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  5. Scabs On The Scalp: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Are you suffering from scabs on your scalp? If you’re unsure of the cause and how you can treat them, you have come to the right place. Scalp scabs can become a recurring problem if not treated correctly.

Usually formed when your scalp is affected by a skin disease or has suffered an injury, scabs are often part of the healing process. However, at times, they can also be a symptom of a specific skin condition.

Fortunately, the ancient science of Ayurveda cites a number of powerful herbal treatments that can easily help resolve the problem with zero side effects. Let’s find out more.

Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks

‘’The scalp is rich in oil and sweat glands. As it is exposed to the external environment, it needs special attention.”

Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix

What Are Scalp Scabs & How Are They Formed?

Scabs on the scalp result from injuries or skin damage caused by external factors or internal skin conditions. These are formed in the following manner.

  • Your skin is the first layer of protection for your body. In the case of a skin wound, there is a damage of tissue and the epidermal layer is left vulnerable to pathogen attacks and infections.
  • To prevent this, your body generates a repair process. Inflammation following the injury attracts platelets to form a clot at the wound site.
  • To cement the clot, fibrin, a type of protein, forms a web like structure through the clot.
  • These platelets and fibrin dry up to form scabs or a protective layer under which the wound begins to heal.
  • Once the healing process is complete with cell regeneration, the scabs fall off.

What Causes Scabs On The Scalp?

fungal skin infection

1. Seborrheic Dermatitis

This inflammatory skin condition leads to the formation of yellow or white scabs on the scalp. Redness and itching often accompany these scaly patches.

When seborrheic dermatitis occurs on the scalp, it is known as dandruff. Though the exact cause is unknown, it is assumed to be an immune response to the overgrowth of Malassezia yeast on the skin.

Treatment

  • Treatments for removing scabs on the scalp caused by seborrheic dermatitis include scalp shampoos and topical solutions containing antifungal agents such as Ketoconazole, Bifonazole, Zinc Pyrithione, Selenium Sulfide etc.

2. Contact Dermatitis

Your skincare products may contain ingredients that your skin is sensitive to. When such an irritant comes in contact with your skin, it can trigger an allergic reaction called contact dermatitis [1].

This condition causes inflammation, redness, itching and skin rash resulting in the formation of scabs. Haircare products such as certain shampoos or conditioners can cause scabs on your scalp from contact dermatitis.

Treatment

  • The first treatment is to identify the trigger factor and stop its usage.
  • Cold compresses can reduce skin irritation.
  • In extreme cases, topical anti-inflammatory creams, anti-allergic medication, systemic steroids or antibiotics may be prescribed.

3. Scalp Folliculitis

Scalp folliculitis [2] occurs when a hair follicle gets inflamed due to a bacterial or fungal infection. The condition is characterized by painful, itchy pustules and papules that later form hardened, blackish scabs on the scalp. Extreme cases of scalp folliculitis can cause scars on the skin.

Treatment

  • Cleaning the affected area with antibacterial or anti-fungal shampoos or lotions containing Ketoconazole or Zinc pyrithione can help remove scabs caused by scalp folliculitis.
  • Topical antibiotic ointments such as Mupirocin and Clindamycin may be prescribed.
  • In extreme cases, oral antibiotics such as Cephalexin can be given.

4. Scalp Psoriasis

Presumed to be caused by a malfunction of the immune system, here skin cells multiply too quickly, forming silvery-white scabs over patches of inflamed skin. Scalp psoriasis may extend beyond the hairline and cover either the forehead or the back of your neck.

Treatment

  • For mild cases, patients may be prescribed shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid in lower percentages.
  • Topical dithranol creams or corticosteroids are also found helpful in removing scalp scabs caused by psoriasis.
  • Corticosteroids may be given in combination with Vitamin D in severe cases.
  • Other options include Anthralin cream, ultraviolet therapy, or laser treatment.

5. Impetigo

Scabs on the scalp may also arise from this highly infectious bacterial skin infection. Impetigo is characterized by red pus-filled blisters/ sores in different parts of the body, including the scalp.

These blisters rupture, discharging pus that hardens to form yellowish scabs on the skin. Impetigo is quite common in children but may also affect adults.

Treatment

  • Treatment for impetigo on the scalp includes topical and oral antibiotics.
  • Antibiotic ointments like Mupirocin may be prescribed for application on the affected areas.

6. Head Lice

Head lice [3] are tiny parasites that are found on the human head and feed on human blood. A scalp infested with head lice is very itchy and constant itching may lead to cuts and sores that eventually become scabs. Head lice can spread quickly through contact and may be difficult to prevent.

Treatment

  • Wet combing with anti-lice OTC oils or coconut or neem oil is a common method to remove lice infestations from the scalp.
  • Anti-lice shampoos or medicines containing Pediculicide can be applied on the scalp and throughout the hair to kill the lice.

It is a myth that head lice can jump from one person’s head to another’s. These wingless parasites even find it difficult to crawl owing to the structure of their legs, leave alone jumping or flying. They can be transferred only through direct contact.

7. Acne

Acne occurs when dead keratin flakes, excess sebum and other impurities block a hair follicle. Such blocked follicles or comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) may get infected with P. acnes bacteria. This leads to painful, pus-filled pustules, papules, cysts and nodules.

When these inflamed follicles break open, the pus and impurities inside may harden and form scabs. Acne on the scalp can lead to scalp scabs.

Treatment

  • Comedonal scalp acne and scalp acne scabs can be removed with retinoid creams, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide shampoos.
  • For moderate to severe acne cases, topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Hydrocortisone can help in reducing inflammation caused by acne.

8. Scalp Ringworm

A contagious fungal infection, Tinea Capitis or ringworm [4] of the scalp is characterised by ring-like scaly, hairless patches on the scalp that can form scabs.

The spores from this fungal infection can easily transfer onto clothes and other body parts and spread the infection further. Scalp psoriasis may be confused with scalp ringworm due to their similarity in appearance.

Treatment

  • Skin hygiene is stressed upon as keeping the affected area dry is often the first step to curing scalp ringworm.
  • Typical treatment options for scalp ringworm are topical antifungal medicines.
  • Judging from the severity of the infection, your doctor may also prescribe oral antibiotics.

9. Viral Skin Infections

Scalp scabs can result from certain viral infections that can spread to the scalp such as chicken pox, cold sores and shingles. Most of these viral infections lead to the formation of itchy red bumps that dry and harden to form scabs on the scalp.

Viral infection scabs such as chicken pox scabs need to be treated with caution as the premature rupture of these scabs may spread the infection to the neighbouring areas.

Treatment

  • For chicken pox and shingles, your doctor may prescribe anti-viral medication for quick relief. However, these may not cure the problem completely.
  • Applying a cold compress on chicken pox affected areas including the scalp can help decrease skin irritation.
  • For cold sores, docosanol creams might provide some relief to the patient.

10. Hair Transplant

Cosmetic surgeries on the scalp such as hair transplants can lead to the formation of scalp scabs. Minor wounds from the surgery heal quickly within the first 2 days and form scabs. Usually, these scabs fall off on their own or can be removed with gentle exfoliation.

Treatment

  • Scalp scabs for hair transplant like surgeries can be removed using mild shampoos and gentle exfoliation techniques.
  • For more severe injuries on the scalp resulting in scabs, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to hasten the healing process of the wound.

Symptoms Of Scabs On The Scalp

women have itchy scalp fungus

According to Ayurveda, scabs on the scalp are known to have the following symptoms:

1. ‘Shirah Kandu’ or an itchy scalp

2. ‘Rukshata’ or dry skin

3. Cysts or raised bumps on the scalp

4. Infections leading to pus formation

5. Skin redness or sensitivity

6. ‘Keshya Chuti’ or hair loss

7. Possible scarring in place of the scabs

How To Heal Scalp Scabs?

woman applying coconut oil on her hair

1. Don’t Scratch The Scabs

The no-touch-policy works best when dealing with scalp scabs. Scabs formed due to any of the above mentioned causes may lead to an itchy scalp and skin irritation. It is advisable to treat these symptoms with medicated or herbal skin soothing ointments that will help the healing process.

Scratching scabs may further aggravate the injury or spread the infection. When dry, these scabs can be gently removed with mild exfoliating shampoos.

2. Treat The Cause

Consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis of the cause of scabs on the scalp. Scalp infections or skin conditions causing these scabs must first be treated to prevent further formation of these scabs.

3. Follow A Healing Diet

Include lots of vitamins in your daily diet. An antioxidant-rich diet can further help your skin to combat various diseases that result in scalp scab formation. Foods rich in vitamin D, zinc, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids are often prescribed in cases of scalp psoriasis, scalp acne and other similar skin conditions.

4. Essential Oils

According to Ayurveda, scalp scabs are a minor skin condition or Kshudra Roga that are caused by an aggravation of the Vata and Pitta doshas. Thus, essential oils that can restore the balance of these doshas are often prescribed to heal scalp scabs.

A. Coconut Oil

With anti-fungal properties, coconut oil relieves dryness caused by the vata dosha and may also help reduce inflammation which results from excess pitta on the scalp.

B. Hibiscus Oil

Hibiscus oil works wonders when it comes to healing scabs of the scalp. It hydrates the affected areas and prevents the formation of scabs. It also promotes new hair growth after the scabs are cured.

C. Bhringraj Oil

Conditions like scalp psoriasis and eczema that cause scabs on the scalp can be healed with regular application of bhringraj oil. Apart from its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, bhringraj oil is anti-inflammatory in nature too. It reduces skin inflammation and calms irritated skin.

D. Neem Oil

One of the best oils to be used in cases of scabs caused by bacterial skin conditions and seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp is neem oil. It acts as a medicine for various skin conditions and effectively heals scabs caused by them.

E. Jojoba Oil

This multi-beneficial oil is often prescribed as a topical solution to heal acne, dandruff and other skin conditions that cause scabs on the scalp. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial nature alleviates symptoms such as itchiness, skin reddening and inflammation.

5. Ayurvedic Shampoo For Healing Scabs On The Scalp

Handmade Bath Soaps with Herbs

A. Reetha And Shikakai Shampoo

Reetha (soapnut) and shikakai (soap pod) are ancient Ayurvedic ingredients that are known to benefit scalp psoriasis, eczema, mild acne and dandruff [5]. Their mild cleansing properties gently remove the scabs without irritating the affected area.

B. Neem, Tulsi, Triphala and Methi Shampoo

With amazing antibacterial and antiseptic properties, neem and tulsi prevent the chances of infection in scalp scabs. They also help improve the skin condition causing these scabs. Being mild surfactants, triphala and methi, gently clean the area and remove the scabs without aggravating the underlying cause.

C. Hibiscus Shampoo

Both hibiscus leaves and petals are used in anti-scab treatments. Saponins in hibiscus leaves help cleanse the scabs while mucilage in the hibiscus petals help to moisturize the affected scalp area. Furthermore, hibiscus leaves are known to have antibacterial properties that prevent conditions like scalp acne which later can form scabs on the scalp.

D. Yashtimadhu And Bringadi Shampoo

Yastimadhu is best known for treating fungal infections on the scalp that can later lead to the formation of scabs. Bringadi which is a combination of powerful Ayurvedic herbs such as bhringraj, amla, indigo, balloon vine and sesame seeds can effectively heal various scalp conditions and also prevent hair loss due to scabs on the scalp.

Vedix Tip:

Ayurvedic texts mention the use of datura juice to treat scalp infections and scabs caused by dandruff. Regular use of this potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory herb can heal scalp scabs effectively.

6. Home Remedies To Treat Scabs On The Scalp

A. Lemon, Curd And Coconut Oil

Lemon and curd are great home remedies for scalp scabs. Adding coconut oil enhances its antibacterial properties and helps with skin hydration.

How To Use

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to half a cup of curd. Add a few drops of coconut oil to the mixture and apply all over the scalp. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Massage gently and wash off with lukewarm water.

B. Tea Tree Oil

Considered a great solution for scalp acne and dandruff, tea tree oil can help remove and heal scabs on the scalp.

How To Use

Mix tea tree oil with a carrier oil and leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes. Wash off with a mild anti-dandruff herbal shampoo.

C. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a natural medicine for skin conditions such as scalp psoriasis, scalp acne, cold sores on the scalp and eczema, all of which can lead to the formation of scabs.

How To Use

Aloe vera gel can be directly extracted from the plant and applied to the affected areas for 15 to 20 minutes regularly and washed off. It can also be used as a natural leave-on serum to prevent skin irritation.

D. Onion Juice

The antifungal and antibacterial nature of onion juice has made it a popular choice for the treatment of fungal and bacterial skin infections that also affect the scalp.

How To Use

Mash or blend an onion bulb to extract its juice. Apply on the affected areas of your scalp and wash off after 20 minutes. Repeat as required.

E. Green Gram

Green gram paste is known to be highly effective in removing scalp scabs and treating conditions like dandruff.

How To Use

Make a paste of green gram by adding lukewarm water. Apply this for 15 minutes on the scabs. Gently exfoliate and wash off.

Is It Bad To Pick Scabs On The Scalp?

Scabs are formed to shield a wound or injury site. Often the healing process is still in progress underneath the scabs. Forceful removal of a scab can interfere with this and prevent the wound from healing faster. There may also be a chance of scarring and the spread of infection if you pick on the scabs.

After completion of the healing process, scabs often fall off on their own. However, in the case of scalp scabs, due to the presence of hair, natural exfoliation may be hindered. Dry scabs once healed can be removed by gently massaging the affected area. If in doubt, consult your doctor for the right time to remove your scabs.

Will Hair Grow Back After Scabs On Scalp?

The formation of scabs on the scalp may affect the process of hair growth temporarily. Once the affected area heals, hair growth usually resumes. However, if there is damage to hair follicles underneath the scab, hair may not grow back. Dead, dried up or damaged hair follicles may fail to produce new hair on the scalp.

However, the use of Ayurvedic herbs and medicines that suit your prakriti, can help promote new hair growth in areas of the scalp that have scabs and prevent the unwanted condition of hair loss.

The Last Word

Scabs are often a sign of skin injury which can be caused by various skin conditions, infections or injury to the scalp. Thus it is important to first treat the underlying trigger factor causing the scabs. Meanwhile, a good diet and a hygienic hair care routine that includes powerful Ayurvedic herbs that can heal the scabs is advised.

If the condition persists, it is better to consult your Ayurvedic doctor and get your Doshas diagnosed. This will enable a more specific treatment that can heal your scabs quickly without any possible side effects.

Know Your Dosha Now

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