An itchy scalp can drive you crazy, and the flakes that fall from your dry hair and land on your clothing aren't very pleasing, either, as no one wants their shoulders covered in dandruff. But not all conditions that cause your scalp to itch and flake are created equal. Read on to learn more.
Dermatitis and Eczema
Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that affects areas rich in oil glands, including your scalp, the sides of your nose, your eyebrows, groin area, breastbone, backs of your ears and your armpits, according to the Mayo Clinic (see References). It results in flaky yellow or white scales and causes dandruff. Seborrheic eczema results in dry, itchy, flaky patches on the scalp, according to hair-n-skin-care.com (see References), and can be worse than regular dandruff because the glands and skin become inflamed.
Another cause for flaking and itching is psoriasis, which can occur on your scalp, torso, knees and elbows. This disorder creates an accumulation of dead skin cells that form thick, silvery scales.
Most of us have malessezia, which is a yeast-like fungus, in our scalps and are not bothered by it. But it can become problematic and start feeding on the oils that are secreted by our hair follicles. When this occurs, more skin cells grow and your scalp skin can become irritated. When the additional skin cells die, they fall off and clump together with the oil from your scalp and hair. The result is white flakes that are visible in your hair and on your clothing. No one knows for sure why some people have a problem with malessezia, but it is believed they produce too much scalp oil, which can occur if you are suffering from Parkinson's disease, neurological disorders, a suppressed immune system, hormonal changes or stress. Of course, if you aren't shampooing often enough, this will make your hair oily.
Most of us have experienced dandruff at one time or another, but for some people it is a chronic condition that they can't seem to get rid of. Dandruff is caused by pityrosporum ovale, a fungus that lives in the scalp and feeds on the natural oils that are secreted from the glands. According to hair-n-skin-care.com, dandruff can be caused by eating too much sweet, spicy or salty food and by consuming too much alcohol. It can also be an inherited condition. Regardless, it is best to use hair care products that are specifically geared toward combating dandruff.
In the winter, your hair and scalp become dryer, so remember to condition them after washing. Also, hot water makes your scalp drier, so consider using moderately warm water when washing your hair.
Dandruff can also develop if your diet is inadequate and lacking in B vitamins and zinc. In addition, males tend to be more prone to dandruff than women, which may be due to the larger oil-producing glands that men have in their scalp.