A No Poo itchy scalp is one of the most common problems that new No Poo’ers can face, especially during the transition period.
Having had an itchy scalp when I first started following the No Poo Movement, I thought it wise to investigate ways to treat this issue. I was also keen to learn how to prevent a No Poo itchy scalp from reoccurring in the future.
Keep reading to learn the causes of a No Poo itchy scalp, and 11 quick fixes that you can implement straight away to rid yourself of an itchy scalp for good.
An itchy scalp can be a symptom of dryness in No Poo. Although itching can have multiple causes, there are eleven No Poo ways to combat and eradicate the itch. These No Poo methods include aloe vera, which heals your scalp without using harmful chemicals that damage your hair and the environment.
Having an itchy scalp, whilst not sounding like the worst thing that could ever happen, can be immensely off putting and often become the only thing you can think about. If you can’t resist the urge to scratch then you’ll also know that you’re making things worse, not better.
Having suffered with a No Poo itchy scalp in the past, and not enjoyed the experience at all, I have looked at ways to reduce the discomfort, and ways to get rid of an itchy scalp for good.
Hopefully I’ll be able to give you some ideas to try yourself and find the relief of a happy and healthy scalp.
No Poo Itchy Scalp
The No Poo movement started as people came to realize that the chemicals in traditional shampoos were not only unhealthy but unnecessary for keeping their hair clean and healthy.
The environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of millions of shampoo and conditioner bottles have also turned many people towards a No Poo lifestyle.
Whilst anti-No Poo’ers often blame the No Poo Movement for causing itchy scalps, there is actually no single cause of an itchy scalp, whether the individual is using No Poo or traditional shampoos.
That said, many No Poo followers say that not only their hair, but the health of their scalp has improved using a No Poo method.
Causes Of A No Poo Itchy Scalp
There is no one simple reason for having an itchy scalp, and therefore there is no one simple solution.
Using No Poo methods means that your hair and scalp should be clean and healthy, to begin with. This helps to narrow down the reasons that an itchy scalp could develop, at least.
Just in the interests of covering all possibilities though, the question why does my scalp itch if I don’t wash my hair? should be answered before moving on to other reasons.
The answer to this is that your scalp will itch if you don’t wash your hair as the sebum produced will remain on your scalp along with dirt and sweat. This will block the pores and cause itching and dandruff (source 1).
The most common causes of an itchy No Poo scalp are shown below:
- Dry scalp
- Irritated scalp
- Allergic reaction
- Flare up of existing psoriasis or eczema
- Sebum build up
- Flaky skin
- Fungal or parasitic infestation
- Transition phase
- pH imbalance
- Sensitive skin
11 Ways To Fix Your No Poo Itchy Scalp
What if I told you that there was one proven No Poo dry scalp remedy?
Whilst that would save many people countless hours of research and trial and error, in reality, this is not a possibility.
Just as there are multiple reasons that your scalp may itch, there are multiple remedies.
Within No Poo there are various recipes for No Poo washes. Some work for some people, but no one recipe works for everyone. This is because we are all individuals, and our scalps will each produce different amounts of sebum and shed skin at different rates.
Whilst I can’t magically solve your issue, I can share the top 11 ways to reduce and get rid of an itchy scalp:
1. Dry Scalp
A dry scalp will itch and be uncomfortable.
You can use a natural scalp and hair mask made from aloe vera to put the moisture back into your scalp. This should have an almost immediate impact and your scalp should stop itching shortly after the treatment.
Aloe vera will also moisturize your hair leaving it shiny and nourished.
2. Irritated Scalp
Perhaps you have scrubbed your scalp too hard or not rinsed out your baking soda wash sufficiently.
Either of these can leave you with a red and irritated scalp that itches to let you know that it is not healthy and happy.
When you scritch your movements should be firm, but not aggressive, and especially when using a baking soda wash you should aim for your hair to ‘slip’ before using either a tea rinse or a diluted ACV rinse.
With an irritated scalp changes to your routine will take a couple of days to a week to show a difference. This is because the skin needs to repair the damage that has happened before the change.
3. Allergic Reaction
An allergic reaction will show up very shortly after the product causing the itching has been applied, very much like a case of hives. Because of this, it should be quite easy to identify the culprit and stop using the product.
4. Flare Up Of Existing Psoriasis Or Eczema
If you are prone to bouts of eczema then you will probably already have a list of products to avoid.
Look at any changes you have made recently and leave these out for a week or two to see if any further flare-ups occur.
5. Sebum Build Up
When sebum is left on the scalp for too long it blocks the pores and creates an itching sensation. It also clings to any dirt in the hair which makes the situation worse.
To reduce the sebum try using a rubber scalp massage brush to loosen the dead skin and sebum and rinse through with warm water. The water should be warm so that it dissolves the oil more effectively.
6. Flaky Skin / Dandruff
Use rosemary rinse twice weekly to soothe your scalp.
It’s quite a simple recipe, just boiling a couple of rosemary sprigs in water for 10 minutes before allowing it to cool and using through your hair.
Rosemary has natural anti-dandruff properties and will work well on flaky skin. Continue its use to keep a flaky scalp at bay (source 2).
7. Fungal Or Parasitic Infestation
Fungal infections or head lice will make your scalp itch.
For fungal infections, tea tree oil rinses with their natural antibacterial and soothing properties are popular and should start to show improvements within a few weeks.
If head lice are the cause slathering your hair with coconut oil and using a nit comb to go through your hair several times a week will help rid, you of your visitors with the bonus of an extremely well-nourished scalp and hair.
8. Transition Phase
The transition phase, the time between starting No Poo and the point where your scalp has started producing the optimum amount of sebum, can be a difficult time with your scalp becoming unsettled due to the change in routine.
There is little you can do but wait, however, using aloe vera as a leave-in conditioning agent or tea tree oil as a rinse may reduce the itching to a manageable level until this phase passes.
9. pH Imblanace
Itchiness could be caused by using products that are not balancing with your scalp’s natural pH.
If you use BS and ACV try reducing the amount of BS and diluting the apple cider vinegar more for a few washes.
Check any other products for their pH levels before using to make sure that you are maintaining around a 5 pH when the combinations are put together.
10. Sensitive Skin
There may be nothing wrong with your hair care routine, but your scalp itches because your scalp has become sensitive.
If this is the reason behind the itching, then looking at the products and /or method you are using and try to find more sensitive alternatives.
Perhaps it may now be time to try a No Poo water only or sebum only approach to your hair care.
If you are using a No Poo conditioner, stop applying it to the roots of your hair.
Applied to the roots it can block pores causing itchiness and discomfort (source 3).
How To Moisturize Scalp Without Making Hair Greasy
Sometimes it does your scalp wonders to receive extra moisturizing.
As a healthy scalp leads to healthy hair, treating your scalp now and again to a moisture soak can only be beneficial.
There are several different treatments that you can give your scalp and hair that will moisturize but not make your hair greasy.
Below are some great moisturizing treatments that you can try:
Deep Conditioning Treatments
A deep conditioning mask made from honey, eggs, or yogurt left on the scalp for 10 minutes will moisturize your scalp and could reduce visible dandruff to manageable levels (source 4).
Oils And Serums
The best time to moisturize your scalp is at night, this will give your scalp and hair time to absorb all the goodness.
The serum is sometimes suggested over oils, as adding excess oil can block pores and cause more problems than they solve (source 5).
Exfoliating Scalp Scrub
There are several recipes for homemade scalp scrubs which can remove any loose, dead skin, and cleanse and moisturize the scalp.
One recipe to nourish the scalp without leaving your hair greasy is brown sugar and ground oatmeal.
Mix a couple of tablespoons of each with some aloe vera and massage into the scalp, leave for 5 minutes, and then thoroughly rinse (source 6).
Is No Poo Bad For Scalp?
The No Poo movement is based upon removing chemicals from our environment.
Man-made chemicals are not only bad for the environment, but also bad for our bodies, our hair, and our health. It makes sense therefore that removing these from our lives will lead us to be healthier overall.
There are several reasons that might make you question whether going No Poo has had a negative impact on your scalp. These are generally during the first few months, and very often just during the transition phase. This is the time that your scalp is trying to adjust to being natural. You have rid it of regular shampooing which strips the natural oils leaving your hair unable to look after itself.
During this phase, you may have a greasier scalp as it is trying to reach the optimum production of sebum to keep your hair moisturized, right down to the tips.
As it is likely that your scalp hasn’t had to ‘think for itself’ for quite some time, it is not surprising that for a while it overproduces sebum leaving you with greasy hair and scalp.
If you don’t brush or wash out this excess sebum you may find that your scalp is overwhelmed as the sebum clogs the pores and makes shedding the skin more difficult. This can lead to itching, a brown scalp covering, and if left could provide the perfect habitat for a fungal infection.
When using No Poo it is extremely important to rinse out any washes, especially baking soda washes.
The baking soda method, whilst very effective and popular, can be damaging to hair and scalp if not completely removed before using a vinegar rinse. If the baking soda is not properly rinsed it can look like you have flakes, and that you are damaging your scalp.
The No Poo method has many different washes to choose from. Like traditional shampoos, some will work better with your hair and scalp than others.
Whilst you are finding the method and ingredients that work best for your scalp, hair, and lifestyle, you may wonder if the change has been bad for your scalp.
It may take time to find the combination that is right for you but removing sulfates, silicones, and parabens, and more from your hair can only be good for your health in the long run.
Ultimately, your hair will find its equilibrium and be moisturized, strong, shiny, and healthier than ever before.
What Is No Poo Dandruff?
The pH of your scalp is altered by traditional shampoos and can be changed to be a perfect environment for Malassezia globosa fungus to thrive, causing dandruff (source 7).
This completely harmless fungus lives on the natural oil produced by our scalps and generally causes us no problems.
Unfortunately, if the scalp pH is altered allowing the fungus to thrive then the result is irritation of the scalp and the rapid turnover of skin cells in the area. These skin cells are those that we can see, and call dandruff.
Our scalp environment can change for many reasons, such as:
- Hormones in puberty
- Various types of dermatitis
- Winter conditions
Regardless of the cause though, the flaky white skin layering on your shoulders is simply your scalp asking for help.
If you are worried about the health of your scalp then there are many remedies that you can try;
|Tea Tree||This can be used in a rinse to refresh and cleanse. It has the added benefit of being soothing to your scalp|
|Aloe Vera||Like tea tree, aloe vera is a natural antibacterial agent with soothing properties. It will also give a great moisture boost to your hair|
Using an extra rinse after washing using distilled water may bring about amazing results, especially if you live in a hard water area where the water has many chemicals still left in it by the time it reaches your tap.
No Poo Flaky Scalp
Your white flakes may not be dandruff at all, but No Poo white flakes!
Dandruff is caused by a specific fungus, whereas white flakes can come about for many reasons.
I have listed the most common as a checklist for you:
- Silicon use: If you’re still using styling products that contain silicon your dandruff could be residue that your No Poo method of hair washing hasn’t managed to clean out. Try reducing the use of styling gels, and make sure the water used is warm enough (but not too hot!) to wash away any left-over product. An Apple Cider Vinegar rinse can also help to remove products left on your scalp.
- Baking Soda: Rinse and rinse again. If you’re using baking soda to clean your hair, make sure that you are rinsing every last particle out before drying. Baking soda is abrasive and can irritate your scalp. Also, if you leave any baking soda in the hair it will dry and might look like dandruff even if you don’t have any! (source 8).
- Shedding: Your skin sheds on a regular basis but it may be that for some reason, instead shedding in a monthly cycle, the shedding can occur weekly or even more frequently. Normally we wouldn’t see these flakes, but with such a rapid turnover of skin it is inevitable that all this skin will be obvious in our hair (source 9).
If none of these sounds like the cause for you, then try writing a hair diary for a few months. You can note down how your hair and scalp feel each day, and what your hair has been through during the day.
It may be that you find that a few days after you’ve been swimming, or used a particular wash, your No Poo white flakes were much worse…or even much better.
Your diary will help to pin down a possible cause that you can then tackle head-on.
For example, if your scalp is worse after swimming it may be that your scalp is sensitive to chlorine or other chemicals in the water.
In that case, you could either wear a swimming cap or ensure that you spend a few moments longer rinsing your hair after you’ve left the pool.
Water Only Hair Washing Itchy Scalp
In water-only hair washing, an itchy scalp is much less likely to happen as very few products are in contact with the skin on your head.
If you do end up with an itchy scalp it’s worth going back to basics and looking at how you are managing your water only routine:
- Scritching: Are you scritching effectively? If you are not paying enough attention to this element of your routine your scalp may be clogged with old skin. This may lead to itching on its own, but also could provide the right environment for an itchy infection to grow
- Preening: Are you bringing down all the sebum from your scalp? If your scalp is greasy this may lead to it feeling itchy
- Brushing: Are you cleaning your boar bristle brush? This is the best brush for moving the sebum down your hair follicles, but only if it’s clean. Brushing not only moves the sebum down your hair, but also removes dirt and debris from your hair. If you don’t clean your brush properly then you put back all the grease and dirt that you removed from your hair the day before. This can lead to an itchy and uncomfortable scalp
- Water: Is your water too hot? Warm water loosens the sebum making it easier to move, but water that is too hot may irritate your scalp. An irritated scalp can often be itchy. Try lowering the water temperature to just above body temperature and seeing how your hair feels
- Water Softener: Hard water areas have water that contains more chemicals than areas with softer water. Your scalp may be sensitive to any one of these chemicals. If possible, fit a water softener. If this is not practical, then use distilled or bottled water as a last rinse to ensure that your hair is really and truly rinsed clean
Whilst you may experience a No Poo itchy scalp at some point during your No Poo journey, it can be remedied.
Once you have found the cause of your dry and itchy scalp, which is simply a process of elimination, then there are many recipes to choose from to restore your natural balance.
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