Smelly scalp fungus

Smelly scalp fungus DEFAULT

I have an on-going condition with my scalp - it smells! Any advice or treatments for this?

Its difficult to provide any conclusive answer without asking a ton of questions, but it very much seems like a fungal infection on the scalp. Psoriasis is also normally caused by excessive fungus, so topical products that help psoriasis may also help this condition. However, if you have a fungal infection on the scalp, you will often have a fungal imbalance throughout the rest of your body (typical symptoms are tiredness, 'brain fog', indigestion, itching) which will need to be dealt with at the same time - this will avoid the infection returning after topical treatment. A low-carb diet together with iodine, coconut oil, garlic grapeseed extract would be useful. Hope that helps.


I recommend Colloidal Silver for fungal infections. You can take (this particular brand) orally, perfectly safely and also use it in your final rinse. This will treat your whole body as opposed to just the scalp. Good luck


Thanks for all of your advice everyone. Fingers crossed, a change of diet and trying out some (more) different shampoos will get the ball rolling on this.
I was particularly interested in the answr from Marek - I have always suffered from yeast infections and do find that I'm itchy a lot of the time and foogy headed. Do you have any further advice on this or do you think I should seek further advice from my doctor?


Why Does My Scalp Smell?

If your scalp is healthy, you probably don’t pay much attention to it. However, if the skin beneath your hair starts causing you problems, like a smelly scalp, it can suddenly demand a lot of your time and attention.

Many people notice a sour or damp smell coming from their scalp. There’s no one "smelly scalp syndrome" that is to blame for any unpleasant odor you experience on your head. Rather, smelly hair and scalp can be caused by an array of issues.

Some issues—like poor hygiene or improper washing—are fairly easy to address. Others—like fungal growth or psoriasis—might require medical treatment. 

Here’s what you should know about properly caring for your scalp, and why that’s so important. 

Smelly Scalp: Common Causes

Almost everyone deals with body odor occasionally. You might notice a smell similar to sour milk, cheese, or dirty socks emanating from your scalp.

The first step toward getting rid of an unpleasant smell from your scalp is to figure out what’s causing it. Unfortunately, that can be tricky, since there are a host of conditions that affect your scalp and could make it smell bad. 

Below are some possible causes of a smelly scalp.

Scalp Psoriasis 

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that runs in families. It causes red, scaly patches of dry, flaky skin to appear on the body. Sometimes these patches can have an odor to them, especially as the dead skin builds up.

About half of people with psoriasis experience outbreaks on their scalp, which can lead to an unpleasant odor.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin rash that can appear on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. In infants, this rash is known as cradle cap. In older individuals, the rash can lead to flaky, oily scales similar to psoriasis, which may cause an odor.


Similar to seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is a skin condition that causes itching or flaking.

Compared with scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is milder and more common, affecting about half of adults. In some people, dandruff may be accompanied by an odor.

Microbiome Imbalance

Like other areas of your skin, your scalp is home to a host of bacteria and fungi. This community is known as your scalp microbiome. When these organisms are in balance, they contribute to the healthy functioning of your scalp. However, when there is too much of one type of bacteria or fungus, it can lead to infection and may contribute to a smelly scalp.

Improper Hygiene

If you don’t wash your hair properly—keeping in mind your specific hair type—sweat, pollutants, and hair products can all build up on your hair and cause an odor. If this happens, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, and can be addressed by learning more about what hair care routine works for you. 

How the Odor Smells

Smell is subjective, so you might have a hard time putting your finger on exactly what your scalp smells like. People have described their smelly caps as having a sour smell, similar to milk or cheese. It might smell downright unpleasant, like dirty laundry or, damn, even mold. If you work around chemicals or smoke, your hair and scalp might take on those scents. 

Proper Hygiene Habits 

If your scalp smells, a great place to start is by reevaluating your hygiene and hair routine. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that White and Asian people wash their hair daily, incorporating a dandruff shampoo once a week if they have dandruff. Black people should shampoo once a week, with a dandruff shampoo.

When you wash, be gentle with your scalp, avoiding aggressive scratching or scrubbing. 

Ingredients and Products to Avoid

Certain products can exacerbate smelly scalp. If you’re prone to scalp irritation, avoid products with the following:

  • Coal tar:This ingredient can help with dandruff, but it can also leave the scalp prone to sunburn.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS):Shampoos that contain sulfates can irritate your scalp.
  • Parfum: This artificial fragrance might help mask your scalp smell, but it can cause irritation in the long run.
  • Para-phenylenediamine (PPD): This ingredient found in some dark hair dyes can cause contact dermatitis.

Home Remedies

Experimenting with various home remedies might help you get your smelly scalp under control. Here are three home remedies that might help:

  • Coconut oil: Applying coconut oil to the scalp has been shown to increase good bacteria and decrease fungi, including those that contribute to dandruff.
  • Lemongrass oil: Using shampoos that contain lemongrass oil can reduce the prevalence of dandruff and may help with unpleasant odors.
  • Aloe vera: Aloe vera has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that might help calm an irritated scalp.

Dermatologist Recommendations 

Sometimes home remedies aren’t enough to address a smelly scalp. Particularly if you have an underlying medical condition like scalp psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, you might benefit from medicated shampoos and topical treatments. These can help heal the skin conditions on your scalp, which can lead to less odor.

Many of these medicated treatments are available over-the-counter, but you can also speak with a dermatologist about stronger options. 

The following medications are commonly used to treat scalp conditions.

  • Zinc pyrithione:The active ingredient in over-the-counter dandruff shampoos, it can inhibit the growth of certain fungi on the scalp and reduce dandruff.
  • Corticosteroids: Steroids reduce inflammation quickly, so they’re great for treating scalp conditions including psoriasis. They are applied as part of a topical ointment.
  • Clobetasol propionate:The active ingredient in many psoriasis shampoos, it reduces swelling, inflammation, and itchiness. 
  • Tazarotene:This is a medication that slows cell regrowth, which can help control skin buildup on the scalp. The ointment is usually applied at night and rinsed out in the morning. 
  • Salicylic acid:This helps the skin shed dead cells to reduce buildup. It is commonly found in psoriasis treatments known as scale softeners. 

A Word From Verywell

No one wants to have a smelly scalp. If you or a close loved one have noticed that your scalp smells like sour milk or stinky feet, it’s time to reevaluate your hygiene routine. You should begin shampooing daily, or weekly if you are Black. If you have a rash, red patches, or flakes that might indicate an underlying condition, be sure to talk with your doctor. With some simple adjustments, your scalp will smell fine in no time. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What causes fungus on the scalp?

Fungus occurs naturally on the scalp as part of the microbiome, or colony of organisms. Other types of fungus can be transmitted through contact. One type of yeast called Malassezia occurs naturally on the scalp but can lead to dandruff when it becomes too abundant. Many over-the-counter dandruff shampoos slow the growth of Malassezia.

Does dandruff make your scalp smell?

There’s no one cause for a smelly scalp. However, dandruff can indicate that your scalp is unhealthy or that your scalp microbiome is unbalanced. Getting dandruff under control might help address a smelly scalp. 

What helps with scalp psoriasis? 

Medicated shampoos and ointments can help treat scalp psoriasis. You should also talk with your doctor about treating psoriasis overall, including treatments and lifestyle changes that can help keep the condition in check. 

Thanks for your feedback!

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Psoriasis Foundation. Scalp psoriasis. Updated December 7, 2020.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Seborrheic dermatitis.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to treat dandruff.

  4. Saxena, Rituja. Longitudinal study of the scalp microbiome suggests coconut oil to enrich healthy scalp commensals. Scientific Reports. March 31, 2021. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-86454-1

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 reasons your scalp itches and how to get relief.

  6. Chaisripipat. Anti-dandruff hair tonic containing lemongrass (cymbopogon flexuosus) oil. Complementary Medicine Research. 2015. doi:10.1159/000432407

  7. Hekmatpou, Davood. The effect of aloe vera clinical trials on prevention and healing of skin wound: a systematic review. The Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences. January 2019.

  8. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Scalp psoriasis: shampoos, scale softeners and other treatments.

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Improper shampooing of the hair causes skin cells’ accumulation, which then forms flakes in dandruff resulting in an itchy scalp.

Malassezia is a form of yeast on the scalp that causes the growth of excess skin cells.

Your scalp is an outer layer of the skin, and like all other skins, it has a layer beneath it that contains hair follicles, nerve endings, and oil and sweat glands.

Oil and sweat are a healthy process, but the accumulation of sweat and sebum on the scalp makes it a conducive environment for breeding bacteria.

The combination of bacteria, dead skin cells, oil, and sweat forms certain acids responsible for the scalp’s unpleasant smell.

We are now well informed about the primary cause of astinky scalp.

Let us explore some of the other causes of a stinky scalp.

Frequently washing your hair with a mild shampoo will help keep your sebum levels in check and ensure a healthy and clean scalp.

When the scalp is over oil due to non-regular washing, it tends to attract dust and dirt and makes your scalp a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria, which causes a stinky scalp.

You might be wondering how ‘too much cleaning’ can become a problem.

Well, here you have it.

By scrubbing your scalp clean using detergents, the scalp counters this by producing even more oils.

The use of harsh shampoos also leads to a better cleansing activity, but the chemicals present in them sensitize the scalp and lead to excessive oil production, which causes a bad smell.

  •   Stress and hormonal imbalances

It is pretty unfortunate how our mental situations affect our physical well-being.

Stress results in the imbalance of our hormones which prompts the production of excess oil or excessive sweating.

These are probable causes for the stinky scalp.

As much as it can be fashionable and all, wearing hats may negatively impact your scalp.

The scalp may get a little too warm with a hat on, making it favorable for bacteria to multiply. Sweating on the head when you have a cap on is highly likely.

The combination of sweat and oils and lack of proper aeration of the scalp may result in a stinky scalp.

Some of the foods we take may not click so well with the skin, especially foods with scents such as onions and garlic.

The strong odors may be excreted through the skin in the form of oils which can cause the scalp to stink.

Whereas chemicals in shampoos are responsible for cleaner hair and scalp, they may leave residues of the chemical compounds, disrupting normal sebum levels on the scalp.

Exposure to environmental factors may cause your hair to absorb some of the gases and substances retained on the scalp causing it to smell.

Skin diseases such as Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff cause overgrowth of the natural bacteria on the scalp which can cause a smelly scalp.

 Getting Rid of Smelly Scalp?

  • a)   Regular washing of the scalp

Ensure you pay special attention to the scalp when washing your hair. Clean hair with an unclean scalp will cause a smelly situation. Use clean and enough water alongside a mild shampoo.

  • b)    Use prescribed shampoos

ZincPCa is an ingredient in shampoos that counters bacteria and fungus activity, thus preventing smelly scalp and dandruff. In case you are wondering which brand to buy, then visit Southern Sisters Designs and buy yourself Zincplex Purifying Shampoo and Conditioner for tremendous results.

To regulate and keep sebum levels in check, use Zincplex Xtra Purifying Shampoo.

I highly recommend Jojoba Oil for your scalp to keep it nourished and boost healthy and deep cleanse of hair follicles.

Jojoba Oil and Argan Oil available at Southern Sisters Designs will keep your skin supple and well moisturized.

  • d)  Visit a dermatologist

For chronic hair smell, there may be an underlying serious skin condition or cancer. It is necessary to seek the advice of a qualified practitioner in such a case.

Remember to visit Southern Sisters Designs for the most incredible price offers for all products to prevent stinky scalp. Here you will find excellent quality products and a long-term solution to that smelly scalp problem.

The post What Causes a Stinky Scalp and What Can I Do About It? appeared first on Evertise.


Amazing Ways To Get Rid Of Smelly Scalp & Hair

It must be embarrassing to have a scalp with a foul odor. Do you want to fix your smelly hair syndrome naturally? If yes, we are here to help you.

‘’Often, a smelly scalp can be the result of insufficient washing or bad hair hygiene. However, there could also be much deeper issues that may cause a smelly scalp despite regular washing’’, says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.

In this article,  let’s understand various factors that cause smelly scalp syndrome while exploring effective herbal and home remedies to resolve it.

Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks

"The microbes break down your scalp sebum, sweat or dead cells, into certain acids that cause an unpleasant foul smell."

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix


What Is Smelly Hair Syndrome?

Smelly hair syndrome involves a malodor that your scalp and hair produce due to a variety of bacterial and fungal growth. ‘’The microbes break down your scalp sebum, sweat or dead cells, into certain acids that cause an unpleasant foul smell’’, says Dr. Zeel.

What Does Smelly Hair Smell Like?

People often compare the odor of smelly hair and scalp to sour milk, dirty socks, and sometimes stinky diapers. People can easily notice the pungent stench.

Why Do You Have Smelly Hair?

According to Ayurveda, your scalp and hair condition depends upon the equilibrium of your vital bodily energies: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vitiation of your doshas results in a variety of diseases, including scalp problems.

Based on this ancient concept of tri doshas, if Kapha and Pitta doshas are aggravated in your body, your scalp produces excess sebum and sweat. This, in turn, results in various microbial scalp infections like oily dandruff, scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, yeast infestations, etc. causing smelly scalp and hair.

This is usually more common in people with Kapha dominating innate Prakriti, who have oily scalp with highly active sebum glands.

In adults, the average rate of sebum production is 1mg/10 sq cm for every 3 hours. It is considered oily skin when the sebum production exceeds 1.5 mg/10 sq cm for every 3 hours [1].

To reverse your smelly hair syndrome, you need to bring tridoshas in your body to a balanced state that can be achieved naturally through Ayurveda.

Before that, let us understand different factors that cause an imbalance in your Kapha and Pitta doshas, resulting in smelly hair and scalp.

What Causes Smelly Hair And Scalp?

1. Hormonal Imbalances And Stress

During conditions like puberty in men and pregnancy[2], menopause, etc. in women, the extreme fluctuations in the production of different hormones cause derangement in your Pitta dosha. This may further cause your Kapha dosha to aggravate, leading to the overproduction of sebum on your scalp.

‘’A stressful lifestyle could often be a potential cause for hormonal imbalance, triggering excessive sebum production on your scalp,’’ says Dr. Zeel

2. Improper Diet

Ayurveda suggests specific guidelines and foods to maintain the balance of each dosha. Especially if you have Kapha-Pitta dominating innate Prakriti, eating oily or fried foods, dairy products, excessively spicy foods, and salty foods may cause vitiation in your doshas. This results in the secretion of excessive scalp oils.

3. Seasonal Conditions

Kapha aggravates in the spring season while you can experience Pitta elevation during autumn. Also, the aggravated Vata in the monsoon season may cause a spike in Pitta and Kapha doshas, resulting in various scalp related problems in these seasons, causing smelly scalp and hair. In other words, the extreme humidity in the environment during monsoons promotes microbial growth.

4. Pollution

Various pollutants in the air can get trapped in your scalp oils and sebum, emitting pungent smells. This further clogs your hair follicles, causing hair loss.

5. Chemical Hair Products

The chemical build up from different hair care products disturbs your scalp pH, causing overproduction of sebum and scalp smell.

6. Bad And Unhygienic Hair Habits

Some of the bad hair habits that can aggravate your scalp smell syndrome if not taken care include:

  • Not washing your hair enough
  • Prolonged usage of scarfs or caps made of a material that trap sweat on your scalp
  • Washing your hair using hot water

Effective Ways To Get Rid Of Smelly Scalp And Hair

1. Essential Oils For Smelly Hair

Besides their strong aromatic capabilities, the essential oils mentioned below possess more vital chemical properties that can benefit your scalp health.

essential oils with herbs and flowers

A. Cedar Wood Oil

It works well to balance the activity of oil glands on your scalp. With its antibacterial and antifungal properties [3], cedarwood oil helps you treat various ailments that cause a smelly scalp.

B. Lavender Oil

It is rich in linalool and linalyl acetate, known to be potent antimicrobial agents against various pathogenic bacteria. Also, lavender oil is very helpful in maintaining your scalp's pH balance.

C. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oilis the most commonly used essential oil in treating dandruff and other pathogenic scalp infections due to its stronger antibacterial and antifungal properties. It reduces your scalp stink effectively.

D. Peppermint Oil

It contains menthone, L-menthol, methyl acetate, and limonene, which exhibit powerful antibacterial activity. Besides imparting a freshened and cooling sensation, peppermint oil gives a unique fragrance to your scalp and hair.

E. Ginger Oil

It is an effective scalp cleanser and reduces your scalp itchiness and smell very well by eliminating bacterial build-up.  Also, ginger oil treats your scalp redness by repairing your damaged and inflamed follicles.

F. Clove Oil

Clove oil contains eugenol, which has antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. It is very effective in treating conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, scalp pruritus, etc. Along with providing a refreshing aroma to your hair, clove oil eliminates dirt and grease from your scalp.

G. Turmeric Oil

In India, a popular antifungal and antibacterial agent, turmeric, in the form of essential oil, is beneficial in keeping your scalp away from various microbial infestations and stinky scalp smell.

You can incorporate any of these essential oils in your hair care regimen by adding a few drops into your shampoo. You can also mix 5-10 drops of any of these essential oils into 2-3 tsp of carrier oil like coconut, almond, or jojoba oil and massage your scalp and hair thoroughly with it. Then, leave it for about half an hour before proceeding for a gentle hair wash with an Ayurvedic shampoo.

2. Shampoo For Smelly Hair

When you have smelly scalp syndrome, choose Ayurvedic shampoos with any of the following herbal ingredients based on your current dosha levels. These herbs not only fight the microbial growth and add an aromatic essence to your scalp but also contribute to bringing your elevated doshas to balance.

A. Kumari (Aloe Vera)

Aloe vera balances all the three doshas and has natural antiviral and antibacterial properties [4]. It is beneficial in treating dandruff, scalp psoriasis, and other problems that cause stinky scalp while providing gentle conditioning to your hair.

B. Karpoora (Camphor)

Karpoora balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. Owing to its rich antioxidants and antibacterial properties, it resolves your scalp smell while detoxifying your follicles effectively.

C. Nimba (Neem)

Neem balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. Besides fighting against microbial growth on your scalp with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, neem repairs your broken hair and boosts healthy hair growth.

D. Amalaki (Indian gooseberry)

Amla balances all the three doshas. It keeps your scalp healthy and clean by preventing microbial infections. Also, it provides tremendous nourishment to your hair roots.

E. Japa (Hibiscus)

Hibiscus or Japa balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. It has strong astringent properties that control sebum secretion [5] on your scalp. Also, it rejuvenates your scalp and promotes longer hair growth.

You can also treat your scalp with the above ingredients in the form of homemade herbal shampoos or dry shampoos to fix your smelly scalp syndrome.

Vedix Tip: Keep your hair wash limited to not more than twice or thrice a week, even if you have an oily scalp. A common misconception is that the more you wash your hair, the less your scalp becomes greasy. In reality, your hair becomes more greasy if you wash it too frequently.

3. Hair Spray For Smelly Hair

You can start using Ayurvedic hair sprays or hair mists, which not only revitalize your dull hair but also save you from your scalp smell by adding a natural herbal fragrance to your hair.

hair spray with comb and palm leaf

4. Home Remedies

A. Lemon Juice

Mix 2 tsp of lemon juice in a cup of any carrier oil like coconut oil or almond oil. You can also add the juice into a cup of water. Massage your scalp thoroughly with the solution and let it sink in for 15 minutes. Now, wash it off properly using normal water. Repeat the process twice a week.

B. Baking Soda

Mix 1 tsp of baking soda in a cup of water. You can also add a few drops of rosemary oil into it for fragrance. Now, wash your scalp properly with this solution and leave it for about 20 minutes. Later, rinse it off with normal water. Repeat the process once a week.

C. Apple Cider Vinegar

Prepare a solution by mixing ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and ¾ cup of water. You can add ⅛ cup of lemon juice and a few drops of essential oil of your choice into it. Massage your scalp with this solution thoroughly. Leave it for half an hour before washing it off.

D. Tomato Juice

Remove the peel and grind the pulp of tomato[6] into juice. Apply it across your scalp and give a gentle massage. Leave it for about 20-30 minutes before washing your scalp and hair.

E. Garlic

Put four chopped garlic cloves into ½ cup of coconut oil. Now, heat the oil in low flame for a few minutes. Keep the oil aside for cooling. When the oil is slightly warm, apply it across your scalp while giving a gentle massage. Let the oil sink into your follicles for 20-30 minutes before you go for hair wash with an Ayurvedic shampoo.

F. Onion Juice

Blend onions and extract the juice using a strainer. Apply this juice across your scalp using a cotton ball and massage it for a few minutes. Leave it for about 30 minutes before rinsing it off using an Ayurvedic shampoo. Repeat this once or twice a week.

How To Prevent Smelly Scalp And Hair?

1. Stay away from alcohol as it greatly aggravates your doshas.

2. Use chemical-free hair products. Ensure that your hair products are free of sulfates and parabens.

3. Wash your scalp and hair thoroughly post-workout. This helps you prevent sweat build up on your scalp.

4. Step-out only after your scalp and hair are thoroughly dried after hair wash.

5. Use a clean cotton scarf or hat to protect your scalp from pollution and sun damage. It also absorbs the sweat produced from your scalp and keeps it dry.

6. Avoid frequently scratching your scalp as it leads to excessive shedding of dead cells, which, in turn, increases the risk of microbial infections.

7. Regular physical workouts, yoga, and meditation help you greatly in detoxification and managing your stress levels.

8. Always use clean hairbrushes, combs, and towels.

Why Does Your Hair Smell Even After Washing?

Your hair may still smell after washing because your shampoo might be ineffective in curbing the fungal and bacterial activity on your scalp.

Most shampoos only work to remove excessive sebum and sweat from your scalp. Washing hair with such shampoos may not fight against microbial infection. The moisture of wet scalp after hair wash will further aggravate the microbial activity, causing a terrible scalp smell after a few hours or immediately.

Hence, it would be best to use shampoos with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties to treat your scalp smell.

Important Note

Please consult a dermatologist or Ayurvedic doctor before administering any of the remedies mentioned in this article to treat your scalp smell.

The Last Word

Ancient Ayurvedic scripts offer various highly balanced herbal formulations to cure scalp infections that cause scalp smell. The holistic herbs eliminate microbial infections while keeping your doshas in balance. Also, these natural remedies are extremely safe with zero side effects.

At Vedix, we formulate a customized Ayurvedic hair care regimen for you by understanding your doshas and unique hair needs.

Know Your Dosha Now

Fungus smelly scalp

scalp issues

Is your scalp super itchy and dry? Is it tender? Or does it low key stink? If so, you might be suffering from a hair fungus. Sounds gross, I know, but it’s a pretty common hair issue that many of us face when our bodies get out of balance or our hair care regimens aren’t up to par. It’s also very treatable.

[SEE ALSO: 11 Reasons To Add Apple Cider Vinegar To Your Hair Regimen]

We caught up with natural hair care expert and “hair whisperer” Tendai Morris to find out how to know if you have it and how to get rid of it. Outside of seeing a dermatologist, she gave us two main indicators: smell and flakes.

“If you have a fungus, you will actually smell it,” said Tendai. “And, you can’t get rid of the smell. You’ll wash your hair and still have the problem.”

But, she said, the main way to tell is if you have a flaky scalp — especially if you have big, dino-sized flakes.

“People think this is dandruff, but a lot of times it’s a fungus. You know you have a fungus when you go in and you try to comb your hair and these big giant flakes come up out [of your] scalp. It can also be moist under the flakes. Dandruff tends to be dry and like dust on your scalp. But, if it’s like a layer you can lift off your scalp, that’s more than likely a fungus.”

It’s also important to treat a potential hair fungus early as it can be a contributing factor to thinning hair and alopecia. “Fungus irritates the hair follicle,” said Tendai. “[This] causes alopecia where the hair just retards into the scalp and it doesn’t grow back out because of the fungus.”

Keep reading for four tips she gave for get ridding of this foul hair issue.


What’s Causing My Scalp to Smell and How Do I Treat It?

If someone asked you to list the parts of the body mostly likely to generate an unpleasant smell, what would top your list?

You might first think of feet or underarms, but as it turns out, your scalp might be smellier than you realize. Learning to identify the most likely culprit can help you figure out the best way to reduce — or even eliminate — any unpleasant smells.

What causes a smelly scalp?

If you’ve wrinkled your nose upon getting a whiff of your own scalp, and it’s not just a one-time occurrence, you may need to consider the various possible causes of the smell.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Your sebaceous glands secrete oil, hence the name of this common skin disease.

Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be caused by an overgrowth of a natural yeast that lives on our bodies. This causes dry, yellowish, scaly patches on the scalp — and it could be causing it to smell, too.

Excessive sweating

If you’re a gym regular who skips the post-workout shower, even after working up a sweat, your scalp may convince you to change your behavior.

When that build-up of sweat mixes with bacteria on your scalp, you may start to notice an unpleasant smell. Excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, can make it worse.

Under- or over-washing

When you delay a good scrub, you allow oils, or sebum, to build up on your scalp. This sebum can make your scalp and even your hair smell a little unpleasant.

Fungal infection

A smelly scalp could be the result of a fungus that lives on the skin. This fungus can cause inflammatory reactions like folliculitis, dandruff, and eczema.

Hormonal changes

affect your hair and scalp. For example, many women notice some hair thinning or even hair loss during menopause.

If your body’s producing excess amounts of androgen, that could result in an overproduction of oil from your skin’s glands — including those on your scalp.


We tend to think of pollution (especially particulate matter like soot or smoke in the air) as being harmful to our lungs — and it is.

But exposure to environmental odors can cause all sorts of symptoms, ranging from headaches to nausea. These particles can also cling to your hair — and scalp — and make it smell bad.


If you have scalp psoriasis, you may have fine scales covering your scalp, or you may have a series of thick, crusty plaques. You might be tempted to skip washing the affected area, but that might lead to the development of a smell as oil and skin cells build up.

Research shows that of people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis. This requires treatment to stop or delay the development of possibly irreversible joint damage.

Your diet

Your diet — or changes to your diet — can result in body odor. For example, if you’re an enthusiastic carnivore, some research suggests that all that meat could affect the way that you (and possibly your scalp) smell to others.

Hair products

Some people buy hair products based solely on the scent of the product, while others focus more on the intended results.

However, even sweetly scented products can cause a build-up of oils on your scalp if they’re not washed out. That can lead to less-than-desirable odors.

Is there such a thing as smelly scalp syndrome?

Some people may be mystified by the cause of their smelly scalp. They might even wonder if there’s a mysterious smelly scalp syndrome that could be the culprit.

This hasn’t been documented in medical literature. However, there are other possible medical causes that might cause an unpleasant smell to emanate from the scalp, so it’s always worth talking to a doctor about those potential causes.

Natural home remedies for a smelly scalp

If you prefer to address your issue with a home remedy before visiting a doctor, consider these options:

Shampoo for a smelly scalp

If dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis are contributing to the smell emanating from your scalp, it might be worth washing your hair and scalp with a shampoo specifically formulated for this purpose.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests using a product with one of the following ingredients:

If your first choice doesn’t seem to work, try a shampoo with a different active ingredient next.

Essential oils

You might also consider a few essential oils as a possible remedy. Some people find that tea tree oil, which is antimicrobial, is effective at treating conditions that cause a smelly scalp, like seborrheic dermatitis.

Another possibility: lemongrass oil. A small study of 30 participants found that a tonic containing lemongrass oil was effective at reducing dandruff.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has lots of fans for its various potential health benefits, which range from helping people manage their blood sugar levels to helping people lose weight.

But another key benefit of ACV is its . You may see some success in treating your scalp with apple cider vinegar.

If you have eczema, avoid using ACV. Additionally, suggests that certain people might experience irritation from using apple cider vinegar on their skin.

Try diluting it before applying it to your skin. Or, rub some onto the skin inside your elbow and wait for 24 to 48 hours to see if there’s a reaction before using it on your scalp.

Aloe vera

If you have seborrheic dermatitis, consider using aloe vera as a home remedy. that it can be an effective treatment for managing this chronic condition for some people.

Aloe vera has been used for a for thousands of years, as it’s known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Lemon juice

Could lemon juice be an antidote to your smelly scalp? Lemon juice has been shown to have antimicrobial qualities, which suggests that it could reduce some smell-generating bacteria lurking on your scalp.

Lemon juice is sometimes lauded for various positive effects it can have on your skin, but like many fruit acids, it can also be irritating and can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Use it with caution.

Smelly scalp treatment

If home remedies aren’t effective, you should see a doctor. Depending on the cause, they may be able to recommend a medical treatment. For example, you might think you have dandruff, when instead it’s seborrheic dermatitis.

A doctor might suggest an oral antifungal medication, a medicated shampoo, or an antifungal cream on your scalp to attack the root cause of the condition.

If the cause is a fungus like Malassezia, the doctor might suggest a particular type of anti-dandruff shampoo containing pyrithione zinc, which research suggests should alleviate the problem.

There are a number of effective treatments for scalp psoriasis, including oral and topical medications. But many of them require a prescription.

When to see a doctor

If none of the strategies or treatments you’ve tried have reduced or eliminated the smell, make an appointment to see a doctor.

They’ll further evaluate more serious underlying conditions that may be present, and may recommend additional treatment.


If you’ve noticed a change in the odor of your scalp or hair, and there’s no obvious cause like a change in hair products, it might be worth consulting a doctor.

It could just be a matter of needing to wash your hair more often. But a chronically smelly scalp could indicate that some other condition is present that might warrant medical treatment.


Similar news:

When it comes to our health and our appearance we can worry for a number of different reasons, and when an issue could be affecting both your health and your appearance it can become an upsetting time. Today we’re discussing a fungal infection that can cause issues with a smelly scalp and hair. If you’ve been suffering from hair fall and you have a smelly scalp read on to find out what might be causing it.

What Is Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis, or ‘scalp ringworm’ is an infection of the scalp hair and surrounding skin with a fungus. Despite its name, the fungus is not caused by a worm. It is called ‘ringworm’ due to it causing a ring-shaped, scaly, red rash.

Fungi are microscopic organisms that can live on the hair, nails and the outer layer of skin and tinea capitis is caused by an infection with a type of fungus called dermatophyte. The condition is most common with children, however, adults can also suffer from tinea capitis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Tinea Capitis?

The most common symptoms include itching, redness and dryness of the scalp and sometimes, bald patches can occur as infected hairs are brittle and can break easily.  In severe cases, there can be pustules, yellow crusts, an unusually smelly scalp and matted hair.

Can Tinea Capitis Be Treated?

Yes. Tinea capitis will need to be treated with an oral antifungal medication which can only be obtained on prescription. In most cases, you will also be recommended an antifungal shampoo to reduce the spread of the fungus to other people. In order to prevent re-infection, other family members and close contacts may need to be checked to ensure they are not carrying the infection.

Will The Hair Loss Be Permeant?

No, after a course of oral antifungal medication tinea capitis should be treated and overtime your smelly scalp will dissipate. When the infection has gone, your hair will resume to its normal growth cycle and should no longer be as brittle and dry. Over time, any bald patches you might have should go away.

If you would like more information on hair loss or hair treatments, please visit our news section where you will find a variety of articles that might help, or feel free to contact us with further questions.


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