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Smelly Scalp Problems

author image Beverly Bird
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.
Smelly Scalp Problems
Scalp odor can come from bacteria, yeast or something more serious. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

According to Health and Nutrition Tips, many people suffer from dandruff and itching problems. Scalp odor is somewhat more rare, but if you are among those who suffer from it, it can be embarrassing and socially limiting. If you have oily hair, you might be more prone to scalp odor than others. Fortunately, there are many things you can try to get rid of it, but it might be a matter of trial and error.


Your body has two kinds of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. If your scalp smells, you can start by blaming your apocrine glands. These occur wherever you have hair follicles, such as your head. Apocrine glands secrete a fatty sweat, according to the Mayo Clinic. When it reaches the surface of your skin, if there are any bacteria present there, they will attack it to break it down, and the result smells. The website Dr.Donnica.com suggests that the sebaceous glands in your scalp can contribute to the problem if they produce too much oil, because oil can prompt the growth of bacteria.

Other Theories

Another theory, according to Health and Nutrition Tips, is that what you are eating might be causing the problem. If your scalp odor persists no matter what you do to neutralize bacteria and its growth, you might have an overabundance of yeast in your system. Yeast is a form of fungus and it, too, smells. Check into the nutrition content of your favorite foods to see if they contain yeast. If they do, avoid them for awhile to see if your problem improves.


Regardless of whether your odor is coming from bacteria or fungus, shampoos containing zinc pyrithione might combat either one. Health and Nutrition Tips also suggests shampoos containing sulphur. As a last resort, wash your hair with an antibacterial body soap instead of shampoo.


If you also have dandruff, don't be tempted to stop washing your hair frequently because you think it will dry out your scalp and make the situation worse. An accumulation of oil in your hair will not stop your scalp from flaking, but it will cause a buildup of bacteria.

Health and Nutrition Tips advises buying sample and trial sizes of various shampoos and soaps as you try to figure out which one works for you. Wait and invest in a big bottle when you're sure a brand does the trick.


In most cases, scalp odor is benign, but there is always a chance that it might not be. Health and Nutrition Tips advises making an appointment with a dermatologist who is familiar with unusual scalp conditions. It can save you time trying out various shampoos and cleaners and can identify a more serious problem.

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