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An Itchy Scalp and Hair Loss: Are They Related?

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Medically reviewed by Ho Anh, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 9/18/2017

Are you worried that your itchy scalp could be caused by hair loss? While some skin conditions that cause an itchy scalp can also lead to hair loss, an itchy scalp on its own isn’t directly related to permanent hair loss from male pattern baldness.

Instead, male pattern baldness usually occurs over time without any noticeable itching, pain or other discomfort.

This means you don’t need to worry about losing your hair permanently just because your scalp feels itchy. However, an itchy scalp could mean one of several things:

  • You’re suffering from a skin condition that causes skin irritation, such as folliculitis, seborrheic dermatitis or ringworm.
  • You’re using an overly strong shampoo that’s irritating your skin and hair, resulting in itching and discomfort.
  • Dust, dirt or other pollutants might have temporarily irritated your scalp, resulting in an itchy feeling that will eventually disappear.
  • Less commonly, you might have a recurring skin disease such as psoriasis, which will require ongoing treatment.

Sometimes, the issues listed above can be accompanied by temporary hair loss caused by the irritation of your skin. Luckily, most of the situations listed above are easy to treat using topical treatments and medications, many of which are available over the counter.

Treating Folliculitis, Seborrheic Dermatitis, and Ringworm

Folliculitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and ringworm are three of the most common causes of an itchy scalp. All three of these conditions are easy to treat using oral and topical medications, such as ketoconazole and antibacterial skin washes.

While none of these conditions are linked to male pattern baldness, all three can sometimes cause a type of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium.

In most cases, conditions like folliculitis and ringworm are treated with oral or topical antifungal medication such as ketoconazole, as well as drugs like indomethacin. Most cases of seborrheic dermatitis can also be successfully treated using substances like coal tar, salicylic acid, and selenium sulfide.

Treating Itchy Scalp From Harsh Shampoos and Hair Products

Sometimes, the chemicals in shampoos, hair sprays and other hair styling and care products can cause you to develop an itchy scalp. In extreme cases, this itching is accompanied by hair loss.

Because this type of itching and hair loss isn’t from male pattern baldness, it isn’t permanent. If you take action and address the root cause of the itching and hair loss, you’ll usually regain all of the hair you lost as a result of the skin irritation.

The easiest way to treat an itchy scalp caused by harsh shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products is to switch to a safer, less irritating alternative. This could mean using an organic or children’s shampoo, or removing hair spray, gel and mousse from your hair care routine.

Treating Other Causes of Scalp Itching

Most cases of itchy scalp can be solved using the techniques listed above, such as switching from harsh shampoos and hair styling products to chemical-free alternatives and treating skin conditions such as folliculitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and ringworm.

However, some forms of scalp itching can persist even with the above treatments. Sometimes, scalp itching is caused by autoimmune factors such as psoriasis, or environmental factors that are out of your control.

If you have recurring scalp itching that lasts for several weeks or months and can’t work out the root cause, the best approach is always to see your doctor. This is particularly important if you also notice hair shedding, which could be caused by underlying stress or health problems.

In Conclusion

An itchy scalp can indicate many things, from dirty hair that needs to be washed thoroughly to skin irritation that needs to be treated medically. However, it generally isn’t a reliable sign that you’re suffering from permanent male pattern baldness.

Are you worried about hair loss? We’ve listed the most common, reliable signs of male pattern baldness in our guide, The Early Signs of Balding and How to Stop Them.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.