Do you have an itchy head? Is your scalp irritated and sore? Do you feel lumps and bumps occasionally? Unfortunately, these can be quite common. However, while many think that an itchy and bumpy scalp is a temporary problem that will clear up, it can, in fact, be something far more sinister.
A severe and persistent itch on the head, specifically an itchy scalp, can be a real sign of trouble. Therefore, it’s vital to establish what it is wrong. It could be many medical problems that need urgent care.
More often than not, we assume that an itchy and bumpy scalp is caused by dandruff. This common problem affects many people on a daily basis. You can start by trying out an anti-dandruff shampoo. If that doesn’t help, it’s time to get a diagnosis from a medical professional.
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There are so many reasons as to why your scalp may itch or have bumps on it.
These can include but are not limited to:
- Scalp folliculitis
- Seborrheic keratosis
- Cradle cap
- General hygiene
Itching is the most common symptom of most scalp problems and can be very irritating. However, skin infections, swelling, redness, balding and damaged hair may also result from deeper-rooted issues when it comes to an itchy or bumpy scalp.
For generic itching and bumps, common treatments usually come in the form of antimicrobial or keratolytic therapy, steroids or even special diets.
There’s no doubt that one of the most effective treatments for itchy scalp is a shampoo scrub to remove any loose skin. To really stop the itchiness, you need to get to the root of the problem and find out what’s causing it.
What Are the Different Reasons for Bumps on the Scalp?
The scalp is the soft tissue envelope of the cranial vault. Your scalp may not be something that you’ve ever given much thought if it hasn’t caused you any bother in the past.
Let’s take a look at what may be causing itchy bumps to appear on the scalp in further detail. We will also look at ways to prevent this common complaint.
Scalp folliculitis (folliculitis decalvans) is a long-term, rare but chronic inflammatory condition of the scalp. While it can rarely affect other hair-bearing skin such as facial hair, armpits, pubic area and legs, it’s predominantly found on the scalp.
Inflammation is usually prolonged and can lead to scarring. The Latin name means inflammation of the hair root associated with hair loss. This condition is not contagious.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of scalp folliculitis is unknown. However, research states that it may be due to an abnormal chronic inflammatory reaction to bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus.
Below are some critical facts about scalp folliculitis:
- It can often be found on healthy skin.
- This condition isn’t usually hereditary.
- Folliculitis can cause an area of the scalp to feel itchy, tight, and painful.
- The affected area of the scalp can be red, swollen and scaly with scabs and crusts.
- In extreme cases, pus-filled spots may develop.
- Loss of hair and scarring can occur in extreme cases.
If you think that you have scalp folliculitis, make an appointment with your doctor straight away. You will be referred to the dermatologist who will make the diagnosis after examining your skin.
Unfortunately, hives (urticaria) is a condition that you can experience on any part of your body. However, they are most common (and most unpleasant) when on the scalp. Hives commonly show themselves as nasty red welts that are incredibly itchy and uncomfortable.
Technically, hives are in fact an allergic reaction – an overload of what’s medically known as histamine.
Here are some of the common triggers:
- Bug bites
- Pet hair
If untreated, hives can become very painful and even erupt. If mild, . Take an antihistamine to reduce symptoms. In the worst case scenario, you may need an injection of steroids or adrenaline from a medical professional.
If the itchy red welts are causing you distress and pain, you should see a doctor right away. They will advise you on the best course of action.
Seborrheic keratosis is when small and benign bumps on the skin and scalp begin to appear for no apparent reason. While it can affect anyone, this condition tends to run in the family meaning that it’s more commonly genetic.
Usually, the lumps don’t require medical treatment. However, if they are uncomfortable, painful or causing discomfort, it’s recommended that you speak to your doctor. Particularly if the lesion turns black, is very itchy, bleeds or grows larger, you should seek medical help.
If it does need to be removed, the following options are likely:
- Cryosurgery – Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the growth which kills it, and it drops off.
- Cauterization – A doctor may cauterize the lumps with electrosurgery.
The cause of the small brown seborrheic keratosis bumps isn’t known. However, the most dangerous aspect of this condition is that it can be hard to distinguish from melanoma. This is why it’s important to get it checked if anything visibly changes.
Cradle cap (seborrheic dermatitis) can cause anything from fungal infections to fatigue. While the main cause is unknown, the lumps and bumps appear as scaly patches on the top of the scalp. It’s common for .
While not harmful, cradle cap can be visibly troubling for new parents and itchy if experienced by adults. The itchiness can cause discomfort and pain.
Dandruff is one of the most common skin conditions of the scalp. This isn’t a dangerous condition to have, but it can be itchy and become painful. You must .
The oil from the scalp causes the skin cells to clump together which results in them appearing as white flakes. Dandruff can be caused by many factors, including dry skin, sensitivity to hair products, and skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or eczema.
The overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus can also cause dandruff. There are various shampoos available that can help get rid of dandruff, such as . You may also be able to get a stronger shampoo that’s prescribed by your family doctor.
General Scalp Hygiene
If you rarely wash your hair, the chances are that your scalp will begin to suffer. Because of a build-up of dirt, oils, and products, it’s essential that you wash your hair regularly (but not excessively).
If you end up with a sore, itchy or bumpy scalp due to not cleaning your hair regularly, you should consider changing your personal care regime. While you don’t need to wash your hair every day, think about your current schedule.
Natural Build up on the Scalp
If you’ve developed the habit of skipping washes or you use a myriad of styling products, you’ve probably noticed a build up of gunk on the scalp.
For a start, this can prevent your hair from looking good and flowing naturally. Additionally, you may find that itchy lumps and bumps begin to make an appearance.
While there are loads of hair products with natural ingredients that aren’t damaging, build up is bound to happen if you’re not careful or stick to a routine.
How to Get Rid of Pimple-Like Bumps that Hurt
Take a note of the tips below if you want to keep your scalp fresh and bump free:
- Use a clarifying shampoo
- Lemon juice
- Exfoliate with baking soda
- Shampoo and condition
- Keep hair detangled.
Read on to find out more about each method of dealing with build-up on the scalp.
Use a Clarifying Shampoo
Using what’s known as a clarifying shampoo is one of the most common and effective methods for relieving the scalp of excess dirt and residue. It can get to the roots with easy, giving your scalp and hair a much needed intense clean.
Clarifying shampoos don’t have specific targets, so their main aim is to soak up the oil in the scalp. However, don’t replace your everyday shampoo with clarifying shampoo as this can be tough on hair over time.
Many daily hair products can disrupt the natural pH of your hair. This can negatively affect the condition of your scalp. So, always use it accordingly.
Rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar
If you prefer to avoid hair products that are pumped full of chemicals, DIY methods such as apple cider vinegar can do wonders. Using the DIY approach can clear away that build up.
However, never use it straight from the bottle. A four-to-one ratio of water to apple cider vinegar is safest when rinsing hair with this ingredient as it can be very potent. If not diluted, it can do more damage than good.
Lemon juice is similar to apple cider vinegar due to their similar pH values. Again, you must dilute the mixture with water before using it.
The acidity of lemon juice can help get rid of dandruff and other sources of build up in the scalp. It carefully cleanses your scalp just as a shampoo would but doesn’t damage it in the way that some clarifying shampoos do.
If you decide to use lemon juice, once diluted, simply allow the mixture to sit on the hair for up to 10 minutes, comb it through, and rinse it out once the cleansing is finished.
Exfoliate with Baking Soda
If you use a lot of product, your hair can become easily weighed down and bedraggled. Baking soda is an excellent remedy for so many things, including cleaning your hair. Using baking soda as a scalp exfoliator can clean your scalp in no time.
Make a , water, conditioner, and a few drops of an essential oil such as peppermint or lavender will. For the best effects, massage the mixture through wet and detangled hair during your shower. Always condition the hair afterward for a silky-smooth look and feel.
Doing this one a month can work wonders on your hair and clear up any traces of an itchy or bumpy scalp caused by build up.
Shampoo and Condition
While we looked at clarifying shampoo above, it is too abrasive to use on a daily basis. Therefore, pick a daily shampoo and conditioner that is safe and kind to your hair.
Avoid parabens, sulfates, and silicones as these can leave a build-up of residue on your scalp. This can then result in problems over a long period of time. These include an itchy scalp, build up and even hair loss in extreme cases.
When using a daily shampoo and conditioner, choose brands that use only natural products. There are so many available on the market nowadays that you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Keep Hair Detangled
Brushing your hair isn’t always a quick fix solution to keeping your scalp in order. However, ensuring that it’s frequently detangled – especially during and after a shower or bath – will really work wonders.
If your hair has fewer knots in it, there will be less stress to the scalp. Therefore, you’ll experience fewer bumps, lumps, and itchiness in the long run. Not to mention your hair will always look nice and sleek.
Other Common Symptoms of a Bumpy and Itchy Scalp
Of course, depending on what condition it is that you’re dealing with, symptoms may vary. However, below you’ll find a list of some common symptoms that tend to flare up when something’s not quite right with your scalp.
If you notice any of the below, speak to your doctor straight away:
- Groups or clusters of small red bumps like pimples (some may have white heads on them)
- Blisters or spots that burst, ooze or become crusty
- Large areas of red, swollen skin that leak pus or liquid
- Itchy, tender and painful areas of the scalp.
Itching can be an incredibly unpleasant sensation, especially when it takes place on the scalp. Sometimes an itch can become so unbearable that it must be scratched.
This, however, can lead to issues in the long run. The medical name for itching is pruritus, and this can affect any area of the body.
The different types of itching (pruritus) can be split into two different areas:
- Generalised – where itching occurs over the whole body (not just the scalp).
- Localized – where itching only occurs in a particular area, such as the scalp.
Common Causes of Scalp Itching
Above, we looked at the different medical conditions as to why your scalp may be itchy, red, swollen or bumpy. However, there are many other, less damaging reasons as to why you may be experiencing an itchy and bumpy scalp.
- Skin conditions, such as eczema.
- Allergies or and products.
- Parasitic infestations such as scabies.
- Insect bites and stings.
- Fungal infections of the scalp.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy or the .
- Conditions that affect the whole body such as liver or kidney problems, or an .
While we looked at different hair care options for dealing with an itchy scalp, there are some really helpful short-term ways that you can prevent the itchiness.
The tips below can help to relieve an itchy and sore scalp:
- Patting or tapping the itchy area, rather than scratching the scalp.
- Holding a cold compress, such as damp towel over the affected area to cool it down.
- Bathing or showering in cool or lukewarm water (avoid boiling hoot).
- Using unperfumed and/or organic hygiene products.
- Avoiding clothes that irritate your skin, such as wool or man-made fabrics.
- Using a moisturizer or emollient if your skin is dry or flaky.
- Avoid using new or chemical-filled laundry detergent.
If you want something a bit stronger, there are, of course, also medicines such as antihistamines and steroid creams. These are available over the counter from pharmacies that may help relieve itching caused by certain skin conditions of the scalp.
When to See Your Doctor
As long as you don’t have a long-term medical issue or infection, many cases of itching will get better over a short period of time.
However, you should visit your doctor if your itch has the following symptoms:
- Severe and painful (red, bleeding, oozing, etc.)
- Lasts for a long time
- Keeps coming back
- There are redness and swelling or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
You should also consider visiting your doctor if your entire body itches and there is no obvious reason. It could be a symptom of a more serious condition that’s linked to your scalp.
Different Types of Scalp Complaints
With the advance of language and expressions, there have developed some unusual names for bumps on the scalp that itch.
- Barber’s itch
- Hot tub rash
- Razor bumps
- Shaving rash
Yes, these are all associated with hair care and cutting/shaving. But if you’re a male and have suffered from itchiness and red bumps on the scalp that are sore, the above could be reasons for this issue.
Painful red bumps, itchy spots, and irritating rashes can all occur when you shave using a razor. This is usually due to a low-quality razor or not enough lubrication on the skin. Additionally, you may also experience bumps and pain due to ingrown hairs.
If so, the itchy bumps will Passover time. In the meantime, however, you can visit your doctor and request a cream to soothe the affected area.
If you’re prone to any of the above, consider using hair removal techniques that don’t include a razor. These include methods such as waxing, plucking or threading.
Natural Remedies for an Itchy Scalp
We’ve looked at some of the better-known remedies for an itchy scalp. However, there is a range of herbal remedies out there that can assist you when it comes to eradicating itchy sore lumps and bumps. Your scalp is sensitive, so it’s important you treat it kindly.
Some of the more common natural remedies for sore and itchy scalps include:
- Tea tree oil for dry scalp
- Clean your hair
- Use a hair and scalp mask
- Avoid inflammatory and infection-causing foods
- Avoid putting chemicals on your hair.
Tea Tree Oil
Known as melaleuca, that can work wonders on the human body. Due to its excellent antioxidant benefits and antimicrobial qualities, it’s used on many ailments.
Tea tree has the ability to fight bacteria, viruses, and fungus, so it’s great for painful and itchy scalps. This healing oil can help to repair the skin on your body or scalp. It’s often sued in replacement of anti-dandruff shampoo and is known to be very effective.
While exercise isn’t the most obvious treatment for a bumpy and itchy scalp, it can be helpful. Exercise has been proven to help reduce the inflammation associated with an itchy scalp and other common skin complaints.
The relaxing exercises of yoga, tai chi and qigong uses breathing that helps to stretch and strengthen your body. In turn, this improves blood flow which can reduce the nasty symptoms that comes with a sore scalp.
Clean Your Hair
As we touched on briefly above, maintaining good personal hygiene is important when it comes to a . Additionally, avoid sharing combs with others as this can spread infection.
Infections such as tinea capitis and ringworm are more common in children. Therefore, make sure to take extra care with educating your children on the best practices when it comes to cleaning and looking after their precious hair.
Use a Hair and Scalp Mask
Make your own hair mask at home to give your skin a much-needed boost.
- Example: A banana, avocado and honey hair mask might sound good enough to eat, but it’s also excellent for the health of your scalp. To create your mask, combine a small banana (mashed), two tablespoons of honey and half an avocado. Blend the mixture well so that it’s a paste-like substance. Leave it on your scalp for up to 30 minutes and then wash hair.
These three ingredients can do wonderful things to your head and scalp as they are known to heal wounds. Additionally, the microorganisms found in honey can help to fight bacteria and fungi.
Avoid Inflammatory and Infection-Causing Foods
It may not be something that you’ve considered before, but fungus on the scalp can be caused by certain foods that you consume.
You can avoid skin and scalp complaints by avoiding inflammatory foods such as processed items, sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, and alcohol.
- Pro Tip: Instead, ensure your diet is filled with antifungal foods. This includes food such as garlic, apple cider vinegar, banana, avocado, flaxseed, ginger, and coconut oil.
As long as you have a healthy and balanced diet and no underlying medical issues, you shouldn’t have an itchy or bumpy scalp.
Avoid Putting Chemicals on Your Hair
In most hair products such as gel, shampoo, and hairspray (to name but a few), there are a number of hidden chemicals. Regardless of whether you have a sensitive scalp or not, nasty chemicals can lead to an itchy, red, and bumpy scalp.
If you’re experiencing scalp issues due to chemical-infused products, the good news is that you can fix this with ease. Avoid mass-produced shampoos and choose natural remedies instead, such as .
Keep a Note of Break Outs
Breakouts can take place at different times of the day. Keep a note of when, where and why the breakouts take place.
Sometimes, because of the heat, night time can make your scalp a lot itchier than it may feel during the day. Wash and detangle your hair before bed to prevent it from becoming unbearable.
If your scalp breaks out after using a certain product, be sure to avoid it in the future. If you really want to find out what’s causing the itch (as long it’s not medical), strip back all the products that you use.
If you use only natural and basic products, you’ll be able to establish what it is that triggers your flare-ups. This is particularly important if the pain in your scalp is causing pain and rashes.
Could the breakouts be caused by the following?
- A laundry detergent or soap suds.
- Shampoo, conditioner or shower gel.
- Clothing materials such as abrasive fabric.
- Food or drink.
- Deodorant or perfume.
Dermatologists are professionally trained to deal with skin complaints. Therefore, if you believe that you’re suffering from either seborrheic keratosis or scalp folliculitis, seek advice.
Some conditions will only get better with medical intervention. The longer you leave that all-important visit to the doctors, the worse your condition may become, so take action.
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