What are Scabs on Scalp? How to Treat Common Scalp Issues?

Are you constantly scratching your head?

If the answer is yes, you might have scabs.

These scabs are raised and crusty areas of patches on the scalp.

In some cases they are yellowish.

Rarely, they can also be reddish, black, or dark brown.

Scabs are itchy, unsightly, frustrating, and can sometimes bleed [1]https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/484354.

The problem can be an embarrassing nuance.

And while in most cases they can clear on their own, it is important to understand why they appear, and can you do something about it?

Causes of scabs on scalp

Scabs on scalp

In most cases, scabs are caused by a scalp issue like dandruff.

However, in some cases, the cause of scabs on the scalp can be a more serious condition like contact dermatitis.

Scabs are usually a symptom of a skin condition affecting the scalp.

Here are some of the possible causes.

Contact dermatitis

An allergic reaction to something you’ve touched, contact dermatitis can appear anywhere on the body [2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11176691.

The allergic reaction occurs after you’ve touched something of being exposed to a foreign substance.

As a reaction, your body releases inflammatory chemicals that can make the skin feel irritated and itchy.

In terms of scabs, the reaction might be a response to products like shampoo, jewelry, hair dye, or materials like latex [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5465660/.

Just remember not to scratch these dry patches, as you might worsen the condition and cause bleeding.


The most common hair problem, dandruff can manifest as itching, scabbing, or flaking of the scalp [4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3129121/.

The crusty patches that appear on your skin are usually either white or yellow.

The exact cause of dandruff is still unclear to health care and hair professionals [5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4864613/.

However, they are certain it has nothing to do with cleanliness.

You can shampoo your hair on a daily basis, and still get dandruff.

Even newborn babies can have dandruff, called cradle cap.

Dandruff is not contagious, and it is not a sign of poor health.

The problem with dandruff is it takes a long time to get it under control.

Most people opt for over the counter medicated shampoos.

But we will talk later on about some natural remedies for getting rid of dandruff


Another skin condition that can appear anywhere on the body, psoriasis causes thick and silver-gray scabs all over your scalp [6]https://www.psoriasis.org/research/science-of-psoriasis/immune-system.

In its mild stages, scalp psoriasis can be treated with medicated shampoo that eases itching.

If the condition worsens, you should check with a physician.

In some severe cases, a physician might prescribe topical and injectable steroids.


Thick scabs appear on your scalp if you have eczema, and they become itchy and very uncomfortable.

The inflammation can easily spread to other part of your body, namely the face, neck, and behind the ears [7]https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/05/04/cure-eczema-horizon-scientist-find-trigger-skin-condition/.

The cause of eczema is not known.

Prescription medicated shampoos can help loosen the scales.

Ringworm of the scalp

Unlike previous causes of scabs, the cause of ringworm is known.

It is a fungal infection that involves the scalp, hair shafts, and the skin.

The symptoms are similar as previous conditions, and they manifest as itching and scaly patches.

Ringworm usually targets children, and unlike previous conditions, it is quite contagious [8]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573447/.

Treatment includes oral antifungal meditation and medicated shampoos.

If left untreated, ringworm can lead to hair loss and extreme inflammation of the scalp.


Nobody wants to get head lice.

The only good news is that lice do not carry diseases or cause major health concerns.

But they can be irritating and challenging to get rid of.

Scratch them too much, and you might end up with an infection.

Head lice is also contagious, and anyone in contact with a person with head lice should be checked.

But the good news is that once they fall off or are removed, head lice do not live long.

When they cannot feed, head lice can survive up to two days.


The condition is caused by the same virus as chicken pox.

The virus remains dormant in the body even after you’ve cured chicken pox.

If the virus activates, you get shingles.

Usually, the condition affects the skin, but it can also result in scabs.

A rash caused by shingles looks like small blisters that turn yellow and form a crust.


There are many causes of scabs and itching.

Therefore, it is important to understand the source and talk with a doctor if needed.

Another problem is that topical ointments may cause additional inflammation and irritation.

How to treat?

Treat scabs on scalp ( infographic )

Warm Compress

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to get rid of scabs is to soften flakes.

You can do this with a warm compress.

As the scabs become soft, their size will reduce.

  1. Start by soaking a towel in comfortably hot water
  2. Squeeze out excess water, and then wrap the towel around your head
  3. Let it stay there for 15 minutes
  4. Comb your hair afterwards
  5. Repeat once per day

Apple cider vinegar

apple cider vinegar

Because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, apple cider vinegar can easily help you get rid of the problem.

ACV also helps you balance the pH level of your scalp, which further helps to relieve itching.

  1. Mix 1 cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of ACV
  2. Wash your hair with the solution, and gently massage the scalp for 15 minutes
  3. Rinse with water, and repeat once per week

Olive oil

Similar as warm compress, you can also use warm oil massage to get rid of scabs and relieve itchiness.

Olive oil is the best one, but you can also use coconut oil.

These oils keep your scalp moisturized, a crucial aspect of treating the problem.

  1. Warm up ¼ cup of olive oil
  2. Gently massage the scalp for 10 minutes with the warm oil
  3. Use a comb to spread the oil evenly into your hair
  4. Put a shower cap, and let the oil stay on your hair overnight
  5. In the morning, wash your hair with a mild shampoo
  6. Repeat up to 3 times per week

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has potent natural anti-inflammation, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.

As such, it is great for treating skin problems causing scabs.

  1. Mix 10 drops of tea tree oil with ¼ cup of any carrier oil, for example almond oil
  2. Massage the mixture into your scalp
  3. Let it stay there for 5 to 10 minutes
  4. Shampoo as usual, and repeat the treatment 2 times per week
  5. An alternative is to mix 10 drops of tea tree oil with ½ cup of baby shampoo and use this mixture to wash your hair on a daily basis

Jojoba oil

This oil has moisturizing properties that promote healing.

You can use it to restore the natural oils balance of your scalp.

Jojoba is best used when the cause of scabs is dry scalp.

  1. Apply small amount of jojoba oil on your scalp before going to bed
  2. Massage your scalp for up to five minutes
  3. Let it stay overnight, and in the morning, wash with a mild shampoo

Aloe Vera Gel

Known for its natural healing properties, aloe vera is a staple in the hair and beauty industry.

It provides a soothing effect that will ease itchiness and protect your scalp from infection.

  1. Cut open an aloe vera leaf
  2. Remove the gel, and use your fingers to spread it onto the scabs and sores on your scalp
  3. Let it stay there for 1 hour
  4. Wash with a mild shampoo

Lemon Juice

Lemon has antiseptic properties, but it is also rich in vitamins and minerals that will nourish your dry scalp.

It can be used against dandruff and ringworms, two of the most common causes of scabs on scalp.

  1. Mix half a teaspoon of lemon juice and one tablespoon of warm olive oil
  2. Massage the mixture onto your scalp
  3. Let it stay there for 30 minutes, and then wash it off
  4. Repeat 3 times per week

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