You are here: Home > Knowledge Base > Hair Care Information > Itchy Scalp > Remedies for Smelly Scalp and Scalp Sores

Remedies for Smelly Scalp and Scalp Sores

While in some cases a smelly scalp may be due to sores, it can also be due to a range of other problems, such as the buildup of sebum (natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands in the scalp) which can lead to fungus, yeast or bacterial buildup. One of the first steps to take is to improve your hygiene by washing both the hair and scalp each day - preferably with an antifungal shampoo or cleanser developed specifically for removing bacteria, yeast or microbes.

Odor and smell is often associated with infections caused by fungal infections, such as ringworm; or, by yeast-borne infections from excess oiliness on the scalp and bacteria. Antibacterial shampoos can help reduce sores, bumps, acne and odor.

Treat the ConditionFollicleanse shampo

If the sores are due to a skin condition, such as psoriasis or eczema, it is important to talk to your doctor about ways to treat that particular cause. They may recommend specially formulated shampoos or natural remedies.

Anti-Bacterial Products

Natural anti-bacterial agents such as tea tree oil, honey and neem oil can help reduce the overgrowth of fungus, yeast or bacteria. This will not only reduce the smell, but should also help treat any sores or scalp bumps. The only thing to keep in mind is that this may dry out the hair and scalp so always use a conditioner afterwards.


Another option for relieving smelly scalp is to use a paste or shampoo containing garlic directly on the head. One of the components of garlic is allicin which is both an antimicrobial and antibacterial agent, allowing it to further reduce bacterial growth occurring on your head. While it certainly seems counter-intuitive, garlic's properties can have a cleansing effect helping relieve scalp pimples and acne as well as neutralizing smell or odor from infection. While this is not a first choice and recommended in only extreme cases, it is effective, though a good shampooing with a clarifying or aromatic cleanser is needed.

Essential Oils

One of the best options is rosemary oil because this will reduce the production of sebum, returning it to normal levels and by doing so reduce scalp-related problems. Additionally, rosemary oil has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties so when it is massaged into the head, it can promote circulation, removing dandruff that can cause either sores or odor. Lavender oil is another option as it has antibacterial properties and can also improve your scalp circulation.

Salicylic Acid

In some cases smelly scalp or the related sores are due to a fungal infection that causes the overproduction of skin cells. In this case, shampoos that combine salicylic acid with sulfur can be effective because they will kill the infection and stop the cycle of cell death, both of which may be causing the unpleasant odor.

Zinc Pyrithione

You could also try using shampoos which contain zinc pyrithione, a compound that has been linked to the reduction of dandruff. The zinc has antimicrobial properties which like other treatments allow it to kill off viruses, fungi and bacteria that may cause odor. It is easy to find this ingredient in over the counter shampoos.

Zinc Pyrithione (aka Zinc PCA) is also commonly used to control oiliness on the scalp and hair. Products that use Zinc, such as Follicleanse, can be very effective for reducing oil secretions and can be key for reducing or addressing scalp infections, scalp acne, dandruff, and for calming itchiness, oily scalp and bacterial and fungus infections.


Some doctors will prescribe a medication either to treat scalp sores or the cause of smelly scalp. One common medication is fluconazole and this is used when the problems are due to a yeast infection. This medication can be found in oral or topical forms. If you want an oral medication, consider asking your doctor about ketoconazole which is also available in a topical cream, pill or shampoo and works in a similar way to fluconazole.