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What are the Different Causes of Scalp Rashes?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Scalp rashes are relatively common and can be quite troubling to the patient. Most factors that can lead to scalp rashes can be treated safely at home with lifestyle modification or over-the-counter medications. Medical intervention is seldom required, although many patients prefer to see a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating skin disorders. Some of the more common reasons scalp rashes develop include dry skin, dandruff, and dermatitis.

Dry skin is one of the most common contributing factors leading to scalp rashes. Dry skin can cause itching and redness, and if the patient scratches the affected area, the rash could worsen. With a dry skin rash, the redness tends to go away after washing or brushing the hair. Dry scalp can often be relieved by keeping the scalp moisturized with a good conditioner or conditioning shampoo.

Dandruff is among the leading causes of scalp rashes. Dandruff causes itchy, flaky skin and can often be cured by frequent hair washing or by using over-the-counter shampoos specially formulated to get rid of dandruff. If these methods do not provide sufficient relief, prescription-strength dandruff medications may be prescribed by a doctor.

A skin condition known as irritant contact dermatitis often leads to scalp rashes. This condition can cause redness, inflammation, and intense itching of the scalp. Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by an allergy or sensitivity to certain chemicals or detergents. Switching to milder shampoos and hair products can often prevent flare-ups. Medicated shampoos or ointments are sometimes prescribed by a doctor if the rash is severe.

Ringworm is a fungal infection that can be the culprit for some scalp rashes. Children are more prone to developing ringworm than are adults, although this type of infection can appear in anyone of any age. The rash with ringworm generally appears in the shape of a ring and can cause extreme itching. Over-the-counter ringworm medications can be found in almost any drug store. Fungal infections are contagious, so if someone else is applying the medication, gloves should be worn during application.

Boils on the scalp may sometimes appear, leading to scalp rashes and skin irritation. These boils often appear as round, pimple-like bumps on the scalp, particularly near the hair follicles. This often occurs due to inflammation or blockage of the hair follicles and typically resolves on its own. Over-the-counter antibiotic cream can help to heal any developing infection, but if signs of infection continue, a doctor should be consulted for further evaluation.

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Discussion Comments
By anon318613 — On Feb 08, 2013

I had my hair braided in the Bahamas, and now I have an itchy scalp rash. How should I treat it?

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