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A commonly occurring and potentially embarrassing problem is an itchy scalp. You might be out on a date, in an important meeting, and your thoughts are dominated by the irritating itch—and it takes a lot of willpower to not scratch it. 

These situations can become more frequent in the hotter months. Most commonly, dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are the causes of an itchy scalp. In other instances, psoriasis and eczema can play a role as well. If you find that the itching is getting worse or you are beginning to lose hair in patches, visit your doctor.

Most of the time, though, there is no reason to despair. Anti-dandruff or prescription shampoos can take care of most itches.

There are also many home remedies you can try. Here is a short list:

  1. Apply lemon juice and mustard oil for itchy scalp
  2. Ghee for itchy scalp
  3. Coconut oil for itchy scalp
  4. Essential oils for itchy scalp
  5. Apple cider vinegar for itchy scalp
  6. Meditation for itchy scalp
  7. Aloe vera for itchy scalp

Lemon is a known remedy for seborrheic dermatitis, a type of dandruff in which the skin of the scalp can become oily, scaly and itchy.

Researchers at the Swami Vivekananda College of Pharmacy, Indore, recently tested the efficacy of a herbal shampoo they made with shikakai (Acacia concinna), reetha (Sapindus mukorosis), lemon, fresh aloe vera, dry neem leaf and bhringraj green leaf.

They found that while the shikakai and reetha inhibited the growth of Malassezia furfur (a fungus that can cause seborrheic dermatitis), the lemon helped to reduce existing dandruff. The shampoo, reportedly, left the participants hair smoother and more manageable and their scalps itch-free.

The researchers published their findings in the International Journal of Pharmacy & Life Sciences in February 2019.

However, if you don't want the hassle of making your own shampoo at home, there is a simpler way to apply lemon for itchy scalp:

What you will need:

  • 7-10 tablespoons of mustard oil, depending on the length of your hair
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Cotton ball

How to do it:

  • In a bowl, mix the mustard oil and lemon juice.
  • Apply it liberally all over your scalp using the cotton call.
  • Leave it on for at least 30 seconds before shampooing it off.
  • It's okay if the mixtures stings a little bit, but if the stinging becomes unbearable, wash it off sooner.

In addition to good fats, ghee or clarified butter has vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. These fats and vitamins nourish the scalp and reduce the stretchy feeling in the scalp that often comes with changing weather and a lot of stress.

Ghee also contains a fatty acid known as butyrate which has anti-inflammatory properties, so it helps to soothe swelling and irritation in the skin of the scalp. Ghee is also said to have antimicrobial properties.

For relief from an itchy scalp, you can eat the ghee, by pouring a teaspoonful onto your roti, rice or vegetables. Or you could apply it directly to your scalp. Here's how:

What you will need:

  • 5-7 tablespoons ghee
  • Cotton ball

How to do it:

  • Apply the ghee onto the scalp with the cotton ball.
  • Use the cotton ball to cover the length of your hair with the remaining ghee.
  • Massage the ghee into your scalp using only the tips of your fingers—this can also reduce stress, another known cause of itchy scalp.
  • Leave it on overnight.
  • Wash it off with shampoo the next day—take care not to use a harsh shampoo as that could undo some of the benefits of the ghee.

The lauric acid in coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that fight dandruff to provide relief from itchy scalp. Coconut oil mixed with tea tree oil is also a home remedy for head lice, which is another way in which coconut oil reduces itchiness of the scalp. Coconut oil also provides nourishment and conditioning to the scalp, which can help soothe itchiness immediately.

Here's how you can apply coconut oil for relief from an itchy scalp:

What you will need:

  • 7-10 tablespoons coconut oil, depending on the length of your hair
  • Cotton ball

How to do it:

  • Warm some coconut oil and massage it on your head, or get someone to do it for you. This is a very calming experience, and the smell of the oil will enhance the experience as well.
  • Let the oil sit for 15 minutes to two hours. Wash your hair afterwards.

Essential oils like tea tree oil and peppermint oil have many health benefits. Read on to know how you can use them to get rid of an itchy scalp.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is now commonly available in most stores since it has a variety of uses. Research shows it may also have antimicrobial and antifungal properties—however, more studies are needed to verify these claims. Often, bacteria or fungi can cause itchy scalps.

What you will need:

  • 4-5 drops of tea tree oil
  • 5-10 tablespoons of your coconut oil or almond oil or sesame oil
  • Cotton ball

How to do it:

  • Mix the tea tree oil with a "carrier" oil of your choice. Carefully part the hair and apply the mixture to your scalp.
  • Massage it in using your fingertips.
  • Leave it on for at least half an hour. Wash it off with shampoo.

(Note that tea tree oil can be an irritant, so use it sparingly.)

Peppermint oil and olive oil for itchy scalp

The menthol in peppermint oil cools the scalp while the olive oil nourishes the hair roots.

What you will need:

  • 4-5 drops peppermint oil
  • 5-7 tablespoons olive oil

How to do it:

  • Slightly heat the oils together and massage on to your scalp. Let sit for 15-30 minutes and rinse thoroughly afterwards.

With antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, apple cider vinegar is said to be great for soothing dry and itchy scalp. More research needs to be done on the efficacy of apple cider vinegar for scalp health.

What you will need:

  • 1-2 capsful of apple cider vinegar
  • Warm water

How to do it:

  • Add the apple cider vinegar to warm water.
  • Apply it directly to your scalp after you shampoo.
  • You can make this a part of your shampoo routine each week.

Stress can also cause your head to itch. Perhaps you are pushing yourself too hard or have a schedule that is too difficult to maintain. It is best to take a step back in times like these and give yourself some breathing space. You can try meditating or indulging in an activity that holds your interest and distracts you from your stresses.

Read more: How to deal with exam stress

Aloe vera is a natural moisturiser and mild antimicrobial. Here's how you can use it to soothe an itchy scalp:

What you will need:

  • 3-4 tablespoons aloe vera gel

How to do it:

  • Take some aloe vera gel and apply it generously on the scalp.
  • Let it sit for up to 30 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with water.

Itchy scalps can be annoying but are usually easily remedied. Taking a nice, cold shower can also help—your itchiness may subside if you are in a better mood and feel cleaner as well.

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