Causes of scabs on the scalp and how to treat them.


Scabs, sores, and bumps on the scalp can cause pain, itching, and irritation. Most scabs and sores on the scalp are nothing to worry about and will go away on their own or with over-the-counter medications.

While you may be tempted to touch or scratch them for relief, it can make them worse or lead to an infection. In some cases, scalp scabs can also be a medical condition that requires medical attention and treatment.

Here are some of the most common causes of scalp scabbing, how to treat them, and when to see your doctor.

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Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an itchy red rash caused by direct contact with irritants or allergens. Combing the rash can lead to open wounds and scabs on the scalp.

Many products, including fragrances, soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, and plants, contain ingredients or substances that can cause contact dermatitis.

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Home remedies often help relieve the painful, itchy rash caused by contact dermatitis. Here are a few you can try.

  • Cold compresses : Cold compresses can temporarily relieve the itching, burning, and burns caused by the rash. Apply the rash to the rash with a cool, damp cloth for 10-15 minutes several times a day.
  • Moisturizing : Lotions and creams can act as a barrier to dry, cracked skin and relieve discomfort. Choose a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free product so the rash doesn't get worse.
  • Oatmeal baths : A warm oatmeal bath can help soothe rashes. Adding oatmeal to your bath water can relieve itching and discomfort. Colloidal oatmeal bath supplements are available without a prescription.

If home remedies don't work, your doctor may prescribe a treatment. Medications that can be used to treat contact dermatitis include:

  • Antihistamines : These medications help reduce inflammation and swelling caused by the rash.
  • Antibiotics : Open sores on the scalp from scratching can lead to a bacterial infection that may need treatment with antibiotics.
  • Corticosteroids : These medications can be applied to the skin (topically) to relieve the rash, or they can be taken by mouth (by mouth) to reduce inflammation.


Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that occurs most often on the elbows, knees, trunk, and scalp. It causes thick, gray or silver spots on the skin that do not scratch.

Scalp psoriasis can look like dandruff flakes or thick, hard plaques that cover the scalp.

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Treatment for psoriasis depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, scalp psoriasis can be treated with a medicated shampoo that relieves itching and reduces excessive skin growth.

You can also use over-the-counter medicated shampoos with salicylic acid (which helps remove excess skin) and coal tar (which reduces inflammation and slows the growth of skin cells).

If you have a more severe case of psoriasis or if over-the-counter medications haven't worked for you, your doctor may prescribe medications or other treatments.

Other treatments for scalp psoriasis include:

  • Light Therapy : First-line treatment for moderate to severe scalp psoriasis, light therapy exposes the skin to a controlled amount of natural or artificial light.
  • Oral or injectable medications : Corticosteroids, methotrexate, and biologics can help slow the growth of skin cells, reduce inflammation, or suppress an overactive immune system.
  • Real solutions : Healing shampoos, topical steroids, and resins slow down skin growth and reduce inflammation and swelling.


Lice are wingless insects that live on the skin of the human skull and feed on blood. If you have lice, you may feel something move along your scalp. Lice bites can make the scalp itchy.

Even if your head itches, scratching can cause sores and scabs on your scalp. Lice are not carriers of bacterial diseases, but itchy scabs on the scalp can lead to infection.

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Lice are very contagious. If you have lice or someone else in your household, it is important to treat the condition quickly.

There are several ways to treat head lice, including:

  • Over-the-counter products: Shampoos containing pyrethrin or permethrin are the first line of treatment for head lice. Follow the directions on the label when using these products. If over-the-counter options don't work, your doctor may prescribe shampoos with different ingredients.
  • Oral prescription drugs : Medications, such as oral ivermectin, are prescribed for lice infestations that do not respond to over-the-counter medications.
  • Prescription Topical Medications: Topical medications such as Malofos can be applied directly to the hair and rubbed into the scalp.

If you have lice or someone else in your home, it is also important to wash all bedding, clothing, and furniture in hot water and dry on high heat. Soak all combs and combs in hot water (130 ° F) to kill lice and their eggs.

Dermatitis herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a chronic skin disorder that occurs in people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Causes severe itching on the skin and along the hairline.

Many people experience a burning sensation even before the lumps appear. The red bumps and blisters crust over and usually heal within a week or two. Combing blisters and bumps can also cause scabs on your scalp.

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Dermatitis herpetiformis is treated with a prescription antibiotic called dapsone, which provides almost immediate relief from symptoms. However, the medicine does not cure the disease, it only relieves the symptoms.

Since this condition is caused by gluten sensitivity, a strict gluten-free diet is the best remedy. Some people with dermatitis herpetiformis may need to continue taking medications on a gluten-free diet until the skin is completely clear.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder of the sebaceous areas of the scalp. It causes patches of oily skin that are covered in hard, powdery, white or yellow, itchy scales. Combing these patches can cause scabs on the scalp.

Some scientists believe that this condition may be caused by an overgrowth of a yeast of the genus Malassezia. This type of yeast it is often found in large amounts on the skin of people with seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic dermatitis is also called " crib " when it hurts in babies and "dandruff" when it occurs in adults.

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Home remedies can help control and eliminate seborrheic dermatitis, including over-the-counter shampoos (such as Head & Shoulders, Selsun Blue, T / Gel) that contain ingredients that help treat the condition.

You can also apply mineral oil or olive oil to your scalp, wait an hour, and then comb or style your hair to reduce dry, crusty blemishes.

If home remedies or over-the-counter products don't work, your doctor may prescribe medicated shampoos or ointments that are applied directly to the scalp to reduce inflammation. If local treatments don't work, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication, which you take in pill form.


Eczema usually appears in visible areas of the skin, but it can also appear in less visible areas, such as the crown. Scalp eczema causes itching, dryness, redness, and inflammation of the skin, and it can also cause a burning sensation.

Although scalp eczema itself does not cause scabs, scratching the itchy parts of the scalp can damage the skin, which in turn can lead to scabbing.

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There is no cure for scalp eczema, but treatment can help reduce symptoms. You can try an over-the-counter medicated shampoo to relieve the itchiness and get rid of the flaky, flaky skin that covers your scalp.

Look for shampoos that contain salicylic acid, coal tar, or zinc to help manage this condition. You can also try topical ointments, creams, or sprays that contain these ingredients. Apply them to the areas of your scalp that are irritating and itchy.

If you have severe scalp eczema and over-the-counter medications don't help, your doctor may prescribe medications with higher doses of the ingredients. They may also prescribe medications such as corticosteroids, ciclopirox, sodium sulfacetamide, or other medications that suppress the immune system.

Your doctor may also recommend light therapy ( phototherapy ), a procedure in which your scalp is carefully exposed to ultraviolet light. Also, sun exposure can improve scalp eczema symptoms.


Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the chickenpox virus (herpes) . The virus causes a painful rash with blisters that break open and eventually scabs. Along with a rash, shingles can cause headaches, fever, chills, and an upset stomach.

Shingles are most common on the face and body, but blisters can also form on the scalp, which can be painful to brush or brush.

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There is no cure for shingles, but medications can help reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the outbreak.

Medications often prescribed for shingles include:

  • Antiviral medications (eg, Valtrex, Zovirax)
  • Analgesic
  • Local treatments

Eosinophilic folliculitis

Eosinophilic folliculitis is a skin and scalp disorder that causes itching, redness, or bumps on the skin and pustules (pus-containing bumps) that eventually crust over. Scabs on the scalp can spread and reappear.

The disease is not contagious and is most often diagnosed in people with advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Although the sores itch, it is best not to scratch. This can lead to scabbing and infection.

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Treatment for eosinophilic folliculitis depends on the severity of the condition and the person's response to the above medications.

Possible treatments for this condition include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Dapsone (antibiotic)
  • Topical and oral steroids.
  • Phototherapy (light therapy)

Neuropathic itching

Some people get itchy scalps. With neuropathic itching, the rash is absent. The person simply feels the need to scratch, which can lead to scabs.

The cause of neuropathic itching is unclear, but it is believed to be related to the cutaneous nerves. It can also be associated with metabolic, orthopedic, neurological, infectious and autoimmune diseases.

Neuropathic itching can often be treated with systemic medications such as gabapentin.


Scabs form on the skin and scalp during the healing process as new skin grows over damaged skin.

Scabs are a sign of healing and it is important to leave them alone. When you pinch the scab, you can expose the new, delicate skin under it to infection. Removing scabs can also cause scars.

While this can be difficult, try not to scratch or pick at the scabs. They usually fall off and disappear on their own in a few days to two weeks, depending on the size and cause of the scab.

Scab treatment

Scabs can be a sign of a skin condition or disease. While many causes can be addressed at home, you need to know what is causing the scabs to ensure that you are using the correct treatment.

Follow all of your doctor's recommendations, including taking prescription medications to help the scabs heal and reduce the risk of possible complications.

Home remedies

Home remedies do not replace the medications or treatments your doctor recommends, but they can be complementary therapies.

  • Aloe Vera : You can cut the leaf of the aloe vera plant to extract the gel or purchase an over-the-counter aloe vera product. Apply it directly to the affected scalp to soothe the itchiness. Research has shown that aloe vera gel can be an effective treatment for mild to moderate psoriasis.
  • Tea tree oil : This essential oil is sold as an oil or in some shampoos. Studies have shown that tea tree oil accelerates (accelerates) wound healing and may also be an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.
  • Omega-3 supplements: These supplements are available over the counter in capsules or in liquid form. Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation caused by eczema and psoriasis, but more clinical research is needed to determine how effective they are as a treatment for these conditions.

Frequently asked questions

Why do I have scabs on my scalp?

Scabs on the scalp are usually harmless and go away on their own. Sometimes scalp scabs are a sign of a condition that requires treatment, such as dermatitis, lice, or psoriasis.

How to get rid of scabs on the scalp?

Depending on the cause of your scalp, you can treat it with medicated shampoos (available without a prescription) or prescription drugs such as antibiotics or steroids. These treatments can help relieve inflammation and redness and prevent infection.  

How to stop scratching the scabs on your scalp?

Removing a scab from the scalp can increase the risk of scarring or infection. Try to distract yourself by walking, painting, or doing something you enjoy, especially if you keep your hands busy.

If you are scratching at the scabs while you sleep, you may want to wear gloves at night to avoid scratching and give them a chance to heal.

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