Scalp issues are very prevalent, but in most cases they are self-inflicted and can be resolved with medical treatment or lifestyle and routine changes. Itchy, flaky scalp is not normal and should not be considered part of your natural hair experience. Here are the top 10 reasons scalp issues happen and how you can fix them.

Let’s start with the medical reasons…

1. You are allergic to something and you don’t know it. Allergies can be environmental, digestive or topical (allergic to certain cosmetic ingredients). If you have itchy scalp that feels tingly or maybe even warm or burning and begins within 24 hours of your washday, you may have an unidentified allergy. Your first step is to get an allergy test with outdoor, food and cosmetic panels. From there you can either find out what you need to avoid or you can cross this off the list and focus on other causes of itchiness.

2. You have an undiagnosed health condition. There are several internal health conditions that can cause your scalp to itch, be inflamed, or shed hair profusely to the point of thinning and cause severe sebum production or flaking. These include, but are not limited to hypertension, thyroid disorders, iron and vitamin D deficiencies, dermatitis, eczema, and autoimmune diseases. If you have not been to the doctor in the last year for a full physical with blood work, you should do that ASAP.

Alternatively, if you are on medication for a health condition, one of the side affects can be scalp and hair issues; that is when you need to consult your physician about alternative medications, if available, where the side affects are reduced.

Drastic changes to your hair and scalp are your body’s emergency alert system going off to tell you to get checked out. You cannot use products and oils and other DIY mixtures to resolve an internal health issue. Get off the internet and go to the doctor!

Now let’s get into the routine-based reasons…

3. You have product build-up from styling – and it’s making you itch. When you are applying styling products, you should avoid covering your scalp in them. Try to apply your products at least a half an inch or so from your scalp. If you are trying to get your roots to lay flatter, use clips to anchor your twists or open part sections instead of copious amounts of product. And also, work on letting go of your unrealistic expectations of your hair and love it for all its glory.

4. You are not properly cleansing your scalp. If you are avoiding shampoo because some unlicensed person on the internet said so, you are doing yourself a grave disservice and slowing your growth process with clogged follicles and drying your hair out. I recommend full cleansing and deep treatment once every 7-10 days on average for all textures of hair. It could be more often if you are actively sweating in your scalp regularly. But once you get to those 2 plus week timelines, you will have a harder time removing buildup, cleansing and detangling, which can cause breakage and imbalanced scalp pH.

MoKnowsHair Scalp Clarifier removes buildup without stripping, soothes itchy scalp, reduces dandruff, balances pH and removes old product.

5. You have hard water and it’s drying your scalp and skin. Hard water can deposit calcium and magnesium into your strands causing buildup and making product absorption more difficult. It can also lead to itchiness and dryness in the scalp and skin. If you live in a hard water environment, get a shower filter.

6. You are going to bed with wet scalp and hair. Your scalp is warm, your hair is wet, and you are covering it with a scarf or bonnet – you have just created the perfect environment for mold to grow. If you are wetting your hair and scalp and slicking it into wet buns everyday and wonder why it’s itching under the ponytail holder, could be fungus. The solution to this is very simple - get a ceramic hooded dryer or blow dryer and bonnet attachment. 

7. You have chemical damage from over-processed color or relaxer. If you have permanent color or bleach applied and it’s left on too long or the formula simply is too strong for your scalp, you will experience inflammation, hair loss and burning itchiness. If you or your stylist is placing relaxer directly on the scalp without basing first, you can cause severe damage to your follicles and develop scalp conditions that will require medical treatment.

8. You are not cleaning your tools and hair coverings. If you use the same brush and comb and clips over and over and they haven’t been cleaned with clarifying shampoo and disinfected with barbicide, you could be depositing bacteria into your scalp and it’s making you itchy. If you are wearing the same bonnet or scarf every night for a week or more, same thing… transfer of bacteria. 

Learn how to properly clean and disinfect your tools with this step-by-step tutorial.

9. You are dehydrated and have an imbalanced diet. Your scalp, skin, hair and nails get the least of everything you eat or drink. Your body is highly efficient in that it will distribute the most to the vital organs that keep you alive. Your body does not consider your hair to be vital to your survival, so it will get whatever is left over. If you are consuming lots of caffeine, sugar, trans fats, processed foods, and not drinking water your scalp is itching because you are dehydrated with malnutrition.

10. You are throwing off your scalp’s pH balance with raw oils. Oil is acidic and when applied to your scalp raw, you may feel relief from itching for a moment, but inevitably you are patting your head or reaching for that rattail comb soon after. Oil is going to act as an irritant to an unbalanced scalp and you are blocking your scalp’s natural sebum secretion process. 

If you go down this checklist of reasons, I am sure you will find one or more potential culprits causing your scalp issue. I hope this information helps guide you to a solution or course of treatment that helps you have healthier scalp and hair, because you can’t have one without the other.

How To Fix Scalp Issues

Learn what causes scalp issues and how you can fix them.