Causes of a Rash on the Scalp Skin

Skin rashes are common occurrences and do not always indicate a severe problem. Generally, they will emerge from an environmental irritant, which can cause the skin to inflame and exhibit symptoms of itchiness, small bumps and flaking. Other times, it can indicate an underlying skin condition. A rash on the sensitive area of the scalp can become exceedingly problematic due to the presence of hair follicles. Individuals suffering from a scalp rash should contact a health care professional if the problem suddenly appears, worsens or accompanies pain.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Sebborheic dermatitis often appears in red patches called dandruff on the scalp. Age, stress, fatigue, weather extremes, oily skin, infrequent shampooing and alcohol-based lotions can exacerbate this condition. Although dandruff is a relatively harmless issue, it can often prove irritating due to the itching, dryness and flaking that the scalp exhibits. Over-the-counter products, such as shampoos that are zinc-pyrithione, tar-based, selenium sulfide or salicylic acid significantly help to reduce dandruff and heal rashes. Dandruff sufferers should alternate medicated hair products with regular shampoos to prevent a loss of efficacy overtime.

Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis is ringworm of the scalp 3. It is a common disorder that is highly contagioius and problematic as it can cause bald spots. It will appear as itchy, red, raised scaly rashes that may or may not blister or expel liquid. The infected area is generally more red on the outer areas and lighter towards the center, which gives it a distinct “ring” formation. Individuals require antifungal treatment immediately as the fungus can quickly spread to other parts of the scalp as well as the body. Over-the-counter antifungal products may help but more progressed cases may require a prescription.


Often, a rash on the scalp may be due to an allergic reaction from a cosmetic, soap or detergent. Ingredients in shampoo, conditioner, hair gel or other beauty products may irritate the skin causing a rash. Itching, swelling or small pimple-like bumps can accompany the rash, which can cause a secondary bacterial infection if a sufferer constantly scratches it. Avoiding hair items that have harsh chemical ingredients, fragrance or dyes may prevent scalp rashes.


Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox 4. This condition typically affects people over the age of 50. Shingles causes pain, tingling, burning and itching -- usually affecting one side of the face or head 4. A rash develops within 2 weeks of contracting the virus. There is no cure for shingles, and pain can last for months or even years once the rash has disappeared 4.