Is there a connection between an itchy scalp and hair loss?

Tags:woman age 25-34 scalp balding hair loss itching

For the past few months I started to notice significant hair loss. I began a treatment with argan oil and the hair loss stopped. After a while the hair began to fall excessively and it started to worry me. There is hair all over my house, car, clothes, etc. Also, my scalp started to itch mostly in the evenings before bed. Could the hair loss cause the itchiness of the scalp or vice versa? Is there a connection between the two?


F, 31, Indiana

There's not a direct correlation between hair loss and having an itchy scalp. There are many different causes for itching -- some more serious than others. These causes include dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, allergic reactions, and some contagious conditions like fungal and bacterial infections, tinea capitis, scabies, and common head lice.

It's very common to experience an itchy scalp due to mundane causes like sunburn or clogged pores. Some hairstyles, for example a ponytail, can also cause itching if tied too tightly for too long a period of time. If you wash your hair every day, it can lead to an itchy, dry scalp. You may want to use milder hair care products or wash your hair every other day.

From your question it sounds like the itching may have begun shortly after starting your argan oil treatment.

Argan oil is a popular home hair tonic which has not shown any clinical evidence as a hair loss treatment. While it does help treat dry hair, it can also cause contact dermatitis in some cases. It's possible that the itching you are experiencing is an allergic reaction to argan oil. If you’ve noticed any red patches, itching or mild inflammatory condition after applying the argan oil, I advise discontinuing its use immediately.

It's important to note that while many scalp conditions do cause hair loss, most itching is not indicative of a condition that causes permanent hair loss. Also, keep in mind that both men and women normally experience thinning hair as part of aging and that a certain amount of daily hair loss is perfectly normal throughout our lives.

All of us shed somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 hairs per day and most of us aren’t aware we’re losing any at all. It's very common for people to notice hair accumulating on hair brushes or near shower drains and to become concerned by the amount of hair loss. Pay close attention to noticeable thinning or to a receding hairline rather than fallen hair, which is often a needless source of concern.

There's no way to give you any direct medical advice without a physical examination of your scalp. If you are experiencing chronic scalp itching, I encourage you to visit a board-certified dermatologist to determine the cause of the itching and whether or not it represents a risk of associated hair loss. 

Many people worry that they may be losing their hair after finding an accumulation of it on their clothes, furniture or in their cars. Just because strands of hair pile up is not a reliable measure of hair loss.

On average, each of us has approximately 100,000 hairs on our head. Each hair shaft on the scalp survives approximately four years before naturally falling out on its own. Under normal circumstances, hairs that fall out are replaced by new hairs over the course of the next few months. This constant cycle of daily hair loss and renewal amounts to between 100 and 200 hairs lost each and every day -- even for those who possess a full head of hair.

Seeing fallen hair in places like your shower or bathtub, your car, on coats, and clothing is normal. Hair fall by itself doesn't indicate a more serious or permanent condition.

To answer your question about itching: There are many scalp and skin conditions that cause itching. Some of these conditions may be associated with an increased rate of hair loss, but most are not.

Conditions which cause itching may include scalp psoriasis, lichen planopilaris, fungal infections, common head lice, and autoimmune diseases. In many cases, medical conditions which cause scalp itching can be addressed with home treatments like over-the-counter medicated shampoo, antifungal medications, and moisturizers. In other cases, you'll need a prescription product to relieve the itching.

Without an examination there's no way to diagnose the cause of your itchy scalp. I recommend visiting a board-certified dermatologist to determine whether or not your itchy scalp may be causing hair loss and to find the treatment that's best for your specific case.

While argan oil is a popular home remedy, there's no clinical evidence that it prevents hair loss. It is a natural conditioning agent extracted from Moroccan argan trees and commonly promoted as a hair tonic. Argan oil probably won't hurt, but it's not likely to prevent hair loss either. It's possible that your itching is due to an argan oil allergy or side effect. If the itching began shortly after starting your argan oil application, I would advise you to stop using it.

Regarding your hair loss: It's not clear from your question whether or not you're actually experiencing any thinning hair or bald patches -- or if you're simply seeing excessive hair fall. Many people see fallen hairs around their house or in their shower drains and assume that it's a sign of abnormal hair thinning and eventual baldness. The reality is unless you're losing more than 300 strands of hair per day, there's most likely no reason to worry. Most of us lose 100 to 200 hairs every day, which is considered normal.

It's not possible to give you a diagnosis or any medical advice regarding your itchy scalp or your hair loss without an in-person consultation. There are some scalp issues which can cause itching and are associated with an increased rate of hair loss, but most itching is not going to cause hair to fall out. Head lice, for example, will cause an itchy scalp but has no bearing on whether or not you have healthy hair or not. Dandruff is another very common condition which can lead to excessive itching, but is not associated with hair loss.

If you have dandruff, I suggest using a an over the counter medicated shampoo with salicylic acid or coal tar to help control it.

While there are some more serious conditions which cause itching and are associated with hair loss, there's no way to diagnose these without an in person examination. I advise you to schedule an appointment with an experienced, board certified dermatologist. Your dermatologist will likely examine your scalp, eyebrows and fingernails to diagnose the issue. He or she may also perform blood tests or a skin-scraping to better understand the issue before prescribing a course of treatment.