Article updated on the 19/04/2020.
Do you have dreadlocks and have been experiencing an itchy scalp? Locs themselves are not responsible for the itch.
Discover the causes, symptoms and treatment for itchy scalp with tips and tricks to help you eliminate itching.
The Causes of Itchy Scalp With Dreadlocks
Itchy scalp, also know as scalp pruritus, is very a common condition with almost 75% of people in the world suffering from an itchy scalp.
Itching is an easy symptom to spot. That irritating feeling and irresistible urge to scratch is impossible to ignore.
There’s a wide range of causes. Let’s start by dissecting the reasons why you feel like your scalp is itchy all the time! Before you can stop the itch, you need to find out what’s causing it.
You have dandruff
Dandruff is the most common reason for an itchy scalp and is often an early warning sign before flakes start to appear.
As your scalp becomes irritated by dandruff, it can start to feel itchy as the skin sheds its outer layer trying to get rid of the irritant produced by the yeast.
How to treat the dandruff related scalp itch when you have dreadlocks
Dandruff can’t be cured, but it can be controlled.
Improve your diet
- If you’re prone to dandruff, it’s most likely a problem that will continue to recur. You can take preventive actions to avoid flare-ups such as improving your diet.
- Reduce your consumption in saturated and trans fats that will cause your sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which makes dandruff worse.
- Incorporate varied fruits and veggies that contain zinc and B vitamin.
- Consider taking probiotics. These beneficial bacterias that can be found in yogurt or in supplements will help combat the proliferation of the yeast.
Use an anti-dandruff shampoo
- Select a good anti-dandruff shampoo that will contain ingredients such as peppermint and eucalyptus, which give a cooling sensation on the scalp and active ingredients such as zinc pyrithione and selenium sulfide. They will help fighting the yeast that is responsible for dandruff in the first place.
- Follow the instructions on the dandruff shampoo bottle. There are many different dandruff shampoos, and each contains different active ingredients for controlling symptoms. To get the best results, always follow the instructions on the bottle. For example, some dandruff shampoos require that you lather the shampoo into the hair and scalp and leave the shampoo in for about five minutes before rinsing. Others should not be left on the scalp.
- If you have severe dandruff, please visit your physician. He or she will be able to prescribe you an antifungal shampoo, a medicated foam, a topical cortisone, an ointment or a solution that will help you. For more details, please see our piece on dandruff with dreadlocks.
Wash your dreads more often
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association:
- If you are Caucasian or Asian, shampoo daily and use dandruff shampoo twice a week. If using one dandruff shampoo does not bring relief, try alternating between dandruff shampoos with different active ingredients (zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, salicylic acid…)
- If you are African-American, only shampoo once a week using a dandruff shampoo. See a board-certified dermatologist for the best product recommendation for your hair type.
Another factor that can cause itching is using shampoos that leave residue on the scalp or any other styling products.
Because of the way the hair is tightly packed together, it is harder to rinse well and remove all residue on dreaded hair.
Be sure to use a residue-free shampoo and rinse your dreads well after using your shampoo.
You are having an allergic reaction to a hair care product
Reactions to hair care products that are not suited for you are more common than you think. They can lead to inflammation or irritations that you might also be seeing on your face and neck.
Try to rinse out the shampoo better from your dreadlocks or simply replace the product altogether.
Itchy scalp with dreadlocks may be a sign of lice
Another common cause of itching is lice bite causing inflammation and itching. You may feel lice moving along your scalp or you may spot lice during a visual inspection to identify the problem.
Lice prefer clean hair, so having a case of head lice doesn’t mean you have poor hygiene.
How to treat lice when you have dreadlocks
You can treat a case of lice with over-the-counter shampoos even if you have dreadlocks. They have insecticides as active ingredients such as permethrin or pyrethrin.
Many home remedies recipes advise you to use products such as mayonnaise to kill lice. As easy and tempting as that might sound, please don’t try it. While mayo might be able to kill fully grown lice, it won’t do anything to lice eggs because it can’t penetrate their shell. Which means that as soon as they hatch, you will have a whole new series of lice to deal with!
Your shampoo might be too drying
Check the ingredients of your shampoo. Does it have any sodium laureth sulfate or any sodium lauryl sulfate? Both of them have the SLS acronym on some bottles and both are classified as surfactant detergents. Yes, they are sudsy and produce a very satisfying lather when you work the shampoo into your hair. They can be responsible for will drying your scalp. Which might be one of the reasons for itchy scalp.
Here’s what Tom Brooks has to say on the matter:
“They can even cause redness and irritation, especially when they’re not formulated alongside certain ingredients that may neutralize the irritation.”
Psoriasis could cause itchy scalp with dreadlocks
Psoriasis is qualified as a chronic autoimmune disease that will manifest itself through scaly patches either on your skin or on your scalp. Even though no one knows exactly what the causes of psoriasis itself are, it is not a transmittable disease.
How to treat psoriasis
Use over-the-counter medication such as shampoos that have salicylic acid or coal tar in them so that you can control your psoriasis.
Should that not work on your itchy scalp with dreadlocks, please see your physician who will recommend stronger, medicated solutions.
You have folliculitis
Simply put, folliculitis is a medical problem caused by inflamed hair follicles. The causes can be both fungal and bacterial. The bad news is that, apart from the itchy scalp with dreadlocks you are experiencing, folliculitis can also lead to hair loss if left untreated.
How to treat folliculitis
You can treat your bacterial or fungal infection with a course of antibiotics. Refer to your doctor who will prescribe you the right medication.
When to worry about your itchy scalp
Most of the time, an itchy scalp isn’t cause for concern. But there are times when it can indicate something more serious.
Please visit your doctor when:
- Over-the-counter shampoos don’t improve the issue.
- The itch keeps you up at night and affects your day
- You see lice or nits in your hair.
- The itchy spots are very sore to the touch.
Visit your dermatologist when you have a persistent itchy scalp – even if you think it’s just common dandruff. Your dermatologist can check it out and tell you which remedies will bring you some relief.
What about you?
Have you recognized any of the symptoms or causes we have described above when it comes to itchy scalp with dreadlocks? If you did, then you’re half way to solving your problem!
Talk to your pharmacist or physician and you will be one step close to cleaner and healthier dreads!