Why Does Your Scalp Itch When You Eat Spicy Food?

You probably have not considered it but did you know that there is a correlation between an itchy scalp and consuming spicy foods? Also, the inconvenience from an itchy scalp can be a form of food allergy, causing some people to avoid eating spicy foods altogether. 

Your scalp itches when you eat spicy foods because the spices contain chemicals that excite certain heat-responsive receptors in your scalp. The capsaicin, piperine, or other phytochemicals in most spices stimulate your body’s thermoregulators, which opens up your scalp’s sweat pores, resulting in sweating and a resultant itching afterward. 

More often than not, itchiness associated with spicy food consumption is usually a sign of an allergic reaction. About 70% of the human population has food allergies, but there could be other reasons for it. This article will enlighten you about the reasons why your scalp itches when you eat spicy food. So read on to learn more! 

How Itchy Can Your Scalp Get When You Eat Spicy Foods?

The degree of itchiness you feel in your scalp when you consume spicy food depends on your spice sensitivity and the possibility of an allergy. People who exhibit high sensitivity to spicy food often feel the burn more intensely than those with less sensitivity. 

Essentially, you can train yourself to gain more tolerance for spicy foods by increasing your exposure to them. However, subjecting yourself to more intense spicy foods may require more guts than you can imagine. 

Also if you are pretty hypersensitive or have severe histamine response, you might not succeed at building the spice tolerance you desire. 

Spicy foods cause your scalp to itch by increasing your perspiration rate. The capsaicin contained in most hot peppers used for preparing spicy foods binds to the TRPV1 receptors in your mouth. 

The TRPV1 receptor is responsible for regulating your body’s heat sensitivity. As a result, the chemical reaction from the binding of Capsaicin with TRPV1 tricks your brain into thinking that your body is on fire. Your body begins to exhibit a forward reaction to the heat stimuli by causing you to sweat all over your body including your scalp. 

In addition, the sudden sweaty scalp creates a sudden opening of your pores, causing oil to seep between your hair follicles, resulting in an itchy scalp.

Alternatively, an itchy scalp when eating spicy food might be due to food allergies. However, the only way to be sure is to observe the onset of the itchiness and for how long your scalp itches. 

An allergic reaction to any of the spices in the spicy food will almost trigger an immediate reaction. Sometimes the allergic reaction could be a histamine response to pollen or other allergens in the food. 

Not all cases of itchy scalp are caused by consuming spicy foods. several foods can cause your scalp to itch due to an allergic reaction or elevation of the body temperature leading to scalp sweating. In addition, several factors besides spicy foods can lead to an itching scalp. Therefore it is essential to know the difference to enable you to make the right intervention.

What Is the Chemistry of Spicy Food-Induced Itchy Scalp?

Most spicy foods induce an itchy scalp through the chemical action of capsaicin. Capsaicin is the dominant phytochemical in most hot peppers responsible for the intense heat you feel when you eat spicy foods. 

Interestingly capsaicin exists as a single compound, yet it is composed of several fractions called capsaicinoids. The capsaicinoids are available in most spices and hot peppers in varying degrees and percentages to bind to the heat-sensitive receptor of your body. 

The chemical bonding between the capsaicinoid and your heat receptors creates a wave of warmth that can cause your scalp to itch. Capsaicin is the most abundant variety at 69%. 

Does All Spicy Food Cause an Itchy Scalp?

Not all spicy food causes an itchy scalp. The ability of spicy food to cause an itchy scalp depends on the basal heat production of the component spice ingredients or the possibility of an allergic reaction. 

Most spicy foods that cause itchy scalp are those with heat-inducing phytochemical content like capsaicin or piperine. Similarly, spicy foods that lack the heat-inducing element would not cause an itchy scalp unless the consumer has a food allergy.

Below is a table summarizing some examples of spices or spicy foods and their relationship with an itchy scalp.

Spicy foods/SpicesCauses an itchy scalp?Mechanism of causationCausal agent
Chili peppersYesBasal temperature elevationCapsaicin
Black peppersYesBasal temperature elevationPiperine, 
WasabiYesToxic responseIsothiocyanate
OnionsNoWatery eyesAllium sulfate compounds
Bell peppersNoNoneNone

Other Non-spicy Food Causes of an Itchy Scalp

Besides spicy food consumption, here are other valid causes of an itchy scalp:

  • Food allergies
  • Dandruff or dry scalp
  • Dirty and unkempt hair
  • Contact Dermatitis
  • Parasitic infestation
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal Infections
  • Drug reactions, 
  • Allergic reactions to hair care products, etc. 

Types of Physical Reactions Associated With Most Spices

Spices can either trigger an allergic or a nonallergic reaction. Essentially, an itchy scalp from spices can either be the usual thermoregulatory effect or an allergic reaction. Nonallergic reactions to spices include but are not limited to skin rashes, itchy mouth, itchy scalp, cough, etc. 

On the other hand, allergic reactions to most spices can either be due to protein allergens in the spice or a severe allergic reaction like anaphylactic shock. Although anaphylaxis is a rare form of an allergic reaction, there have been several reported cases arising from spicy food consumption. 

Examples of spices that can trigger possible anaphylaxis include but are not limited to oregano, thyme, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, sesame seed, etc.

Fun Fact: Although peanuts are not considered a spice unless used as an ingredient in most spicy food recipes, they are one of the leading causes of anaphylactic shocks in hypersensitive individuals.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Spicy Foods Make You Itch?

Spicy foods can make you itch when they elicit some allergic reactions or cause some skin irritations and rashes. At other times, spicy foods can cause itching in your mouth due to the cross activity between pollen and the histamine system of your body, especially if you are prone to food allergies.

What Is the Most Common Spice Allergy for Most People?

The most common spice allergies are mild to adverse reactions to herbs and spices affecting the mouth, oral cavity, and oral mucosa. Swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes, and throat irritations is also common among most people. Examples of culpable spices include but are not limited to celery, coriander, cumin, hibiscus, parsley, Echinacea, ragweed, dandelions, etc.

What Happens When You Over Scratch an Itchy Scalp?

Over scratching an itchy scalp regardless of the cause of itchiness and severity might lead to inadvertent damage to the scalp’s skin and hair follicles. Further damage can lead to temporary hair loss, bleeding, and scabbing from aggressive scratching. However, the hair is likely to grow back once the continuous itching stops.   

Final Thoughts

The itchy scalp from spicy food consumption is not severe. However, you may be concerned if your scalp itchiness is due to an allergic reaction to the spices or herbs contained in the food. Although the itchy scalp stops before you know it, you should consult a healthcare provider to determine if your scalp itchiness is due to the spices or an allergic reaction to spicy foods.  

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Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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