Hard or Painful Bumps on Scalp: Causes, Treatments & Remedies 

Do you have a painful bumpy scalp? Pimple-like bumps could be mistaken for other scalp problems. Learn more on causes of red, painful bumps on scalp that may not be pimples or acne bumps and how to manage certain skin infections or conditions.

What causes them

Do you want to know causes of scalp bumps that hurt? Zits are not only what causes pain on scalp. Find out more.

Allergic reactions

This is a common trigger rather than the cause of bumps on the head. Bumps due to allergic reaction commonly occur after a certain substance comes in contact with the scalp. In turn, the immune system may be stimulated to produce antibodies or responses. Either of these actions are meant to counter the potentially harmful effects that can be produced by the suspected foreign substance.

Shampoos, foods, cleaning soaps are common sources of these allergens. A majority of people are also allergic to (bee) sting and insect bites.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary from one person to another. Some people can get a sudden rash characterized by small red bumps or swellings. Some people get sudden itchy bumps, while others may not. Sometimes redness is observed more so after itching.

However, some people may be allergic to certain things that you are not in particular.

Ringworm of the scalp – Tinea capitis

Ringworm on scalp or yeast infection is a fungal infection caused by Tinea capitis. The infection is known by the ring-like or round bald patches that appear and spread to the edges of hairline. Although some people don’t show infection symptoms, Tinea capitis sometimes is marked by large inflamed sores on scalp. These sores can ooze pus in case of a secondary infection from bacteria.

This kind of fungal infection is common in children of under 15 years of age. Risk factors of ringworm infection include immunosuppressant medication, living in warm and humid areas, excessive sweating, sharing contaminated clothing, etc.

In most situations, a scalp infection is treated with antifungal prescription medicines. Antifungal mild shampoo washing is also quite effective if done consistently.

Scalp acne bumps and pimples

Acne on scalp occurs due to excessive oils or too much sebum released by sebaceous glands. Hormonal shifts and overactive sebaceous glands could be the main triggers.

When excess oils is produced the hair follicles become clogged. Sometimes blockage will occur depending on other scalp conditions. Just mentioning a few like those conditions as a result of too much stress, deficiency or poor diet and heredity.

Both acne bumps and normal pimples can be considered inflamed bumps and usually they cause pain.

Scalp conditions – pimple-like

The skin covering the areas on head with hair is also liable to skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis. Dermatitis on head can be triggered by obesity, or being overweight, stress, inflammation of the scalp caused by chemicals in lotions. This scalp condition can also be brought about by an overgrowth of Malassezia sp. which is a fungal strain living in human skin.

The bumps are pimple-like in appearance but are not typically pimples. Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include itching, and formation of tender, inflamed and painful red bumps on the scalp. Sometimes scaling can occur. Symptoms produced will vary with trigger or causes.

Other symptoms likely to be observed include loss of hair around the affected areas especially around the bumps.

Head lice infestation

Bumps can also form on your head if your head is infested with lice. These tiny animals cause a lot of damage on skin when they bite and suck blood. The formation bumps is caused by itching.

These are the telling signs of lice infestation of the scalp.

  • Extreme itching or itchy feeling most of the time
  • Painful sores from continuous itching
  • The feeling of something physically crawling on head

People with long hair get it very difficult to control and get rid of lice from head.

Other possible causes

What else could be causing pimple-like bumps?

Scalp psoriasis

This is another skin condition characterized by red patchy bumps that form scales on head particularly on the back of head. It is not easy to treat scalp psoriasis.


Scalp bumps may signify sebaceous cysts which are small cystic growths under skin.

After hair braiding

They can also form along the hairline, is due to too tightened braids. The bumpy feeling is brought by irritation due to pulling stress.


I have small bumps on my scalp that itch. Those on this part any part of your body covered by skin could be itchy. Skin problems or conditions symptomatic of itching include folliculitis, allergic reactions, infected pimples and psoriasis.

Folliculitis is a skin condition where the hair follicles become inflamed. Inflammation would result to swelling or formation of small itchy and tender bumps marked by a characteristic redness.  Although not typical to scalp, it is a possible culprit.

The main causes of head folliculitis is either by a bacterial infection or fungus. These infection causing microorganisms target people living along the hot tropical areas when summer has approached. Individuals who also love swimming especially in hot water pools are equally at risk.

If you experience a mild to moderate itching, ask your pharmacists for over the counter medications. Severe itching can be controlled effectively with use of prescription anti-inflammatory medications like cortisone.

Painful ones

What causes bumps on scalp that hurt? Bumps on head associated with itching can cause pain and is a source of head discomfort for experiencers. Categorically, painful bumps could be itchy, sore or inflamed. Certain scalp conditions may be associated with pain in scalp. These are mainly due to serious or chronic folliculitis, epidermal cysts, scalp psoriasis and inflamed acne.

Tinea capitis is also a common and possible cause of spotty itchy ones.

Other causes of painful bumps in scalp include pimples with signs of infection, sores after head injury. People who are suffering from viral infections such as chickenpox can lead to painful blisters not only on other body parts but also on your scalp

Anyone who has painful bumps on hair should take care while cleaning or managing it especially if it results to formation of blisters or sores. People with long hair should take much care while combing, washing or shampooing to avoid injuring or puncturing the blisters.

Hard bumps

What do hard bumps under skin on scalp mean? In many cases hard bumps on scalp don’t go away easily. So, what are they? Sebaceous cysts are common. They are small pea-sized bumps. In many cases they do not cause pain but if infected or inflamed they may cause pain in scalp. You can have a single sebaceous cyst or few of them on head.

If the bumps are hard ad cause pain or other discomfort feeling talk to your doctor. That can be a sign of a different skin disorder/condition.

Scalp bumps treatment

How do you treat them? When you have already identified the real cause of bumps on scalp you can even treat the various problems we have looked at. These include pimples and mild acne.

Head acne treatment

Mild acne can be reduced by shampooing with mild hair products. Other products used to treat mild acne on head include benzoyl peroxide creams. Treatments antiseptics can be incorporated to control of kill bacteria in severe acne outbreak.

Retinoid (isotretinoin creams) are more effective as they help unclogging the pores. In treating acne on head with retinoids, individuals should seek help from a medic to avoid the long term side effects especially in children and pregnant women.

If you get acne bumps after treatment with these creams you should see a specialist for advanced treatments.

Treating and managing pimples on head

Pimples on the scalp should be treated since they cause pain. If left untreated they would become infected.

There are several ways to cure pimples on the scalp. However, first know what exactly the problem behind pimple formation is. Is it due to a bad beauty practice or hormones? Are they acne ‘pimples’ or normal pimples?

Benzoyl peroxide creams, alpha-hydroxyls and salicylic acid are the most common forms of treatment for pimples. Whereas using highly concentrated products of these ingredients can cause harmful side effects, it is sometimes recommended that people get directions and instructions on how to use them safely.

Before you seek medication to help unclogging of the pores or kill bacteria, try the following home treatments.

  • Tea tree oil
  • Apple cider vinegar

Shampooing to treat fungal infections

Shampoos help reduce oil in skin pores. Before choosing your best hair shampoo for daily cleaning closely examine the condition of the scalp before you apply it on your head.

Shampooing gels containing selenium Sulphide or Ketoconazole are the common shampoos for fungal infections. If you are using the shampoos to treat young children, always consult a physician.

Some of the best shampoo brands include those with tea tree oil: Menscience Daily Shampoo and Kiehl’s tea tree oil shampoo.

IMPORTANT: Hair shampoos intended for purposes other than treating fungal infections should be used with a lot of caution.

Treatment or removal of cysts

Doctors use injections (steroidal) to bring down inflammation. Inflamed or infected cysts on the head can hurt and be a source of pain. To relieve of pain consult your doctor for proper medication. Some cysts require drainage to remove pus and treat or kill bacteria.

Huge ones are characteristic of sebaceous cysts that have been on your head for a long time should be removed by surgical means.

Treatment for scalp conditions

Most skin conditions with long-term symptoms require diagnosis to be identified more accurately. These include psoriasis and folliculitis. And review of medical history is important for a successful treatment therapy of such disorders sometimes.

If you have persistent sores, lesions or tender bumps on the scalp that won’t go away, see your doctor.

Tips for painful, sore or itchy bumps and pimples

What do you do when you get these symptoms form scalp bumps? Following these simple tips can help you out.

  • Avoid tight and irritation causing clothes or head caps when you are suffering from painful scalp bumps
  • Keep the blisters and sores on your head clean and dry. Restrain yourself from going in the sun or areas with too much heat which can aggravate the pain
  • Avoid a persistent scratching or too much itching even when there is an urging need to do so
  • Go for prescription medication to deal with infections that cannot be cured with homemade remedies or topical medication.
  • Select a washing shampoo without irritants to avoid further itching or inflammation especially for individuals with an extra sensitive scalp
  • Do not share hair combs, clothing or bedding with individuals who are infected with Tinea capitis
  • If you suspect an allergic reaction causing the bumps or rash on your head stop using the hair products if you recently acquired a new pack or substituted it for another.
Our Reference
  1. MedicineHealth
  2. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/scalp-psoriasis#1
  3. https://www.cigna.com/healthwellness/hw/medical-topics/scalp-problems-aa84397
  4. Ringworm and other fungal infections – Treatment