Lumps on the head is one of the very annoying, irritating, and uncomfortable medical conditions. This is because, you face difficulty in combing your hair as the comb bristles hurt the lumps and cause pain. So, with lumps on the scalp, hair care regime can become an ordeal.


The sebaceous glands located on the scalp release a waxy, oily substance known as sebum. The sebum keeps the scalp flake-free and prevents it from becoming dry. Poor functioning of the sebaceous glands can cause a wide range of scalp problems, which may eventually lead to formation of lumps on the scalp. Some of the factors that can cause abnormal growths on the head are given below:

Seborrhoeic Dermatitis
The most common cause of hard lumps on the head is the disorder of the skin called seborrhoeic dermatitis. This condition may also affect the face, make the skin flaky, and cause formation of white, yellow scales on the scalp. Red, itchy bumps may also appear on the scalp. In some severe cases of dermatitis, pus-filled blisters are formed, which often ooze out fluid. Such blisters dry up and form crust over time. Excess secretion of sebum (waxy oily, matter) in the scalp creates a fitting ground for the Malassezia strains of fungus to grow indiscriminately, which eventually triggers symptoms of seborrhoeic dermatitis.

Treatment: Washing your hair with antifungal shampoos and apple cider vinegar often works to cure the condition over time. Antifungal medications such as ciclopirox and ketoconazole found in various shampoos help to get rid of scalp fungus.

Acne can also be a possible reason behind the formation of lump on the head and neck. It forms when the hair follicles (pouches that contain hair root) get clogged with oil, dirt, dust, and dead cell debris giving rise to acne breakouts. Unhealthy diet, too much application of hair oil, hormonal changes are some of the factors that contribute in the development of scalp acne.

Treatment: Tea tree oil being an antiseptic can also help to get rid of scalp acne. With a cotton ball, one can directly apply it on the affected area or else use shampoos that contain tea tree oil. Using shampoos that have salicylic acid as an important ingredient can also work to cure scalp acne.

Sebaceous Cyst
Sebaceous cyst is another prominent cause of lumps on the head. It is a closed sac that develops under the skin and is filled with an oily or cheese-like material. Sebaceous cyst mostly arise from swollen hair follicles. Physical injury may also trigger the onset of such a cyst formation. Lumps associated with sebaceous cysts do not cause any pain and treatment isn't necessary. However, if they get inflamed due to a secondary infection, it can be a cause of great discomfort.

Treatment: Small sebaceous cysts are not a cause for concern and require no treatment. But, large sebaceous cysts are quite bothersome and often removed surgically. The procedure that lasts for not more than 20-30 minutes is done under local anesthesia.

Eruption of red itchy bumps on the scalp may indicate hives, which is often the result of an allergic reaction to medications or food. When we consume something that cannot be tolerated, the body releases certain chemicals known as histamines that affect the skin and cause this raised itchy rash.

Treatment: Taking antihistamines is often the first line of treatment for allergic reactions. These medications help to stop the production of histamines and quell the symptoms.

The medical condition which involves inflammation of one or more hair follicles is known as folliculitis. As aforementioned, hair follicles are small sacs that store the hair root. When the hair follicles get swollen often due to proliferation of bacteria or yeast, small lumps may form on the affected sites. The lumps appear as itchy red pustules with the hair strand emerging from its center.

Treatment: Use of topical antibiotics or shampoos containing antifungal agents such as ketoconazole will be recommended depending upon the nature of underlying cause.

Lump on the head may indicate hemangioma, protruding tumor-like growth that is essentially made up of dilated blood vessels and can occur anywhere on the face, neck, and the scalp. It appears as a red-colored mass of tissue and is usually painless and soft to touch. Also known as benign vascular tumors, hemangiomas may be an inborn benign tumor or occur in the later stage of life. Hemangioma resulting from an inborn malformation is considered to be a birthmark. It is observed that inborn hemangiomas are large and fully grown at the time of birth. Hemangiomas that appear as birthmarks eventually subside by the time the child reaches the age of 10. In adults, hemangiomas can be as small as a liver spot but sometimes can grow up to 3 inches in diameter.

Treatment: Large hemangiomas occurring in adults are often removed surgically to provide long-lasting relief. Complete removal of the affected tissue is necessary to prevent its recurrence. In some cases, laser and medications such as corticosteroids are used to keep the hemangioma self-limiting.

The term 'shingles' refers to a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash, forming a band-like pattern of blisters. The symptoms usually manifests on the torso but can also affect the scalp. Before the blisters erupt, one may experience discomfort akin to burning sensation at the site where the rash eventually appears. The chickenpox virus, namely varicella-zoster is responsible for causing shingles rash. Shingles outbreak on the scalp is debilitating and a feeble touch to the head can cause excruciating pain. Apart from scalp, the rash may also spread to the forehead and eyebrows. After the symptoms of chickenpox go away, the virus stays deactivated in the nerve cells for years. However, the virus can reactivate itself by exploiting a weakened immune system to reach the skin and cause shingles.

Treatment: Oral dose of antivirals such as acyclovir and valacyclovir is recommended to treat shingles. Starting the antiviral course before the onset of blisters can actually help to shorten the duration of shingles that usually lasts for 2-3 weeks. Applying a menthol lotion on the scalp may also contribute to relieve pain.

Hair Care Tips
  • As far as washing hair is concerned, always prefer cold water or that is moderately warm. Using hot water can cause excess secretion of sebum, which may exacerbate your scalp problem.
  • Due to surplus sebum production, the hair and scalp are already very oily. So, one should avoid applying any kind of hair oil to keep the condition under control. As long as the problem persists, usage of oil-free products is a must.
  • When washing your hair, avoid scrubbing the scalp vigorously. Also, comb your hair with gentle hands to prevent any sort of discomfort. Excessive brushing can break open the bumps and cause bleeding.
  • Washing your hair with appropriate medicated shampoo is also necessary to retain healthy scalp. In order to reduce sebum production on the scalp, shampoos containing zinc are found to be beneficial.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.