Healthy Living

What Could Scabs on Your Scalp Be Telling You?

What Could Scabs on Your Scalp Be Telling You?


The scabs that occur on the scalp can be quite itchy, frustrating, and unsightly. Scratching the scalp can also worsen the problem along with increasing the risk of developing an infection. In most cases, the scabs on the scalp tend to clear up on their own without the use of over-the-counter treatments. 

Most of the time, these scabs are not a sign of a serious medical problem. However, if the scabs are spreading and seem to be infected, it is highly recommended to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. 


Below are some the common causes of scalp problems:

1. Contact Dermatitis

This condition is basically a kind of allergic reaction to something the body has come in contact with. There are a lot of beauty and health products in the market, such as dyes, jewelry, and shampoo that can lead to an allergic reaction. Certain materials such as latex can also cause an allergic reaction when it comes into contact with the body.

Similarly, outdoor foliage including poison oak and poison ivy can also cause allergic reactions. Some individuals may develop a bad allergic reaction when toxic substances, such as bleach or battery acid come in contact with the scalp.

When the scalp develops an allergic reaction, it may lead to the development of dry and itchy patches. When people scratch these areas, the problem can worsen and would start to scab or bleed. Most of the time, the scalp clears up on its own, but when the areas become infected or have started to spread, immediately consult a doctor. 

2. Dandruff or Seborrheic Dermatitis

Dandruff in adults is also medically referred as seborrheic dermatitis, which causes symptoms, such as flaking, itching, and scabbing. In this condition, crusty and white or yellow skin patches are attached to the hair shaft. The exact cause of this skin condition is unclear and has nothing to do with hygiene.

People can shampoo their hair every day and can still develop dandruff. When it comes to infants, this condition is called cradle cap. It is not a contagious condition or a sign of poor health. 

Unfortunately, dandruff can be quite hard to control. In certain cases, this condition may become a long-term problem, which comes and goes. To help control the symptoms, over-the-counter medicated shampoos, antidandruff shampoos, and topical ointments for dandruff can be used. Prescription medications are used if over-the-counter treatments do not help. However, like any other medications, some of these drugs can cause side effects. For this reason, it is very important to carefully follow the package instructions. 

3. Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is one of the most common skin disorders that causes raised, scaly, and reddish skin patches. It can occur as a patch or several patches. It can even affect a person's entire scalp. The patches can also spread to the back of the neck, forehead, and inside or behind the ears. 

Mild scalp psoriasis is usually treated with medicated shampoos that are designed to relieve itching and treat the affected areas of the scalp. Injectable or topical steroids may be required in severe cases. However, antibiotic therapy may be needed if the scalp scabs are accompanied by swollen lymph nodes.

4. Seborrhoeic Eczema 

Seborrheic eczema often develops in areas of the body that are oily. This condition usually affects the scalp, but can also occur in other areas of the body, such as:

  • Eyebrows
  • Nose
  • Upper chest region
  • At the back
  • In and around the ears

5. Lichen Planopilaris 

Lichen planopilaris is an inflammatory condition that causes scarring hair loss. The condition tends to destroy hair follicles and replaces them with scarring. Although this condition is rare, women are 2-5 times more prone to developing this condition than men. It is also mostly seen in Caucasian adults with the mid-40s as its average age of onset. 

Treatment often involves topical corticosteroids or oral steroids. However, in some cases, injectable steroids tend to be more effective. If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to permanent hair loss. Itching of the scalp can be relieved by antihistamines. 

6. Ringworm of the Scalp

Ringworm is a type of fungal infection that involves the hair shafts, skin, and scalp. This fungal infection causes scaly and itchy skin patches and is very contagious. 

Treatment often involves the use of oral antifungal medications and medicated shampoos. When ringworm is left untreated, it can lead to an extreme scarring, hair loss, and inflammation.

7. Head Lice

Head lice do not usually cause major health problems or carry disease. When people have head lice, they usually experience scalp itching, a tickling feeling, or a feeling that something moving is on the scalp. If the scalp is frequently scratched, it may end up with scabs, which then leads to an infection. 

Treatment for head lice can be purchased over-the-counter. Preventive measures can be done to stop an infestation. 

8. Eosinophilic Folliculitis

Eosinophilic folliculitis is a skin and scalp disorder, which is often seen in people who have HIV/AIDS. This condition causes itchy and inflamed sores that are filled with pus. The sores can also spread and recur. A dark skin patch remains after the sores heal. 

To help relieve the symptoms and control the infection, oral medications, creams, and medicated shampoos can be used. See a doctor if you have HIV/AIDS and notice scabs on your scalp and skin. 

9. Shingles

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. This virus remains dormant in the body after being infected by chickenpox. When the virus is activated, shingles occurs. 

This viral infection primarily affects the skin. However, the scalp can also be affected along with the formation of scabs. The rashes appear as small blisters that turn yellowish in color and then form a crust that often lasts for two weeks. These rashes can also be very painful. The infection may also cause facial weakness and headaches. 

Shingles treatment includes topical ointments, pain medications, and antiviral drugs. 

When to See a Doctor

It is quite important to know the root cause of your scalp problem since scalp itchiness and scabs can have a number of causes. If the symptoms persist even after using over-the-counter medications, see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. 

Key Takeaways

  • Most of the time, scalp scabs are not a sign of a serious medical problem. 
  • If the scabs are spreading and seem to be infected, it is highly recommended to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. 
  • In certain cases, if scalp scabs are left untreated, they may cause permanent scarring and hair loss