Dandruff, or sebhorreic dermatitis, can cause your scalp to itch and shed flakes of dry skin. Dandruff has a variety of causes, from shampooing your hair too often or not often enough, to sensitivity to washing and styling products. Medical problems like eczema and psoriasis also can result in an itchy flaky scalp. Whether your flakes are mild or severe, there are tips and treatments to help give you a smoother scalp.
Use a medicated shampoo daily to treat dandruff. These shampoos are widely available over the counter and contain active ingredients, including salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, resorcin, ketoconazole, and selenium. Give the shampoo several weeks to work, always following it with conditioner to replenish moisture to the scalp. If there is no improvement, try alternating two dandruff shampoos with different active ingredients. Use the first shampoo for two consecutive days and then the second dandruff shampoo for two days in a row.
Home remedies for dandruff and itchy scalp include tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar. Mix antiseptic tea tree oil with olive or safflower oil and massage it into the scalp. A 50/50 rinse of apple cider vinegar and water may also be effective. Shampoos containing tea tree, rosemary or lavender oil are available in health food stores. Peppermint, spearmint and eucalyptus oils can also help alleviate intense itching. Coal tar shampoo may discolor hair and irritate the scalp and should be used only as a last resort.
A dermatologist may prescribe shampoos or lotions that contain selenium, ketoconazole or corticosteroids for resistant dandruff. They can also determine the cause of your dandruff and suggest the best over-the-counter treatment for long-term management. For example, seborrheic dermatitis or eczema may respond most favorably to coal tar treatment, while dandruff caused by winter dry skin may clear up with a deep-conditioning shampoo. A dermatologist can prescribe other anti-fungal treatments if he determines your dandruff is being caused by fungus.