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We all know about body odor and how to fix it. But how to get rid of smelly scalp? Yes, your hair can stink too if you’re not taking care of it well. 

A smelly scalp can really affect your confidence and bring down your self-esteem. Sometimes our body generates bad odor from certain areas like armpits, and feet. 

And there are remedies for it like deodorant, antiperspirant, and more. But no one really pays attention to their scalp!

Related: How To Relieve Scalp Pain

Related: How To Keep Your Hair Brush And Comb Clean

It is completely normal to have a smelly scalp sometimes, but when it becomes noticeable you have to find the source of that smell. 

These smells may be caused by a bacterial or fungal infection on your scalp. But it also has a lot of other causes that need to be understood to tackle this problem.  

What is the natural smell of hair?

When you use a lot of hair products, it is difficult to ascertain the actual smell of your hair. 

dermatologist smelly scalp

Very often, the pleasant smell on your hair is usually caused by the scents of your shampoo, conditioner, or other hair products. 

Technically, the hair does not have any smell. It is definitely not supposed to have an unpleasant smell. 

If you are confused about the smell of your hair, run your fingers a few times through the hair and scalp. 

Do your fingers have a pungent smell or smell of sour milk or dirty socks? Then you probably have a smelly scalp.

This issue can be caused by a lot of reasons. Let us take a look at some of the most common reasons why you might be having a smelly scalp. 

How to get rid of smelly scalp 2021

Smelly hair can be easily fixed. Here are some of the different ways in which you can control and prevent the odor. 

Home remedies for smelly scalp

Home remedies are some of the most popular ways of getting rid of a smelly scalp. These are easily accessible and work quickly on your issue. 

If you have a mild issue of smelly hair, it can be tackled by a lot of these home remedies. 

Some of my favorite DIY treatments include ingredients that are easily available in your kitchen. 

A lot of these ingredients are very nourishing and can really benefit your hair apart from removing the odor. 

Let us look at some of the easiest home remedies that can help you get rid of that smelly scalp.

DIY Hair Perfume

Sometimes, you just feel really lazy to wash your hair so you just need a quick fix to make sure that it is not smelly. This DIY hair perfume really comes in handy when it comes to such situations. 

What you need:

  • Rose Water – ½ cup
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – ¼ cup
  • Lavender oil – 10 drops
  • Bergamot oil – 10 drops
  • Jasmine oil – 10 drops


  • Pour all the ingredients in a container, preferably in a glass spray bottle. You can use a funnel to make sure that nothing gets spilled. 
  • Shake the bottle after putting the cap on and make sure that all the ingredients are mixed properly
  • Divide your hair into small sections and keep the bottles a few inches away from the head before spraying it into the scalp. 
  • Spread the product evenly throughout your hair using a wide-toothed comb.

Tea tree oil hair treatment

home remedies for smelly scalp

Tea tree essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties that will help in removing any infections on the scalp that might be causing the smell. The Jojoba oil and Almond oil will nourish your hair in the process. 

What you will need:

  • Tea tree essential oil – 6 drops
  • Jojoba oil or sweet almond oil- 1-2 tablespoons     


  • Mix the two ingredients to create a concoction. 
  • Apply it to your scalp and hair and let it stay for at least 30 minutes before washing it off.    

Related: Not into DIY? Just use these tea tree oil shampoos instead!

Have a proper hair care routine

Every hair is different so their needs are also very different. Some people can go for days without showering but some people get a greasy scalp really quick. 

Using the wrong products or products that you are allergic to can cause bad reactions to the scalp which will result in this odor. 

It is important to understand the needs of your hair and create a proper scalp-care routine to keep a smelly scalp at bay.

Consult a medical practitioner

If you have a really bad case of a smelly scalp, it is best to consult a dermatologist who will diagnose your issues and give you medications to cure them. 

Oftentimes, if you have severe itching and infections in the scalp like psoriasis, eczema, dandruff, etc, you should consult a doctor immediately otherwise it could lead to hair fall. 

Follow a balanced diet

how to get rid of smelly scalp without washing hair

A balanced diet not only makes sure that you receive all the necessary nutrients but also helps in balancing your hormones. 

A healthy scalp will not have any nasty smell coming out of it so it is important to take good care of your health to ensure a healthy scalp. 

Avoid touching your scalp

Whenever you feel itchy in the scalp, you should stop yourself from scratching it. Otherwise, it could aggravate the issue and cause inflammations that make your scalp smelly. 

Get rid of any build-up from your scalp

how to get rid of smelly scalp at home

A lot of times, scalp build-ups are caused by sweat, hair products, and dirt getting built up in your scalp and creating an unhygienic environment. 

People who use a hair mask often or apply the conditioner on their scalp often have a lot of build-up in their hair. 

Other hair products like hairsprays and creams also contribute to this issue. 

It is important to thoroughly clean your hair and make sure that your hair is squeaky clean after using such products. 

Top Reasons For A Smelly Scalp

If you think that you might have a smelly scalp, you should go to the root of the problem to fix it. 

Also, you don’t fix the issue soon, it could aggravate and no amount of hair sprays can help you camouflage the smell. Some of the main causes of a smelly scalp are:


Sweat doesn’t have a smell of its own but when it comes into contact with the bacteria on the skin, it could release a foul smell. This is why certain areas in your body smell bad when you sweat. 

If you are someone who engages in a lot of physical activity like exercise or sports it is important to wash your hair often using shampoo. 

Never skip the post-workout shower or it could seriously make your head start stinking. 

This can also happen when you wear helmets, hats, or scarves for too long. Your head gets heated inside and starts releasing sweat. 

The bacteria, sweat, and gunk can accumulate and release an unpleasant smell from your hair. This can also make your hair look greasy. 

Hormonal Changes

This type of smelly scalp is often found in people going through major hormonal changing phases like puberty or menopause. 

The changes in the levels of hormones can lead to an overproduction of secretions from the glands under your scalp (mainly the sweat and oil glands). 

This leads to an accumulation of gunk and residues on your scalp which will make it smelly. 

You will notice that your hair gets oily really fast and you will have to shampoo your hair often to make it look fresh. 


Air pollution is not just harmful to the lungs, but can also take a toll on our skin, including our scalp. 

The pollutants and dirt in the atmosphere can attach themselves to the scalp and make it smelly. 

This type of smelly scalp is very common among people who ride a bike every day, especially without covering their heads. 

You can also notice pollution-related issues are also common among people who live in hot climates with high humidity which makes them sweat more.  


Certain foods can make your scalp smell bad. Although it is a very temporary situation, the smell is often very strong. 

Foods like garlic and onion, which usually have a strong odor can cause this. When you eat these foods, it releases oils through the skin, including the scalp which can let out an odor. 

When you have major dietary changes, your scalp could behave differently. This could also occur when you follow a poor diet and have nutrient deficiencies.  

Skin conditions

A smelly scalp could be a direct result of certain skin conditions caused by bacterial or fungal infections. Some of the most common scalp issues are dandruff, eczema, ringworm, and folliculitis.

When these situations aggravate, they could release secretions like puss that can emit a foul odor. Dandruff can cause itchiness which will make you scratch your scalp.

This can also result in scalp irritations that could lead to a smelly scalp. If you notice any signs of such skin issues, it is better to seek medical help. 

Unhygienic lifestyles

You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that unhygienic ways of living can make you smell. 

When you don’t wash your hair as much as you should be or don’t use shampoos, your scalp will start stinking. 

It will eventually lead to skin irritations like dryness, itching, redness, and even head lice. 

If you have noticed that your hair is increasingly becoming smelly or if someone has pointed it out to you, it is time to pay attention to your scalp. 

I hope this article gives you some tips on how to get rid of smelly scalp.

With a little care and effort, you can have a healthy scalp that doesn’t lead to your embarrassment. 

Also Read:

How to use hibiscus for hair growth

How to make hair soft

How much hair fall is normal

How to reverse premature grey hair



Mira is committed to bringing you the latest popular hairstyles, hair care tips, and hair-related products. You can check more of her work on besthairlooks to find fashion inspiration, product reviews, tutorials and more!

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