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Common Causes of Scalp Bumps

Scalp bumps take various forms and, as a result, have several causes. Most are related to scalp acne or various common scalp problems or conditions. While commonly painful, irritating or (at least) discomforting, several of the causes can be addressed either with shampoos, conditioners or scalp treatments; and in the most severe form of bumps, treated by a dermatologist or trichologist.

Bumps on the scalp are actually a condition that is more common than most people realize. That is simply due to the fact that unless they are severe, a person’s hair will cover them and effectively hide them from view. Despite their frequent lack of visibility, any type of sore or bump on the scalp can be incredibly uncomfortable, sometimes being painful or itchy depending on the source. Here are some of the most common causes of various types of scalp bumps and suggestion on how they may be eliminated or reduced.

Acneitchy scalp and bumps shampoo

One of the most common types of bumps is pimples and these have their own specific cause. Scalp acne has the same cause as acne anywhere else on your skin: blockage of your pores. The pores can become clogged because of dead skin cells, excessive oils or some other factor. When this happens, the sebum (oil) that is released through them will be trapped and bacteria will multiply in this area – often combining with latent yeast creating infection, odor or smelly scalp. When the bacteria cause the area to fill with pus and become inflamed, a pimple (bump) is formed. As with facial acne, causes may lead to irritants, inadequate hygiene, heredity, or failure to adequately “irrigate” follicle pores.


Psoriasis of the scalp can also lead to the formation of sores or even bumps. If someone has scalp psoriasis, their skin cells reproduce too quickly. Instead of taking a month to reproduce, it can happen in just a few days, causing excessive amounts of skin to pile up causing scaly patches, inflamed tissue and sores. These patches are itchy and if you scratch at them, they may start to bleed, leading to infection or further sores and uneven, bump-like scalp complexion. Similar to skin psoriasis, causes vary but are typically "triggered" by several factors - some known, some unknown. Typically considered immune system related, triggers my be heat, humidity, foods, chemicals, and even fabrics in hats, scarves, shirts, and even fabric softeners or detergents.


Some people will develop bumps on their scalp due to an allergic reaction in the form of contact dermatitis. If this is the reason, the sores may be due to contact with an irritant. In some cases it can also be due to contact with something that the body perceives as an allergen, causing the immune system to act and produce the sores. The allergic reaction may be due to any sort of irritant from environmental factors such as dust to cosmetic products such as shampoo.


Another consideration is eczema. This is a condition in which the skin becomes irritated and although it can sometimes resemble an allergic reaction, it is different. Experts still aren’t sure what causes eczema but they do have several guesses. They know that it is related to genetics as it tends to run in families (and is related to seasonal allergies and asthma). It can also be caused by the environment (such as an area with heavy pollution), when the immune system doesn’t work correctly or a defect that lets moisture out through the skin barrier while letting germs inside.


Although less common, ringworm (tinea capitis) is another possible cause of bumps on the scalp. This is a fungal infection and in most cases there will be round areas found on the scalp that are usually red. They will not necessarily be bumps, but they will be at least slightly swollen. In some cases people with ringworm will lose hair in the area of the sore or also see smaller black dots. Ringworm, as with other fungal conditions is often addressed with antifungal or antibacterial shampoos to reduce fungi in the hair or scalp tissue.

Causes of scalp bumps vary and may be treated by taking general precautions of hygiene – frequent shampooing, using an antifungal hair product, periodically using a clarifying shampoo (especially those with a Zinc formulation), and by avoiding possible irritants that trigger allergic reactions.

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