In the moment, nothing feels better than alleviating an itchy spot on the scalp. Whether you scratch at it with your fingers, a comb, or even another object, getting that ‘right spot’ can feel like a huge relief. Unfortunately, that relief is only momentarily. The long-term damage you may be causing in the process when you scratch your head too much is really what you should be thinking about.
Unfortunately, that relief is only momentarily. The long-term damage you may be causing in the process when you scratch your head too much is really what you should be thinking about.
It may seem harmless, scratching at an area that itches. It may even feel good at the time. But, scratching at your scalp can cause several common problems. Some of them can lead to more severe issues that may require additional attention and treatment.
Avoiding reaching for your head to alleviate an itch here and there might seem impossible. But, if you’re continuously scratching at certain spots, that’s where the problems can occur.
Regardless of the cause of the itch, irritation can come up quickly for both children and adults who scratch their heads frequently. Sometimes this can seem like a minor inconvenience. But, there are many more serious factors to consider that may make you think twice before reaching up to scratch at your scalp again.
So, what happens when you scratch your head too much?
We will focus on some of the worst things that can happen from frequent scalp scratching. We’ll also touch on several common conditions that may cause an itchy scalp in the first place.
The condition itself doesn’t necessarily matter. An itchy head is an itchy head, after all. But, knowing the root cause can help you find a treatment quickly, and alleviate the symptoms that are causing the irritation on your scalp.
Knowing more about the damage that can be done simply by scratching your head may help you deal with the problem causing the itching sensation. The sooner you stop scratching your head, the less likely it is for some of these conditions to get worse.
Table of Contents:
There are many reasons your scalp might start to itch. Sometimes it has to do with your hair, other times it may have to do with an underlying skin issue. Some of the most common reasons people have for scratching their head include:
Have you ever wondered, ‘why do I keep scratching my head?’ Many times, people associate an itchy scalp with conditions like dryness, flaking, or dandruff. These occur when the itching is combined with a physical ‘tell,’ like white flakes falling from the scalp.
Not only can these conditions be irritating, but they can become quite embarrassing if let go for too long. They may require some serious lifestyle changes, or even specialized treatment to find relief from symptoms.
So, what really happens when you scratch your head too much? Let’s take a closer look at some of the negative consequences that can unfold.
Flaking is a common problem for people with an itchy head. Keep in mind that itching from a dry scalp and dandruff are two different things. Flaking from a dry scalp is usually dry skin falling off in small white flakes. Dandruff will have a yellow tint to it, and the flakes will be larger and heavier. Either way, both problems can cause a lot of itching and irritation.
Not only can scratching at your scalp not help these conditions, it can also cause embarrassment. Flaking and dandruff are fairly common problems, but it doesn’t make them any less unsightly thanks to the stigmas behind them. Once you know if your flakes are caused by a dry scalp or dandruff, you can take the proper treatment options, such as a quality dandruff shampoo.
Whether you scratch your scalp with your fingernails or with an object, you risk cutting your skin every time. This can be just as painful and irritating as a cut anywhere else on the body. It can also be harder to treat these cuts if they’re covered by hair.
Because they are harder to cover and protect, things like hot water or hair products may irritate any scrapes on your head even further.
If you end up scratching your head too violently, simple ‘scrapes and cuts’ could become more severe, and even start to bleed. Again, not only is this painful, but it can cause even bigger problems. If you have an open laceration on the scalp that is big enough to start bleeding, a scab may eventually form.
If you continue to touch your head, even to wash your hair or use products, you run the risk of irritating that scab every time. Accidentally touching it will interrupt the healing process. The scab may fall off, and you’ll have to deal with a bleeding cut all over again. Unfortunately, because of the location of the scab, this could happen over and over again if your scalp continues to get irritated.
Scratching your scalp until it bleeds doesn’t just cause instant pain. It can open up your skin to bacteria and fungi.
The next step after getting a cut on the head that causes it to bleed is the potential risk for infection. Again, scrapes on the scalp can be difficult to treat because they are often covered with hair or are in hard-to-reach locations.
This, combined with the addition of chemically-enhanced hair products, debris, dirt, sweat, etc., can make it easy for infection to set in. It becomes especially problematic if you’re scratching your scalp with your nails, as they can have dirt and germs underneath them.
Bacteria can easily and quickly grow on the scalp and seep into open wounds caused by scratching. If that happens, you may require some type of antibiotic treatment to fully get rid of the problem.
Hair loss occurs for a couple different reasons when you itch your head too much. First, every single scratching motion pulls back on your hair. You’re actually tugging at the roots and creating tension each time. As your hair falls out due to this process, it’s known as traction alopecia.
Secondly, if bacteria do manage to get in the micro-cuts in your head, it could inhibit hair growth, and result in hair loss. If your scalp isn’t healthy enough to grow new hair like it should, you could notice a lot of thinning. Your hair will naturally fall out, and there will be less growth to replenish it.
The best thing you can do to avoid an itchy scalp is to determine what is causing the itching sensation in the first place. Once you’ve figured out the cause, you’ll have a better idea of the right treatment solution. Some of the best home remedies include:
It’s also a good idea to look at the hair products you use regularly. Some people have more sensitive skin than others. The products you use may be drying out your hair and scalp. Or, they may contain chemicals that are irritating your skin. If this is the case, it’s best to switch to natural products (Christina Moss Naturals Organic Shampoo is just one of many you could try)
There are also specific treatment products designed for dry scalp, but if your scratching is being caused by a buildup of oils and debris, these products may not be the best solution. Again, determining the underlying cause of your itchy scalp is the best way to get started. The sooner you’re able to stop scratching, the sooner your head can start to heal.
The good news is that in most cases, the damage you do to your head by scratching it won’t be permanent. As long as you can find a treatment that works and stop scratching, your scalp will likely heal. In some cases, treatment may be more intense. If you’ve developed a bacterial or fungal infection, for example, it may take weeks or even months for your skin to fully go back to normal.
As far as hair loss and other issues that can arise from too much itching, they will mostly be temporary. When you stop scratching your scalp and find the cause of the ‘itch’ in the first place, you can begin the healing process. This involves living a lifestyle that promotes overall scalp health and using the right hair and skin products.
The next time you feel an itching sensation on your head, try to consider what might be causing it. If it’s a frequent occurrence, there may be something more going on with your scalp that needs attention.
Last update on 2021-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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