Why Do I Have Bumps On My Scalp?

Medically Reviewed By Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP
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Eczema, allergic reactions, and folliculitis can all cause bumps on the scalp. The bumps may go away, but some conditions might require treatment. Some conditions that cause bumps on the scalp may require corticosteroid and antihistamine treatments. You can identify the cause of the bumps but see a doctor if you are concerned about your symptoms.

This article covers the most common causes of bumps on the scalp and their treatments.


Bumps on the scalp


Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicles. Symptoms include itchy bumps, burning, and blistering.

Lforlav, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Pimples that form on the scalp is called scalp acne. The condition can cause pain, irritation, and itching.

Br J Dermatol. Improving acne keloidalis nuchae with targeted ultraviolet B treatment: a prospective, randomized, split-scalp comparison study. 2014 November ; 171(5): 1156–1163. doi:10.1111/bjd.13119.


Primary symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include flaky skin, bumps, and dryness.

Zay Nyi Nyi/Shutterstock


Ringworm is an infection that commonly presents as a discolored rash.

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Scalp psoriasis causes scaly, red, or silvery patches.



Skin cancer can often present as a new growth. Contact a doctor if you notice new changes.

Douglas Cliff/Shutterstock


A cyst is a round, fluid-filled lump that forms within the skin.

Casa Nayafana/Shutterstock


Bumps can differ in appearance depending on the type. Common presentations include:

  • raised or flat
  • hard or soft
  • tiny or large
  • multiple or few
  • round, dome-shaped, or cone-shaped
  • spots the color of your skin
  • blue or purple rash
  • nearly inconspicuous lumps
  • red or pinkish pimples
  • dark brown, black, or gray moles
  • yellow or white pustules

Bumps can also present differently depending on your skin tone. 

People with darker skin tones typically have pale bumps or bumps the color of their skin. People with lighter skin tones usually have red, pink, or brown-to-black bumps. 


Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicles. Symptoms include itchy bumps, burning, and blistering.

A bacterial infection is the main cause of folliculitis. Other causes include fungal and viral infections. Most cases of the condition go away without treatment. 

Treatments for persistent cases include antibiotics and antifungal medications. Other options are antihistamines and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Scalp acne

Scalp acne is when pimples form on your scalp. It can cause pain, irritation, and itching. 

Experts have identified several causes for the condition, including: 

  • medications such as lithium, steroids, and anticonvulsants
  • exposure to excess sunlight
  • use of headbands
  • genetics

Antibiotics such as amoxicillin and erythromycin can often help treat the condition. Practicing good hair and scalp hygiene may also help.

Allergic reaction

An allergic reaction occurs when your body responds unusually to a substance. The reaction can manifest in hives, itching, and swollen lips.

Allergies can be hereditary, according to 2020 research. Air pollution, cigarette smoke, and other similar factors can also prompt allergies.

Treatments include:

  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroids
  • avoiding allergens

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that mostly affects the scalp, face, and trunk. The common condition affects 5% of the world’s population.

Primary symptoms include:

Researchers do not know the exact cause of the condition. However, they believe factors such as fungal infection and hormone levels may play a role. Treatments could include topical corticosteroids and topical antifungal agents.


Ringworm is an infection that affects your scalp and skin. It commonly presents as a discolored rash.

The National Health Service (NHS) notes the cause as a type of transmissible fungus. This fungus can spread through close contact with:

  • a person or animal that has it
  • items with the fungus
  • soil with the fungus

You may be able to self-treat the condition with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications, such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF) or terbinafine (Lamisil AT).

Head lice

Head lice are small insects that live on the hair of your scalp. They can feed on the blood in your scalp and cause itchiness and reddish bumps.

You can get hair lice from head-to-head contact with someone who has them. You can also get them from shared personal items, such as hairbrushes.

Try washing with shampoo if you have hair lice. You may also try medicated lotions and sprays.


Hives or urticaria are raised, red swellings on your skin and scalp. They result from allergic reactions.

Many cases of hives resolve themselves within 2–3 hours. Other cases may require treatment.

Treatment methods include corticosteroids and antihistamines.

Scalp psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis causes scaly, red, or silvery patches on the scalp. It results from an autoimmune activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Other symptoms include dryness, flakiness, and itching.

Your doctor may recommend salicylic acid creams and topical steroids if you have scalp psoriasis.


Eczema is an inflammatory condition that makes the skin dry, itchy, and bumpy. It affects approximately 230 million people globally.

People with the condition tend to have dry skin due to a problem with their skin barrier. This problem makes the skin more likely to lose water. 

Doctors usually provide topical corticosteroids as treatment. 


A cyst is a round, fluid-filled lump that forms within the skin. It is typically slow-growing and painless, but it may become infected. Infected cysts can cause tenderness and foul-smelling pus.

The NHS explains that the cause of cysts is a buildup of the protein keratin in the deeper layers of the skin.

Surgery can remove the cysts. Also, antibiotics can treat infected cysts.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer develops when skin cells grow uncontrollably and form tumors. The cancer can often present as a new growth on the skin, according to the CDC.

The most common cause is long-term exposure to UV radiation. Other factors include having:

Many treatments are available for skin cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

When to see a doctor

Speak with a doctor if severe itchiness, bleeding, or blistering occur with scalp bumps.


Bumps can appear on your scalp for many reasons, including eczema, scalp psoriasis, and skin cancer. Other potential reasons include hives, head lice, and ringworm.

Many skin bumps can have different appearances. Common presentations include raised or flat patches, hard or soft lesions, and skin-colored spots.

Some bumps may disappear on their own. Others may require treatments such as corticosteroids and antihistamines.

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Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP
Last Review Date: 2023 Jan 17
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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