Human skin, on our scalp as well as elsewhere on the body, is our bodies’ armor against the outside world. But it’s not infallible, nor is our hair.


Oh the humanity! There are so many skin diseases that alone affect the scalp and which can eventually cause hair loss. It’s a wonder that any of us ventures about without protective scalp gear (if there is such a thing).


Truthfully, some of these diseases are not infectious, passed from one person to another. Most are due to genetic predispositions, or acquired from the environment. Preventive efforts might help to some degree, but being able to recognize a scalp infection and treat it early is probably the best strategy. There’s much to say for prevention. By the time we’re looking up the local hair loss treatment clinic seeking solutions to hair loss, it might be too late.


Importantly and fortunately, many of these dermatological conditions are treatable. And with that, sometimes the hair loss associated with them can be reversed. In short order, here are the big ones that might come creeping onto your head:


Bacterial infections: The primary such infection is folliculitis, which, as the name strongly informs a person, is an inflammation of the hair follicles. Folliculitis can also be caused by a fungus (the name describes the result, not the infectious agent). The best fix for when the condition is found early is shampooing with mild antiseptic shampoos. More aggressive cases can be treated with antibiotics.


Fungal infections: The same fungus that causes athlete’s foot also causes itchy, scaly, red patches on the scalp. There may be pus involved and, unfortunately, it can be a result of being close to a household pet with the same condition. Left untreated those infections can affect the hair follicles – folliculitis – causing the hair to fall out in patches. The treatment is oral antifungal drugs and consistent hygiene.


Psoriasis: Believed to be caused by an overactive immune system (one of many), triggered by infections, stress, and cold, psoriasis affects the knees, elbows, torso, and scalp. Flare-ups are cyclical, with the appearance of lesions and scaly plaques on the scalp (particularly along the hairline). The solution is not to pick off the scales, which can aggravate the condition, but to gently comb and brush them away, use medicated shampoos alternating with non-medicated gentle shampoos (to avoid overly drying the scalp and hair). Also, use hair conditioner, which also conditions the scalp (avoids dryness). In some cases, a dermatologist should be called in to prescribe more aggressive treatments.


Now, back to how some of these conditions are acquired. Would you believe there are all kinds of skin diseases available at your local health club? Unfortunately, such things as weights, benches, hot tubs, locker rooms, and shared yoga mats all can host a motley crew of bacteria and fungi that love human hosts.


For example, folliculitis – which, as mentioned, can be an infection involving bacteria or fungi – can infect skin where it is irritated or cut. Ringworm, caused by parasitic fungi, can be acquired by sweaty skin or skin contact with wet surfaces (think locker room floors). Contact sports – wrestling, football, and rougher games of basketball – can transfer ringworm from one athlete to the next.


So while there is no moral judgment in getting any of these infections on the skin or scalp – hey, you were trying to be healthy! – it makes sense to pay attention to them and see a dermatologist before they fester and cause permanent disfiguration, such as hair loss.