gentle and use the pads of your fingers to rub any product on your scalp between your braids/twists etc.
- Don't skip out on the drying time under a hooded dryer or your diffuser. Hair dried slowly can lead to the growth of bacteria/yeast and an irritated scalp.
- Take your style out when your stylist tells you to. Going longer may risk damage to your edges and wreak havoc on your scalp. A stylist will usually estimate how long you can leave a protective style in based on the style chosen and your type of hair.
Last but not least (and very important): If you cannot manage your itchy scalp and you do not have a diagnosis from a dermatologist, go see one. You may need a prescription for cortisone lotion or shampoo or speciality prescriptions. There's no need to suffer through an itchy scalp, so if this has been an ongoing issue please get a medical opinion.
If you have questions or need help narrowing down your product choices, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.