Having an itchy scalp can sometimes be very embarrassing. Say for example you are meeting someone new and you have put on your most fabulous outfit, you're looking your absolute best and you've just spent 45 minutes doing your hair so that it looks just right. Imagine you're sitting at the dining table opposite the person who might well be 'the one' and then all of a sudden, your scalp feels itchy. What do you do? Do you scratch it? Do you try to ignore it and attempt to go on thinking of colourful table conversation whilst there is a burning sensation on your head just dying to be scratched? If you scratch it once then maybe that will go unnoticed, but if you continue to scratch your head throughout dinner then certainly this will be noticed and not in a positive way.
Considering that itchy scalps are extremely common in adults (most of us will actually suffer from some type of itchy scalp at some point in time) there is still quite a stigma about scratching an itchy scalp. Perhaps this harks back to the days when we were in the play ground and having an itchy scalp made us social pariah because it was a symptom of head lice. Thankfully in the adult world of itchy scalps it usually does not mean we have head lice, but it may actually be indicative of a more low lying condition which our scalps may be suffering from.
Itchy scalps can be caused from a variety of conditions, to get to the bottom of how to solve the problem we'll look at the two most common causes of itchy scalps.
This is the most common reason why we have itchy scalps. This type of dermatitis most commonly effects areas of our body where we have a lot of sebaceous glands (those glands that produce natural oils to keep our hair and skin healthy). So this type of dermatitis actually isn't specifically located on the scalp, but the scalp is one of those areas of the body that produces a lot of natural oils so it is very common to have seborrheic dermatitis on there (other parts of the body that this type of dermatitis can form is around the face and torso). Seborrhoeic Dermatitis on the scalp will cause a sensation of itchiness and the skin that is affected by the dermatitis will become scaly, red and may even cause hair loss in some people around that area. Skin that is scratched a lot around that area can flake mildly and this can contribute to dandruff. One known cause of this type of dermatitis on the scalp is a fungus called Malassezia Globosa. This fungus is known to grown on the scalp and it produces toxic substances that can irritate and inflame the skin. The best way to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis on the scalp is to use a medicated anti-fungal shampoo that can kill the fungus that is causing the dermatitis.
Many people experience eczema on various parts of their bodies. From their feet all the way up to their scalps, eczema can be prevalent anywhere. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that unlike seborrheic dermatitis (that generally only affects areas where the sebaceous glads are) eczema can appear anywhere, including on the scalp. When eczema is located on the scalp this can be extremely problematic for sufferers because a symptom of eczema is the continued over production and shedding of dead skin cells. This can cause some extremely adverse effects on appearance because people with scalp eczema may seem as though they are suffering from very bad dandruff with a lot of white flaky bits throughout their hair and falling on their shoulders. This gives the impression that the person is unclean, but in actual fact it is just their skin cells being over produced and the shedding and has nothing to do with their cleanliness at all. Modern science has yet to find the exact cause of eczema as yet. But there are some critical factors in helping people control their eczema. One of these factors is to ensure that people with this condition reduce the skin irritation wherever possible. People with eczema have sensitive skin so they should not have long hot showers, they should only bathe in luke warm water. They should install a shower filter to remove irritating chemicals such as chlorine and soften water so that it does not irritate the skin on their scalps. When drying themselves after a shower they should also pat their hair dry, rather than rubbing their skin excessively. Also people with eczema should avoid chlorinated pools at all costs, the chemicals in the water will irritate their skin and cause accelerated shedding.
Having an itchy scalp or excessive dandruff does not mean that a person is unclean or unhealthy - it just means that they may be suffering from treatable forms of skin conditions on their scalp. So the next time you might be on a special occasion with someone and they scratch their heads a little too often. You can be safe in the knowledge that most adults will go through exactly the same thing as they are and you needn't judge them for it.
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