ZocdocAnswersWhat causes scalp odor?

Question

What causes scalp odor?

If I don't wash my hair every day, it starts giving off this really unpleasant smell. I've tried changing my brand of shampoo, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. Is there something wrong with my scalp?

Answer

Anytime we think that our body is emitting an unpleasant odor it can be a source of anxiety for us. Problems like this can be brought up with your primary care physician who can examine your scalp and, in the context of your medical history give you the best advice. Your doctor may decide to refer you to a dermatologist if needed. Certainly if we go multiple days without washing a part of our bodies, an unpleasant odor can arise. Although most often these odors arise from areas like our armpits, other areas can be involved as well. However, it is quite unusual for your scalp to emit a smell after only one day of not washing it. In one day, there should be enough sweat, oil accumulation, and bacterial growth to cause an unpleasant smell. I think you should be checked out soon. The scalp can be infected by a variety of pathogens but the most likely in your case is a fungus (perhaps tinea capitus?). These types of infections can be treated with oral antibiotics. Only your doctor can determine what you have (if any infection) and determine the right mode of treatment. Good luck.

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