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Scientific Area

Scalp itchiness

CATEGORIES SCIENTIFIC AREA
Scientific collaboration between Professor Marco Toscani and Dr. Pasquale Fino, Chair of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Umberto I Health Center – “Sapienza” University of Rome.

Scalp itchiness of varying intensity is a sensation perceived by many people of both sexes.
Itchiness is a scalp problem that leads those afflicted to scratch their skin and is often associated with pain. Many causes of this illness are recognized, which shouldn’t be underestimated as it may cause hair loss or thinning.

Itchiness may be triggered both by chemical substances used in many cosmetic products and by shampoos. Also not to be underestimated is the toxic effect of pollution in the atmosphere and the depletion of the ozone layer. Itchiness may also be associated with psoriasis, dandruff, seborrhea, folliculitis, dry skin, seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, ringworm, scabies, lice and eczema.
Among the various causes that lead to itchiness, dandruff is the most common. Intense itchiness, redness of the skin and hair loss are often associated to greasy dandruff characterized by flakes that remain attached to the scalp thanks to the serum. In dry dandruff the scalp is dry and dehydrated and the cells come away because they cannot adhere to the scalp. This type of dandruff is not associated with itchiness, nor with hair loss or thinning.

The presence of dry skin associated with itchiness (asteatosis) is characterized by the limited presence of water and/or oil on the scalp. In asteatosis, there is an imbalance of the normal hydrolipid equilibrium necessary for proper hair growth. Dry skin with the presence of dry dandruff may cause itchiness and rarely also pain.

Hyperseborrhea blocks the end of the follicle causing skin irritation. Moreover, excess sebum gathers on the scalp, not allowing the skin to breath and resulting in itchiness and in the most complex cases also in seborrheic hair loss.
Seborrheic dermatitis results in inflammation and irritation of the skin with the appearance of cutaneous erythema, an itchy sensation (which leads to scratching, further worsening the condition), folliculitis and hair loss or thinning.
Rubbing the skin results in inflammation of the upper part of the hair follicles, pain and hair loss.

Scalp psoriasis, a hereditary condition, leads to skin irritation and the formation of scabs or off-white flakes without itchiness or hair loss.
Ringworm (tinea capitis), a fungal infection, is characterized by the appearance of one or more scaly or red patches, in which broken, dirty hairs are found that look like they are covered in dust, composed of the fungal spores. It is associated with intense itchiness and strong pain on the scalp.
A definitive, scientifically proven correlation does not exist between itchiness and hair loss, nor between itchiness and scalp pain (trichodynia), nor, lastly, between itchiness and greasy hair.

A notable influence on localized scalp itchiness is attributed to both psychological factors (like anxiety, stress and trauma) and external factors (personal hygiene products, food, chemical agents, cosmetic treatments, etc.).
Correcting these errors can solve the problem only in clinical cases in which scalp itchiness is caused by wrong hygiene habits or cosmetics. For other more serious cases, the cause that produces the itchiness must be removed to get rid of it.

According to whether the problem is seborrhea, dermatitis or dandruff, it is advisable to turn to specific trichological treatments which are able to remove the root cause. Useful remedies to reduce itchiness are sulphur based shampoos, camomile shampoo, nettle shampoo and cortisone cream.

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