What Are the Best Treatments for Itchy Scalp?

Reviewed on 3/23/2021

What Causes Itchy Scalp?

Getting rid of an itchy scalp depends on the cause, which can include dandruff, allergic reaction, hives, scabies, head lice, psoriasis, ringworm, atopic dermatitis, nerve problems, and skin cancer. Treatment may involve over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos, medicated shampoos, prescription cream, antifungal medications, and others.
Getting rid of an itchy scalp depends on the cause, which can include dandruff, allergic reaction, hives, scabies, head lice, psoriasis, ringworm, atopic dermatitis, nerve problems, and skin cancer. Treatment may involve over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos, medicated shampoos, prescription cream, antifungal medications, and others.

There are numerous causes of an itchy scalp. Scalp itch may be a mild and temporary condition, or it may be a symptom of a serious condition. Some causes of itchy scalp include: 

How Do You Treat Itchy Scalp?

Treatment to get rid of an itchy scalp depends on the cause, which may include the following options described in the chart below. 

Itchy Scalp Treatment
Scalp problem Treatment options
Dandruff

Over-the-counter dandruff shampoos

  • Selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue)
  • Pyrithione zinc (Head & Shoulders)
  • Ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • Salicylic acid (may also help with itching caused by scalp psoriasis)
  • Coal tar (may also help with itching caused by scalp psoriasis)
Allergic reaction or hives
  • Stop using products that cause scalp itching or irritation
  • Avoid allergens that cause itching, such as dust mites, animal dander, molds, and pollens
  • Use mild or soap-free cleansers 
Scabies
  • Prescription scabicide lotion or cream to kill the mites
Head lice

Lice shampoo to get rid of head lice. Many products are available over-the-counter (OTC): 

  • Pyrethrins combined with piperonyl butoxide (A–200, Pronto, R&C, Rid, and Triple X)
  • Permethrin lotion, 1% (Nix)
Scalp psoriasis
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos 
    • Salicylic acid 
    • Coal tar
  • Prescription medications, for scalp psoriasis that does not respond to OTC products
    • Topical steroids
    • Other topical medications 
      • Dovonex (Calcipotriene)
      • Tazorec (Tazarotene)
      • Vectical (Calcitriol)
      • Zithranol-RR (Anthralin)
    • Phototherapy, which uses ultraviolet (UV) light
Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis)

Prescription antifungal medications 

  • Griseofulvin (Grifulvin V, Gris-PEG)
  • Terbinafine
  • Itraconazole (Onmel, Sporanox)
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)
Atopic dermatitis

Home remedies and care 

  • Avoid triggers such as heat and low humidity
  • Keep skin moisturized
  • Antihistamines to help control itching
  • Manage stress and anxiety

See a doctor if you have an itchy scalp:

  • That does not go away with home treatments
  • Interferes with sleep
  • And visible lice or mites on your scalp
  • That is painful to touch or sores are present

QUESTION

Ringworm is caused by a fungus. See Answer

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Reviewed on 3/23/2021
References
https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/itchy-skin/itch-relief/relieve-scalp-itch

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/treatment.html

https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/ringworm/treatment.html

https://www.psoriasis.org/scalp/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-atopic-dermatitis-eczema

https://www.psoriasis.org/integrative-approaches-to-care/

https://www.medicinenet.com/itchy_scalp/article.htm