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  5. Different Scalp Conditions + Their Symptoms And Treatments

Note: This article contains graphic imagery.

It can be alarming! When you’re casually stroking your hair and suddenly come across a bump on your scalp. Or, that time when you suddenly start experiencing unusually itchy scalp and dandruff.

But don’t lose your calm over it, as there is nothing to fear. Most scalp conditions are quite common and can be treated effectively. Go ahead to find the best possible treatments for different scalp conditions according to hair care experts.

Different Types Of Scalp Conditions

1. Hair Loss

Hair loss [1] is a common scalp problem that can occur suddenly or over the years. It can be temporary or permanent depending on the cause of hair loss. Losing about 50-100 strands of hair everyday is considered normal. Excessive and unusual hair loss needs medical attention.


  • Large amounts of hair blocking your shower
  • Strands of hair in your hair brush
  • Hair that is prone to falling off with gentle pulling
  • Thinning patches, in some cases


  • Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth or menopause
  • Thyroid
  • Medications to treat cancer, high blood pressure, depression or arthritis
  • Alopecia (an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles) [2]
  • Scalp infections like ringworm
  • Male-pattern hair loss caused due to genetics


Minoxidil [3] is an over-the-counter (OTC) ingredient that is administered as the first line of defence to the people with hair loss. It is found in the form of topical creams or gels. Side effects of this ingredient include scalp irritation and hair growth on wanted areas like the forehead or face.

Propecia (finasteride) is a prescription medicine for male-pattern hair loss. Hair transplant surgery [4] is another form of treatment for hair loss, that involves moving a part of the skin with hair to the bald parts of the scalp.

Scalp reduction is a surgery wherein the surgeon removes part of the scalp that lacks hair and covers it up with a part that has hair.

Woman holding hair comb and suprising about her hair loss

2. Psoriasis

Psoriasis [5] is a skin condition that is found on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. It triggers your body to make many new cells on the skin.


  • Red scaly patches on scalp
  • Sharply defined skin patches on the scalp
  • Itchy but sometimes can be asymptomatic (meaning showing no symptoms)
  • Bleeding and hair loss in some cases


Scalp psoriasis is a skin condition that is an autoimmune disorder [6]. Your immune system works against your own body instead of protecting it, if you have an autoimmune disorder.


Topical corticosteroids is a common treatment for scalp psoriasis. Vitamin D, coal tar shampoo, anthralin and retinoids also work. Scalp psoriasis involves the use of lighter formulas like sprays, lotions, gels, foams and liquids due to hair as an obstruction.

Your doctor may prescribe oral medication or injections in case you do not respond to topical treatments. UV light therapy (shining light on the skin to slow down the growth of new cells on the skin) is another treatment option.

Man head showing Psoriasis

3. Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis [7] or ringworm is a fungal infection of the scalp. It is not a living worm that affects the scalp but the name is because the fungus makes circular marks on the skin. While ringworm commonly affects children, it can occur in people of all ages. It is highly contagious.


  • Itchy patches
  • Red areas or bald spots
  • Brittle hair
  • Slight fever in some cases


  • Fungi called dermatophytes [8] cause ringworm. They thrive on the warm and sweaty skin of the scalp.
  • Poor hygiene and sharing combs, beddings etc. used by infected people causes ringworm.
  • House pets like cats and dogs can spread ringworm and cattle, horses and pigs can be carriers too.


Oral antifungal medication like griseofulvin [9] or terbinafine hydrochloride (Lamisil) can be taken for six weeks. You may have side effects like diarrhea and an upset stomach. Your doctor may also prescribe a mediated shampoo alongside containing ketoconazole or selenium sulfide.

Man head showing Tinea

4. Head Lice

Head lice [10] is an annoying scalp condition that is most prevalent among school-going children. Lice are parasites [11] that live on the human scalp to derive their nutrition by sucking human blood. They look like the seeds of sesame.


  • Itchy scalp
  • Feeling that something is always crawling on the scalp
  • Sores or redness on the scalp due to scratching


  • Head-to-head transmission
  • Sharing items like combs, hair brushes, hair accessories, towels etc.
  • Some chances of transmission from items that come in contact with the head, like pillows.


The most common and natural method to treat lice is by using oils and combing the hair with a fine-toothed comb. Mayonnaise, vinegar and conditioner are also some of the at-home treatment methods available.

Pyrethrin [12] is an OTC medication for lice. It is a pesticide that can be used in people over 2 years of age. Dimethicone is another non-pesticide OTC drug.

Prescription medications include benzyl alcohol lotion and malathion (ovide), both of which can be used in people over 6 years of age. The latter is not recommended for pregnant and breast-feeding women.

Lindane [13] is a pesticide available on prescription (in the form of lotions and shampoos) but can lead to seizures and death. Talk to your doctor in detail if you have to use lindane.

Head Lice

5. Dandruff

Dandruff [14] on the scalp can be noticed with the little white flakes that are nothing but dead skin cells.


  • White flakes on the scalp that eventually fall off on the shoulders
  • Itchy, dry and red scalp


  • Dry weather conditions
  • Fungus breading on the oil or sebum
  • Hair colors
  • Hair care products that react with your scalp


The treatment of dandruff includes using medicated shampoos containing ingredients like coal tar, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole and zinc pyrithione. If the dandruff does not go away with these kinds of shampoos, you may need a prescription strength medication from your doctor.

Woman holding hair showing dandruff

6. Cradle Cap

Cradle crap [15] affects infants, usually in the first 6 months, and is a form of seborrheic dermatitis.


  • Greasy and yellow scales
  • Painless
  • Non-itchy


  • Causes of seborrheic dermatitis or cradle crap is unknown. It is widely believed that it may arise from overactive sebaceous glands, fungal infection or both.


Cradle crap usually clears up by the first birthday. Gently apply baby oil on the scalp of your baby and wash your baby's hair with a baby shampoo. Then brush the scalp gently to loosen the flakes. You can consult your doctor for a medicated shampoo if the regular baby shampoo does not work.

Cradle Cap

7. Folliculitis

Folliculitis [16] is an infection or inflammation of the hair follicle. Hair follicle is a pore or opening to the root of your hair.


  • Small red, white or yellow bumps
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Pus
  • Soreness


  • Bacteria called staphylococcus or fungi
  • Contracting via towels, soaps and clothes
  • Shaving, waxing or plucking
  • Weak immune system


Folliculitis goes away on its own. Your doctor will prescribe oral or topical antibiotics, or antifungals. Antihistamines [17] can be used for itching or pain. In case of fever, spreading rash, or pus filled and smelly bumps, talk to your doctor.

Head showing folliculitis disease

Tips For A Healthy Scalp

  • Use an exfoliating shampoo containing salicylic acid or white willow bark extract if you have psoriasis.
  • Avoid head-to-head contact with others to prevent head lice.
  • Massage your scalp to improve blood circulation. You can do this while shampooing your hair or oiling.
  • Practise good hair care routine. Wash your hair and condition once every 2 or 3 days.
  • Protect your scalp from the sun using a hat or a scarf.
  • Refrain from using harsh skin care products, heat styling or hair colors that can damage your scalp.
  • Eat a balanced diet and keep stress at bay using meditation and yoga.

Wrapping up

Scalp conditions occur as a result of poor hygiene, infections by bacteria and fungi or harsh hair care. Irrespective of the cause, there are ways to treat them effectively as mentioned above. Always talk to your dermatologist before considering a treatment method. A healthy scalp means healthy hair. Handle your scalp and hair with care, always!

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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