Scabs and sores on the scalp

Scalp problems

Scabs and sores on the scalp can be itchy and uncomfortable. Scratching usually makes the situation worse and increases the chances of infection. In many cases, scabs and sores on the scalp go away on their own or with continuous use of appropriate shampoo.

In most cases, they do not indicate a serious illness. If you can’t identify the cause of the scabs and sores, or if they are spreading or appearing to be infected, see your doctor.

Read about some of the most common causes of scalp problems, like dandruff, lice, and more.

Causes of scabs and sores on the scalp:

Here are details of what causes scalp sores.

  • Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to something you have touched.

An allergic reaction can be caused by jewelry or cosmetics, such as inappropriate shampoo and hair dye.

Certain materials, such as latex, can also cause a reaction. The same is true for some plants, such as poison ivy or poison oak. You may have a bad reaction if toxic substances, like battery acid or bleach, get on your scalp.

An allergic reaction can cause your scalp to develop dry, itchy or burning patches. If you scratch it, it can bleed and scab over.

Contact dermatitis is not contagious.

How to treat it

In most cases, your scalps improve on its own, but see your doctor if the area:

  • looks infected
  • is causing more pain
  • is spreading

Be very careful not to come into contact with the irritant again. Allergic reactions can be intensified with multiple exposures.

Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that can affect your scalp. Symptoms include:

  • itch
  • peeling
  • scabs

Scabbed patches of skin are usually white or yellowish in color and can adhere to the hair shaft.

This condition is not contagious. Its cause is unclear.

But it is not usually a sign of poor health and is not related to a lack of cleanliness. You can shampoo your hair every day and still have dandruff.

Dandruff can even be seen in newborn babies due to a condition known as cradle cap.

However, it can take a long time to control dandruff. In some cases, it could become a lifelong problem that comes and goes.

How to treat it

You can buy OTC medicated shampoos and topical ointments designed to treat dandruff. There are many medicinal dandruff shampoo options available. Some ingredients to look for when selecting a shampoo are:

  • zinc pyrithione
  • salicylic acid
  • selenium sulfide
  • tar

You will probably need to try different types of medicated shampoos to find the one that effectively controls your dandruff the most suitable.

Always be sure to follow the directions on the packaging carefully. Report any problems to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Seborrheic eczema

In the case of seborrheic eczema, your scalp becomes irritated, red and flaky. Thick scabs can be itchy and very uncomfortable.

The inflammation caused by seborrheic eczema can cause it to spread to the face, neck, and behind the ears. In severe cases, it can also spread to the rest of the body.

The condition is not contagious and the cause is unknown.

How to treat it

Medicated shampoos can help loosen the scales that cause eczema. The ingredients to look for in over-the-counter medicated shampoo for seborrheic eczema are:


  • zinc pyrithione
  • salicylic acid
  • selenium sulfide
  • tar

A prescription topical ointment may also be helpful.


By Alex D