If your itchy scalp is accompanied by what looks like red pimples – with a hair in the centre of each one – you may be looking at a case of folliculitis, according to Dr Khatri. The pimples may have pus in them, and they may itch or burn. When the pimples break open, they may drain pus, blood, or both.
Most of the time, the symptoms disappear on their own within a week to 10 days. Topically, you can use an antibacterial cleanser, Dr Kronberg suggests, but if it doesn’t seem to be clearing on its own, you may need a course of oral antibiotics.
Fungus and ringworm
A fungal infection (not the same one that causes dandruff) can cause an itchy scalp as well, says Dr Haley, although this is more common in children. It’s also called ringworm, or tinea capitis. A fungal infection can be caused by moisture remaining on the scalp for extended periods, says Dr Kronberg. If you have one, you’ll know soon enough because it won’t respond to anything except oral antifungals, which only your doctor can prescribe.
If you have prolonged redness and scaling, especially if accompanied by pus, see your doctor.
A too-tight ponytail
Like ringworm, wearing a ponytail can cause both hair loss and scalp itching. “Wearing your hair up all day, or in overly tight or heavy hairstyles such as braids, buns, extensions and weaves, can tug on the hair follicles, causing stress and scarring over time, leading to hair thinning and hair loss,” Dr Shainhouse says. “However, this styling also pulls the hairs and surrounding nerves and muscles in an unnatural direction, leaving your scalp sore and sometimes itchy when you let your hair down.” Dr Shainhouse’s simple solution? Stick to looser styles, keep hair in tighter styles only for short periods, and vary your hairstyles throughout the week.