beanie-800

Photo: Unsplash

When it comes to taking care of your scalp (the “foundation” of your hair), if there’s one thing that I think is imperative that we all do, it’s learning the differences between what it means to have a dry scalp, dandruff and — whew — a scalp yeast infection. When it comes to dry scalp vs. dandruff, although both are prone to having issues like flakiness and itchiness, dandruff also often results in an oily buildup caused by a fungus called Malassezia. And, unlike doing things like steaming your hair, sleeping with a humidifier and even oiling your scalp (with a little oil like jojoba or grapeseed) to ease a dry scalp, dandruff often requires the treatment of a dandruff shampoo, scalp exfoliation, tea tree oil applications, eating less sugar (Malassezia loves carbs) and even seeing your doctor.

And what about a yeast infection on your scalp? How in the world do you heal it? That’s what we’re going to tackle over the next few minutes. Because while the mere thought of having a scalp yeast infection might sound semi-terrifying, it’s not as uncommon as you might think and there are some proven and effective ways to treat it.

How in the world do you end up with a scalp yeast infection?

So, let’s start here. Because it’s been reported that over 75 percent of women will get at least one yeast infection over the course of their life and eight percent will even end up with four a year, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had a yeast infection before. And, as you may already know, they happen as the result of when the natural yeast (which is a fungus; generally, it’s one called Candida) that is on our skin ends up growing out of control. Although it oftentimes happens in warm and moist areas (like our vagina, underneath our breasts and in the folds of our underarms; especially if an all-natural deodorant is used), yeast infections can show up, just about anywhere.

What causes a scalp yeast infection?

When it comes to your scalp, specifically, some of the things that can trigger this type of infection include medications, stress, harsh chemicals, living in a warm climate and a diet that consists of more sugar and carbs than anything else. Interestingly enough, health issues like diabetes and even taking antibiotics to get over an ailment can lead to this kind of a yeast infection too.

How do you know if you have a scalp yeast infection?

Some telltale signs of a yeast infection on your scalp include soft and white moist areas, crust on your scalp or around your hairline, greasy scales on your scalp and red or purple patches — not to mention the same incessant itching or irritation that typically occurs when you have a yeast infection anywhere else.

Schedule a doctor's appointment

If you’ve had a vaginal yeast infection before, you probably recall being advised to see a doctor the first time it occurred, just to make sure that you had one. That’s because everything from an allergy to Bacterial Vaginosis to STDs like trichomoniasis, herpes and genital warts to even just your pH being thrown off (due to a shift in your hormones) can all “mimic” signs of a yeast infection and it makes no sense to try and treat it yourself without knowing, for sure, that you have one. Same thing applies to a scalp yeast infection. There is no way to be certain what is going on without setting a doctor’s appointment (even if it’s at a local clinic), so that they can inspect your scalp and even send off for lab tests, if that’s what’s required.

How do you treat a scalp yeast infection?

If they do end up confirming that a yeast infection is what’s going on, there are a few different approaches that they might recommend. First, it’s not uncommon that they will prescribe you with the same antibiotic that you would take for a vaginal yeast infection (which is Diflucan).

Second, they might suggest that you use a prescription strength antifungal shampoo that oftentimes contains somewhere around two percent ketoconazole or they might opt for a corticosteroid shampoo instead. If you want to add to these some home remedies, massaging your scalp with a mixture of organic coconut oil (which has powerful antifungal properties) and a few drops of either tea tree oil (it’s got potent antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties) or lavender oil (it helps to kill yeast and soothe your scalp) or rinsing your scalp with a half distilled water and half apple cider vinegar (it reduces inflammation) rinse is pretty effective too.

How long does it take to clear up a scalp yeast infection?

While the symptoms should start to subside within a couple of days, it could take up to 2-8 weeks for the infection to clear up completely.

How can you prevent them in the future?

Remember how I said in the intro that it’s quite possible to have recurring yeast infections? I can attest to this because I have a fungal sensitivity (one that sometimes causes me to have recurrent yeast infections). That’s why it’s important to be proactive about keeping the yeast that is on your skin and in your system under control. Aside from consuming sugar and carbs in moderation, as it relates to your scalp specifically, there are a few other things that you can (and should) do:

  • Shampoo your scalp on a bi-weekly basis
  • Exfoliate your scalp on wash days
  • Be intentional about avoiding product buildup
  • If you wear wigs, let your scalp breathe at night (to keep your scalp from getting too moist)
  • Take breaks from protective styles
  • Don’t constantly cover your head with hats, hoods, etc
  • Massage your scalp with antifungal essential oils (like peppermint, lemongrass and clove) once a week
  • Take a daily probiotic (to keep “good bacteria” in your system)
  • Drink lots of water
  • Keep your stress levels down

There is nothing pleasant about a yeast infection, I don’t care where it is on your body. But now that you know more about scalp yeast infections, hopefully you know how to tell the difference between it and a dry scalp or dandruff, how to treat it and, most importantly, how to prevent it.