Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Dandruff can be a possible causes of an itchy scalp.

Dandruff can be a possible causes of an itchy scalp.
beginning of content

Itchy scalp

2-minute read

An itchy scalp is annoying. Your head might be itchy for many reasons. Knowing why your scalp is itchy can help you get the right treatment.

What is itchy scalp?

An itch is an irritation of your skin that makes you want to scratch. You can develop itchy skin anywhere on your body, including your scalp. The medical term for itchiness is pruritis.

What causes itchy scalp?

There are many possible causes of an itchy scalp. Common conditions include:

  • Dandruff – white, dry flakes of dead skin on your scalp and hair from excessive skin production. Usually there’s no obvious cause, but sometimes it’s caused by seborrhoeic dermatitis.
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis – inflammation of the scalp that causes itch and skin flaking. It can lead to cradle cap in babies.
  • Psoriasis – a chronic skin condition that causes raised red scaly areas of skin (also called plaques).
  • Tinea – a fungal infection of the skin causing red, flaky patches and itching. Tinea on the scalp is called tinea capitis.
  • Head lice – contagious small insects that live in your hair and cause itching.

How is itchy scalp treated?

The treatment for itchy scalp depends on what is causing the problem.

Treatments include:

  • moisturising creams and ointments
  • special shampoos, such as anti-dandruff shampoos
  • specific treatments, such as:
    • head lice treatment (wet combing with conditioner or chemical treatments)
    • antifungal medicine for tinea capitis
    • corticosteroid creams for seborrhoeic dermatitis
    • psoriasis medication

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best treatment for you.

How can itchy scalp be prevented?

If you have chronic conditions such as dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis or psoriasis, you might need regular treatment to prevent the condition from coming back. Some shampoos can help – talk to your pharmacist.

For tinea, good personal hygiene, careful drying after washing and choice of the right clothing and footwear can help prevent a tinea infection.

Head lice are more difficult to prevent, especially in primary school children. One way to minimise the spread of head lice is to avoid sharing brushes and combs.

Resources and support:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Dandruff in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Dandruff is common and normal in children and teens. You can usually treat it with anti-dandruff shampoo. Read more about dandruff treatment and causes.

Read more on website

Head lice

Head lice is common among school-age children. Find out more about the causes, symptoms and prevention of head lice with a step-by-step guide to removing lice.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Head lice and nits in children | Raising Children Network

Kids often get head lice (also called nits), especially at child care, preschool and school. This guide explains head lice treatment, causes and symptoms.

Read more on website

Dandruff -

Dandruff is when your scalp sheds excessive amounts of larger-than-normal skin flakes. These flakes stick to the hair shafts, eventually falling on the collars and shoulders of clothes.

Read more on myDr website

Hair loss or alopecia: children & teens | Raising Children Network

Sometimes alopecia or hair loss in children can be quite normal. But if you’re worried about your child losing hair, it’s a good idea to see your GP.

Read more on website

Female pattern hair loss -

It's common for women to experience hair thinning with age, called female pattern hair loss. The pattern of hair loss is different in women compared to men and complete baldness is rare. See if you could be affected and what treatments are available.

Read more on myDr website

Male pattern hair loss -

Male pattern hair loss is inherited and typically starts from about age 30. Treatments are available for men who wish to slow down hair loss, stimulate hair regrowth or disguise hair loss.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.