With hydrocortisone 1% as its only active ingredient, Scalpicin Maximum Strength’s clear, non-greasy liquid is formulated to quickly, easily, and effectively help relieve scalp itch associated with psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and eczema.
Despite its effectiveness, the company claims it won’t interfere with the way your hair looks and feels. In fact, the website reports its enhanced formula could even improve the condition of your scalp and make your hair easier to comb. It’s also fragrance-free, won’t affect hair color, whether natural, dyed, or bleached; and can be used with other grooming products.
To apply, just turn the cap to loosen it, and direct the tapered nozzle to any areas where you’re experiencing itchiness. Gently rub into your scalp.
Is it really this easy, though? If you’re experiencing itchiness caused by psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and eczema, can you expect meaningful relief from using Scalpicin?
By combining what we learned during our research with customer reviews and authoritative feedback, we’ll help start your journey off on the right foot.
What Can Cause an Itchy Scalp?
Just like the skin on any other part of your body, Cleveland Clinic reports there can be many different factors that can cause an itchy scalp, although five of the most common include:
- Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis – Caused by an overproduction of yeast on the scalp
- Psoriasis – Raised, reddish patches cause by an autoimmune malfunction
- Tinea capitis (ringworm) – A fungal infection
- Head lice – Parasites that live on the scalp and feed on blood
- Allergic reactions – Caused by everything from hair dyes and eczema to atopic dermatitis
As you might imagine (and as you’ll likely learn after speaking with your doctor), is that the cause of your itchiness will directly impact the treatment.
As an overly simplistic example, over-the-counter medications like Scalpicin are marketed toward those with psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and eczema. However, they would likely provide little relief to someone with head lice or who’s experiencing an allergic reaction.
Taking a Closer Look at Scalpicin’s Ingredients
According to the label on the back of the box, Scalpicin’s formula contains hydrocortisone 1% as the only active ingredient.
Note: While it’s not listed on the label, Scalpicin’s description on Amazon also references 3% salicylic acid. However, according to one reviewer (more in a moment), Scalpicin’s most recent formula contains only hydrocortisone, which is why salicylic acid isn’t currently listed on the label.
Other inactive ingredients include denatured alcohol, water, propylene glycol, PEG-40/PPG-8 methylaminopropyl/hydroxypropyl dimethicone copolymer, glycerin, dipropylene glycol, menthol, disodium EDTA, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, isopropyl alcohol, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil, tocopheryl acetate
Drugs.com explains that salicylic acid is a “keratolytic (peeling agent)” that “causes shedding of the outer layer of skin,” while WebMD tells us that “petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil, and dimethicone are common emollients” used to help “reduce water loss, soften and moisturize skin, and decrease itching and flaking.”
Finally, Scalpicin’s inactive ingredients work mostly as solvents (denatured alcohol, dipropylene glycol), conditioning agents (propylene glycol, PEG-40/PPG-8 methylaminopropyl, hydroxypropyl dimethicone copolymer, glycerin, aloe barbadensis, tea tree leaf oil, tocopheryl acetate), and preservatives (disodium EDTA, isopropyl alcohol).
Could Scalpicin’s Ingredients Cause Side Effects?
The most commonly reported side effects related to 1% hydrocortisone (no specifics provided) is burning, itching, irritation, and dryness.
In rare instances (again, no specific circumstances or concentrations noted), Drugs.com reports that salicylic acid can cause serious side effects like "hives, itching, difficulty breathing, feeling light-headed, or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat."
To help minimize your potential for experiencing any side effects at all, be sure to talk with your doctor before using Scalpicin or any other OTC treatment.
How Much Does Scalpicin Cost?
Scalpicin is an extraordinarily popular product, found at many online and brick-and-mortar retailers like CVS, Amazon, Walgreens, and Walmart. In general, prices ranged between $9 and $10 for a 1.5 fl oz bottle at the time of our research.
Obviously, purchasing online (versus in-person) could add S&H charges to your overall cost, which will vary by retailer. Return policies will also differ, so be sure to verify this information before agreeing to a purchase.
What Are Scalpicin Customers Saying in Their Online Reviews?
Across their different quantities and packages on sites like Amazon, Walmart.com, Walgreens.com, and CVS.com, we encountered hundreds of combined customer reviews for Scalpicin, who gave the formula an average overall rating of about 4.5 stars.
Most compliments referenced the quick (several used the word ‘immediate’) relief it provided, even when nothing else had worked; competitive price, and gentle ingredients.
But like most OTC scalp itch medications, common complaints related to no, or short-lived, results.
Note: According to one answered question on Amazon, Scalpicin does have a slight smell, so it’s technically not fragrance-free. However, they emphasized that the smell dissipates in seconds and becomes unnoticeable.
From a company perspective, Scalpicin is manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser, who is based out of Parsippany, NJ and has been in business since 1999. They held an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and 27 closed complaints, as of 11/01/17.
When details were available, most of these appeared to revolve around difficulty obtaining refunds, although a company representative responded in each instance with a solution.
Are There Other Hydrocortisone-Based Scalp Itch Treatments Like Scalpicin?
Because hydrocortisone is often effective for helping to reduce swelling, itching, and redness, it’s found in perhaps hundreds of different over-the-counter products formulated to relieve side effects related to insect bites, poison oak/ivy, eczema, dermatitis, allergies, general rash, and so forth.
As far as direct Scalpicin competitors, we found several generic pharmacy products containing the same 1% hydrocortisone, in addition to a majority of the same inactive ingredients like denatured alcohol, aloe leaf juice, tea tree oil, menthol, and tocopheryl acetate.
The biggest differences were that some of these options could be found in larger bottles (up to 2.5 fl oz), while several could be purchased for as little as $7. How to choose?
As with any medical treatment, whether over-the-counter or in-office, you first need to find out what’s causing your issues in order to maximize its effectiveness. And to do this, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Then, if they determine that you’re experiencing side effects related to psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or eczema, they can provide science-based insight into whether or not a hydrocortisone-based product like Scalpicin would provide meaningful benefits.
Once you and your doctor have narrowed down your options, be sure to learn more about the company: Do they come with mostly positive online customer feedback? Or, do you find that customers commonly complain about the same concerns?
Either way, this could provide a great deal of insight into what you might experience once you become a customer.
Bottom Line: Is Scalpicin Right for You?
If you’re suffering from a chronically itchy scalp caused by psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or eczema, you just want relief—now. And based on the formula’s mostly positive online customer feedback, it seems like Scalpicin could have a real chance of helping.
Just be sure to speak with your doctor first, and also ask whether or not a generic formula with a potentially lower price could deliver more bang for your buck.
In the end, if you're dissatisfied with Scalpicin's performance, it's sold at a variety of national retailers, so returning it might not be much more difficult than driving to your local pharmacy.