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Smelly Scalp

Chandramita Bora
Your scalp can smell, when sebum, dirt, and dead skin cells accumulate on the scalp. Sometimes, an overgrowth of bacteria and fungi can also cause your scalp to smell. Find out more about the factors that can cause a smelly scalp, along with some simple remedies for this condition, in this Story.
A smelly scalp can be an indicator of an overgrowth of microorganisms on it, though scalp odor is usually believed to be caused by uncleanliness or a lack of personal hygiene. In fact, scalp odor can be caused by many factors other than poor personal hygiene. Many individuals encounter this problem, even when they wash or shampoo their hair every day. Therefore, it is important to know the factors that can cause a smelly scalp, in order to find a solution to this annoying problem.

Causes of Scalp Odor

Scalp odor is usually caused by the excess secretion of sebum or oil by the sebaceous glands, along with profuse sweating. As a result, dirt and dead skin cells accumulate on the scalp, and produce a foul odor. The presence of excess sebum on the scalp also creates a favorable environment for the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms, that thrive on the scalp oil.
The result is a buildup of microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) around the hair follicles. The fungus that is more commonly associated with this condition is known as tinea capitis or scalp ringworm. The odor can become especially repulsive, if the scalp is infected.

Scalp Odor Remedies

The simplest and the most effective way to eliminate scalp odor is to wash your hair and scalp frequently with a medicated shampoo. Shampoos that are specifically manufactured for oily scalp can help remove the buildup of oil, dirt, and dead skin cells from the scalp.
The sulfur-based shampoos are especially ideal for oily scalp, as sulfur can destroy the scalp bacteria. Even shampoos that contain salicylic acid can be used to remove the dead skin cells, and excess sebum from the scalp. If the odor persists, even after using medicated and sulfur-based shampoos, then consider to take the help of a dermatologist.
A few natural products can also prove quite beneficial for eliminating scalp odor, some of which are enlisted below:
  • Diluted apple cider vinegar has deodorizing and disinfecting properties. It can remove excess oil from the scalp, eliminate bacteria and fungi, and restore the normal pH of the scalp and hair.
  • Onions contain sulfur, and hence onion juice can be applied on the scalp to destroy germs and bacteria, and thereby reduce scalp odor. Let the juice sit on the scalp for about 15 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
  • Mix lemon juice and yogurt in a bowl to make a paste, and apply the paste on your scalp. Leave it for 20 to 30 minutes, after which shampoo your hair thoroughly.
  • Try essential oils like lavender oil to get rid of scalp odor. Apply this oil on your hair and scalp a day before shampooing your hair. You can also use rosemary and olive oil for this purpose.
  • Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties, and so, it can be used to get rid of some common scalp problems, including scalp odor. Even neem oil is renowned for its antiseptic properties, and can be used for this condition.
  • Crush a few cloves of garlic, and rub the paste on your scalp. Besides removing odor from your scalp, garlic can kill germs and microorganisms.
To sum up, you should keep your hair and scalp clean and free from any dirt or grim, along with trying the aforementioned home remedies. Your towels, hair brush, combs, and pillow cases should also be clean. But if you spot an infection along with the smell, then consult your dermatologist as soon as possible.