How to Handle an Itchy Scalp Postpartum

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If you are or have recently been pregnant and notice changes in your skin, know that you are not alone. More than 90% of people who are pregnant experience changes in their skin — and some symptoms linger a little even after the baby is born. The telltale sign of one of the most common itch is itchy skin.

Whether you’re familiar with the uncomfortable itching that can occur before or after childbirth, you should know that it’s a possibility. And, most importantly, it’s completely normal. A particularly common place for it to manifest is postpartum scalp itching.

Your body is transformed during pregnancy – and truly does a miracle by creating a living little human being. This undeniably precious newborn can bathe you and your family with boundless joy. However, there are a number of side effects that can arise from your miracle — among them postpartum itchy scalp.

People with this condition also experience more than minor itching. It can be a frantic, creepy feeling all over the scalp or concentrated in one area. Frustrating to the point of interfering with their daily lives. That’s why we’ve reached out to two board-certified dermatologists to share everything you need to know about treating postpartum itchy scalp. Keep reading to learn all about this condition, why it happens, and how you can help alleviate it.

Why Is My Skin Itchy After Pregnancy?

Besides the growth of the baby inside of you, another amazing thing your body develops during pregnancy is a whole new organ — your placenta. It allows you to nourish your newborn with essential nutrients, and it produces hormones. This introduces a new pregnancy-specific hormone, pregnenolone, into your system and boosts production of a hormone already flowing through your bloodstream, progesterone. And just as emptying a half-full glass of water disrupts the water already in it, this surge in hormones disrupts your normal hormone balance.

After giving birth, the opposite happens. The effects of this hormone influx and the decline, along with the enormous toll on your body and mind with childbirth, can have back effects — including on your scalp. friend.

Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, a board-certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist at the New York Center for Laser and Skin Surgery in New York, explains: “Hormonal fluctuations, Dehydration, physical and emotional stress can all cause or worsen the Hamptons. “Itchy scalp after giving birth can be caused by the same thing.”

While it’s common, it doesn’t make postpartum itchy skin any easier to deal with. In fact, it can be so upsetting that it affects a person’s sleep and quality of life, and can even lead to depression.

Joshua Zeichner, MD

The postpartum period is traumatic for the body as it heals after the birth of the baby. It’s a time of hormonal fluctuations, weight loss, and wound healing. This affects the skin, leading to dryness, flaking, and itching.

– Joshua Zeichner, MD

“The postpartum period is a trauma to the muscles,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology and Associate Professor of Dermatology at Mount. maybe because it’s healing after the baby is born. Sinai Hospital in NYC. “It’s a time of hormonal fluctuations, weight loss, and wound healing. This affects the skin, leading to dryness, flaking, and itching. ”

Your scalp is especially prone to itching after giving birth. It has more nerves and blood vessels than skin on the rest of the body, as well as more hair follicles and sebaceous glands. All of this combined makes the skin more vulnerable to a number of skin problems, like itchy scalp after giving birth.

The sensation — unlike bugs crawling through your hair — can be so annoying and distracting that it can actually become disabling. And when you have a new baby at home, the constant urge to scratch your nails on your scalp is not only inappropriate, it can also make you extremely angry. Adding salt to the wound, postpartum scalp itching can lead to other scalp problems.

Are there any other symptoms that accompany an itchy scalp?

As if the constant itching of the scalp wasn’t enough, postpartum hair loss is also a side effect of the birth process. When you’re pregnant, the hormonal surge keeps most of your hair from falling out — and makes your mane shiny in the process. Once the extra hormone levels drop, your hair may fall out as your hairs return to their normal life cycle, most commonly during the first three to four months after giving birth. The good news is that postpartum hair loss is temporary and should go away on its own in 6 to 12 months.

“After childbirth, the hairs go into a resting phase known as telogen,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “Afterward, [people] often undergoes a massive shedding called telogen effluvium. He went on to assert that this pattern of hair loss could be related to postpartum scalp itching, but assured us it was completely harmless.

You may also have dandruff. Not only will this create an embarrassing snow flake, but it can also prolong your postpartum hair loss.

“Because of [postpartum] With hormonal changes, the skin and scalp can become more oily, contributing to the exacerbation of dandruff, accompanied by itching,” explains Dr. “At the same time, the scalp develops flaking and scaling.”

This means that in addition to your itchy scalp after giving birth, dandruff itself can also cause more itching. But don’t lose all hope. You can take steps to help relieve itching, whether it’s from postpartum scalp itching, dandruff, or both.

How do you prevent your scalp from itching?

Start with the basics. Try using an anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner or other scalp treatments, such as a scalp scrub. The latter can help you relieve stress and is a super satisfying — and safe — way to scratch that itchy scalp.

“Over-the-counter dandruff shampoos containing selenium sulfide or zinc pyrithione can be very effective,” advises Dr. Murphy-Blair. She recommends some gentle options like the Free and Clear Shampoo for Sensitive Skin ($11) and Dove Dermacare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Shampoo ($7), as well as the Head & Shoulders Dry Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. Almond Oil ($7).

Another way to soothe itching is to strengthen the skin’s natural barrier (the stratum corneum), the protective shield in the skin’s outermost layer that helps lock in moisture and block irritants. This important barrier breakdown has been linked to a multitude of skin conditions, including itching. And luckily, you can do this on the spot.

“To address itching, the first step is to apply a moisturizer to help restore the skin barrier,” Dr. Zeichner advises. Look for products specifically designed to help relieve itching, like CeraVe Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream ($20) and CeraVe Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream ($9). You can also try an anti-itch moisturizer specially formulated for an itchy scalp like Scalpicin Maximum Strength Hydrocortisone 1% Anti-Itch Liquid ($13).

To combat excessive hair loss during the first few months after giving birth, try using shampoos, conditioners, and hair care formulas or recipes for thinning hair. Avoid any products that say “conditioning shampoo” or “intensive conditioner” on the label, as they tend to weigh down hair.

Apply conditioner only to the ends of your strands until mid-length. Scalp conditioning will only make it more oily, which can prolong both hair loss and dandruff. Try Biolage Volume Bloom Shampoo ($20) and Conditioner ($20). There’s also Kérastase Densifique Shampoo ($35) and Conditioner ($42).

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants and flavonoids. They can protect your hair follicles and promote growth. And avoid tight hairstyles, use hot tools and rub your hair when it’s wet. You can also talk to a board-certified dermatologist, who can help tailor an anti-hair loss routine accordingly.

When should I see a doctor for an itchy scalp?

While postpartum scalp itching is common and usually harmless, it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. If you are concerned, talk to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist. They may want to do some tests to determine if there is an underlying cause, such as certain liver problems.

Zeichnner recommends, “If you have severe itching on your scalp, hair loss, and dandruff shampoos don’t help, be sure to contact a board-certified dermatologist for a professional evaluation,” Dr. Zeichnner recommends. If simple interventions don’t relieve the itching, and especially if it affects your quality of life or day-to-day, it’s definitely time to see a professional.

Dr. Murphy-Rose also cautions that, since it’s hard to get a good look at your own scalp, you shouldn’t see a dermatologist as soon as an itch pops up. Practicing a little extra caution never hurt anyone. And sometimes, solving the problem right from the start can save you a lot of time, energy and, well, itching.

What medicine does the doctor prescribe for an itchy scalp?

If you’re considering seeking the help of a dermatologist or other health care provider, here’s a summary of how you can expect your treatment. (Of course, always let them know if you’re currently breastfeeding, as that may affect the action they recommend taking.)

Corticosteroid Ointments & Creams

Your dermatologist may recommend over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroids to help relieve itching. After you apply the product to your skin, moisten a clean cloth or towel with cool water and apply it to the affected area. The cool air will help soothe the itch and the moisture will help absorb. They may also recommend taking regular showers in warm water for 20 minutes with your scalp under running water before going to bed. This will help the medicine absorb and retain moisture.

Calcineurin Inhibitor Ointment & Cream

Calcineurina are cell messengers that trigger an immune response, like the release of histamine, the culprit behind your itching. Suppressing them with treatments like Protopic (tacrolimus) and Elidel (pimecrolimus) can help relieve itching. Likewise, other treatments, including local anesthetics, doxepin, or capsaicin may be helpful.


Certain oral antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), as well as tricyclic antidepressants such as doxepin, can help relieve itching. The only drawback to these options, however, is that it can take a while — from eight to 12 weeks — for them to take full effect.


An option as easy as flipping a light switch – quite literally – is phototherapy, also known as light therapy. UV rays can reach both the surface of your skin (epidermis) and down to the next layer (dermis). It’s still unclear exactly how it works to relieve itching, but it’s thought to interact with nerve networks, either directly or indirectly. It may take a few sessions, but it can eventually calm your itchy postpartum scalp, and final give you some relief.

A very good word

Bringing your new baby into the world can be one of the greatest joys of your life. But after you give birth, hormonal changes can put you at risk for certain skin conditions, like itchy scalp after giving birth. Fortunately, it’s a temporary – albeit, unpleasant – illness, and there are home and clinic-based treatments that can help. As always, talk to your healthcare provider about your options and always let them know if you’re breastfeeding, as that could alter your treatment schedule. friend.

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