Why Do Scalp Infections Cause Hair Loss?

A number of scalp infections can lead to hair loss.

The degree of shedding varies from one type of infection to another, but certain treatments can help to prevent or control hair loss.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What are scalp infections?
  • Why scalp infections cause hair loss
  • What options are available if you’re affected by hair loss due to scalp infections?

What are scalp infections?

When bacteria or fungus enters the scalp through damaged skin (a cut, eczema, etc.) or the hair follicles, they may cause an infection.

The following scalp infections are known to cause hair loss:

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicles, which resembles acne in affected areas.

It’s caused by fungi or staph bacteria and leads hair follicles to fall out (though they might still be present during the infection’s early days).

A number of treatments are available for folliculitis, including topical antibiotic solutions such as neomycin and bacitracin.

Ringworm

Ringworm is particularly common in children, with fungus passing from one child to another easily.

This fungal infection may form in any area, including the scalp, and makes hair so brittle it breaks away with ease.

Bald patches may develop in areas affected by ringworm.

The fungi responsible may lurk in soil or on animals, and pass from touching surfaces or skin contact.

Ringworm may be identified simply: it appears as a circular patch with a red outline.

The skin surrounding and inside it may be inflamed, itchy, blistered, or ooze. 

Piedra

Piedra is caused by a fungus leading hard nodules to form on the hair, leaving it incredibly weak and susceptible to breaking easily.

Hair loss may occur on the scalp or other areas of the body, such as the genitals.

Piedra may be removed by shaving affected hair off, though antifungal treatments (e.g. terbinafine or ketoconazole) can be applied too.

Seborrheic dermatitis

This skin condition may affect the scalp or other areas.

It can leave skin scaly, oily, and itchy, leading to hair loss.

Not much is known about seborrheic dermatitis, though there appears to be a connection between it and caucasian genes.

While there’s no cure for this condition directly, medicines may be used to control it.

Anti-dandruff shampoos, for example, can work well, but anyone affected should speak to their GP first.

Scalp psoriasis

Psoriasis leaves skin itchy and flaky, on the scalp or other areas of the body.

If people affected scratch at infected areas, they may cause scarring and leave hair unable to grow.

Special shampoos may be recommended to treat scalp psoriasis, usually containing salicylic acid or coal tar.

Light therapy and other treatments could prove helpful.

Why scalp infections cause hair loss

  • Folliculitis may destroy hair follicles permanently, making it impossible for hair to grow in affected areas again
  • Ringworm causes hair loss by turning the hair brittle and prone to easy breakage, leaving patches of skin bald
  • Piedra turns hair weak enough that it may break off easily, leading to hair loss in one or more areas of the scalp
  • Seborrheic dermatitis leads hair follicles to stop growing hair as the skin is inflamed, so once they enter the resting stage, hair loss will occur
  • Scalp psoriasis causes skin to become itchy and flaky, possibly enough to remove hair; scar tissue can form if the skin is scratched, which prevents hair growing in the future

Other scalp conditions (chickenpox, acne, pemphigus) can also lead to hair loss.

If you believe you have a scalp infection that may or may not cause hair loss, contact your GP as soon as possible.

What options are available if you’re affected by hair loss due to scalp infections?

Speak to your GP if you believe you have a scalp infection.

They will be able to recommend one or more treatments to help ease or remove the condition.

Hair transplant surgery may be a solution if you experience hair loss due to a scalp infection, depending on the type of condition, the severity, and any resulting changes to the affected skin.

To learn more about hair transplants and whether you’re a suitable candidate, contact our team today.