Is an itchy scalp linked with hair loss?

can scratching scalp cause hair loss

The following conditions and factors can cause both an itchy scalp and hair loss:

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Scalp ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes a very itchy red rash to form. Ringworm and other fungal infections can weaken a person’s hair follicles, which can lead to hair loss.

People with ringworm may notice distinct patches of hair loss on the scalp.

Prescription antifungal creams can treat scalp ringworm, and the hair will regrow after treatment.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions to hair products can irritate the scalp and hair follicles, resulting in itching. In most cases, the reactions are mild, and any scalp irritation or inflammation is temporary. However, if the irritation persists, it can damage the hair follicles and cause hair loss.

People can have this type of allergic reaction to any product that they use on their hair, including:

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • hair dye
  • hair gel
  • hair mousse

A common cause of allergic scalp reactions is a chemical called paraphenylenediamine, which is a component of many black hair dyes.

Allergy creams or medications can often treat the itchiness. If a product causes an allergic reaction, it is important to stop using it and try switching to a different brand if necessary. People may benefit from using gentle products that contain fewer harsh chemicals.


Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles.

Typical causes of folliculitis include bacterial or fungal infections.

The infection can often cause temporary hair loss in addition to itching.

People can get rid of folliculitis by treating the bacterial or fungal infection with antibiotics or antifungal medications respectively.

Lichen planopilaris

Lichen planopilaris is a condition that causes the scalp to become inflamed. Scientists believe that lichen planopilaris is the result of a compromised or weak immune system. It can cause itchiness, scaly skin, and hair loss.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a condition that can cause small patches of hair to fall out. It can also cause scalp itchiness.


Although scientists are not sure exactly why alopecia areata occurs, they believe that it develops because a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles. The condition is most common in people with an autoimmune disease or a family history of one.

Standard treatments for these conditions often include:

  • immunotherapy
  • antifungal medications and ointments
  • steroids

People who experience hereditary hair loss may have success using one of the following treatments:

  • hair transplants
  • minoxidil (Rogaine)
  • finasteride (Propecia)

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 80 million men and women in the United States have hereditary hair loss.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema that causes a red rash and itchiness. Although it is not a direct cause of hair loss, atopic dermatitis can lead to excessive scratching, which may cause temporary hair loss.

People can treat atopic dermatitis using creams and ointments. A healthcare professional can provide advice on treatment options.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes dry, red patches with a covering of silvery scales to form around a person’s trunk and major joints. Psoriasis scales can also develop on the scalp, and they can often be itchy.

Hair loss might occur if a person scratches the psoriasis scabs on their scalp and the scabs fall off.

People can develop a treatment plan with their doctor to manage their psoriasis.


Dandruff causes a dry, itchy scalp. A person often notices flaking skin throughout the day and after scratching. Dandruff can cause hair loss, but this is very rare. Typically, dandruff only causes hair loss if a person goes for extended periods without treating it.

Treatment options include over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos, ointments, and creams.

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