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There are many different conditions that can affect the scalp. Scalp conditions range from allergic reactions and minor infections to more serious health conditions. Treatments vary between scalp conditions.

This article will look at some different conditions that can affect the scalp and their treatment options.

A head louse is a parasitic insect that can live on a person’s scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common symptom is an itchy scalp. A person may also see lice crawling on their scalp.


Treatment may consist of using over-the-counter medicated shampoos or prescription medications to kill the lice and their eggs.

A person can also use a head lice comb to help remove the insects and their eggs.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that occurs when the skin grows too rapidly.

According to one 2018 article, around 45–56% of those with psoriasis experience the condition on the scalp.

Scalp psoriasis can cause flushed, flaky, and itchy patches of skin to appear. The skin can be dry, and the surface can crack and bleed.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the patches may extend to the forehead, around the ears, and down to the neck. A person may also experience some hair loss.

However, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) state that this hair loss is temporary, and that hair typically grows back after the psoriasis has cleared.


Some treatment options include:

  • topical medications
  • medicated shampoos
  • injections
  • light treatments
  • scale softeners

People can purchase medicated shampoos without a prescription.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of eczema that resembles psoriasis.

According to the National Eczema Association, the condition appears with dry, flushed skin and greasy yellow or white scales that often occur near the ears or around the hairline.

A person may also experience itchiness or discomfort.

Doctors refer to seborrheic dermatitis that affects babies as cradle cap. It may also appear on their buttocks.

In adults and teenagers, it may appear on the chest, nose, upper back, armpits, or groin.


Some treatment options include:

  • topical ointments, creams, or shampoos
  • gentle cleaning of the area
  • topical corticosteroid ointments

Home treatment

According to the AAD, home treatment includes using regular shampoo and dandruff shampoo.

Some active ingredients in dandruff shampoos to look for include:

  • salicylic acid and sulfur
  • coal tar
  • zinc pyrithione
  • selenium sulfide
  • ketoconazole

For people of African descent, the AAD recommend using dandruff shampoo once per week.

For those with naturally straight hair, use dandruff shampoo on the first day and regular shampoo on the second day, and continue alternating between the two.

To remove scales from the skin, the AAD recommend performing the following skin care routine:

  1. Wet the skin.
  2. Wash the skin using a soap containing 2% zinc pyrithione.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. After taking a shower or bath, use a moisturizer that is fragrance-free.

According to the United States National Library of Medicine, androgenetic alopecia is a common cause of hair loss.

In males, common symptoms include a receding hairline and balding at the crown. This balding can progress and lead to partial or complete baldness.

In females, the condition leads to thinning of the hair over the entire scalp.


Treatment may include medication (such as minoxidil) or surgery (such as a hair transplant).

Learn more about the treatment options for hair loss in females here.

Learn more about the treatment options for hair loss in males here.

Tinea capitis, also known as ringworm, is a fungal infection that affects the scalp.

Symptoms include:

  • dry scaling, similar to dandruff
  • smooth areas where hair is lost
  • yellow crusts
  • matted hair
  • an inflamed mass, similar to an abscess
  • black dots where the hair has broken off


A person can take oral antifungal agents. They can also use antifungal shampoos and keep the area clean and dry.

Learn more about the treatment for tinea capitis here.

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the skin on the scalp comes into contact with an allergen.

The scalp, like other areas of skin, may present with a rash.

A person may also experience swelling and water blisters. If the blisters break, they may form crusts that can cause the area to darken.


According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, treating this condition usually involves avoiding contact with the substance that caused the reaction.

Doctors will often tailor the treatment based on what caused the reaction.

Learn more about the treatment for contact dermatitis here.

Lichen planus is a common condition that causes inflammation to affect the skin and mucous membranes.

Lichen planus presents as an itchy rash on the skin or scalp. If it affects the scalp, it is usually a variant called lichen planopilaris.

The rash often contains hard, shiny red or purple bumps. There may be scaling and white lines in the rash. It may also cause thinning hair or hair loss.

A person may develop a rash and sores on their genitals, mouth, or other areas of the body.


Treatment may only be necessary if the symptoms are severe. The condition may clear within 2 years.

Some treatments a doctor may suggest include:

  • topical or oral steroids
  • antihistamines
  • tacrolimus and pimecrolimus
  • pulsed UV, which is a type of UV light treatment
  • retinoic acid

Alopecia areata is a condition wherein the immune system attacks healthy hair follicles. It can cause hair loss anywhere on a person’s body.

There are three types of alopecia areata, which are:

  • Alopecia areata: This causes small, coin-sized patches of hair loss on the scalp, around the beard area, on the eyelashes, in the armpits, inside the nose and ears, and in the eyebrows.
  • Alopecia totalis: This causes total hair loss on the scalp.
  • Alopecia universalis: This causes total hair loss over the entire body and scalp.


Treatment may include oral or injected medications.

However, treatments are not effective for everyone. A person should talk to their doctor about the most effective treatment option for them.

Folliculitis is an infection that affects a person’s hair follicles. It can appear nearly anywhere that hair grows, including the scalp.

According to the AAD, there are several potential causes, including shaving or wearing tight clothing.

A person with folliculitis may not feel anything at all. However, they may experience itching.


Folliculitis may resolve when a person stops doing the activity that triggered it.

If that does not work, the AAD recommend applying a warm compress to the affected area three to four times per day in 15-minute sessions.

A person should see a doctor if they develop a rash or lesions or experience any unexplained hair loss on their scalp.

A person should talk to a doctor about their symptoms and any other medical conditions they are living with.

They should also talk to a doctor if they have tried home treatments but they have not been effective or if their current treatment is not having an effect.

A doctor can reevaluate the treatment and potentially recommend different therapies.

Several different conditions that can affect the scalp.

A person can try self-care strategies for some of the conditions. However, for others, it is best to work with a doctor to treat the condition.

A person should talk to a doctor if their treatment is not working to decrease the severity of the condition.


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