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What Are the Common Causes of a Yellow Scab?

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg

There are a number of common issues that can lead to the formation of a yellow scab. One of the main culprits is impetigo, a bacterial infection that often affects children, which forms sores that usually then rupture and form a yellow crust on the skin. People who have seborrheic dermatitis, a condition that is normally confined to the scalp, may develop yellow scales and scabs at and above the hairline. The scabs that typically form at the site of a cold sore once it has blistered and then started to dry up can also be yellow.

Impetigo is a highly contagious condition, caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria, is particularly common in children, especially in settings where they are in close contact like school or day care. It typically starts as red sores or blisters around the mouth and nose. Once those sores rupture, they usually seep fluid, which then turns into a crusty yellowish scab. The condition can be allowed to clear on its own, which usually occurs within two or three weeks, or it may be treated with antibiotics if there is a concern it may lead to complications.

Scabs that form at the site of a cold sore can be yellow.
Scabs that form at the site of a cold sore can be yellow.

Another common cause for a yellow scab is a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis. This issue, which is sometimes mistaken for scalp psoriasis, can lead to the formation of yellow scales or crust that can attach to a person’s hair shafts, typically at or above the hairline. The lesions are normally fairly easy to remove but will recur without medical treatment. The skin of the scalp is also typically red, oily, and extremely itchy with this condition. It is generally necessary to use a special shampoo or other medication to treat seborrheic dermatitis.

A man with lesions turning into yellow scabs on his hand.
A man with lesions turning into yellow scabs on his hand.

People who get cold sores may also get yellow scabs on the face, often around the lips. Caused by the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), those who have been exposed typically have the virus lying dormant in their bodies throughout their lives. When the virus is triggered, it travels along the nerve endings to the person’s face where it causes tingling or pain before forming a red bump that subsequently blisters. As the blister or blisters begin to dry up, usually after several days, a scab or crust often forms in its place. This scab may last another couple of days before it then falls off on its own.

Discussion Comments


Mupirocin is good.


I have a cold sore and it is going through the healing stage right now. There is a pretty bad scab on my lip and I don't know if it's best to leave it alone and let it stay dry or if I should keep applying neosporin and keep it moist. When it is moist the scab gets wet and then raw skin appears. Any ideas on how to get the scab to go away quicker -- before Saturday?


I have seborrheic dermatitis, and I'm glad that I only experience yellow scabbing on my scalp and eyebrows. Some people get the scabs on their chests, groin, and underarms.

While I'm running my fingers through my hair, I often find hard yellow scabs that are extremely crusty. I pick them off, and fluid surfaces. Then, the area becomes irritated.

Sometimes, these yellow scabs form in my eyebrows. I try not to pick those off, because the goo left behind is noticeable on my face.

I use a shampoo with ketoconazole in it to treat the condition. I don't use it all the time, because it can irritate my scalp if I use it for very long. I just wash my hair and eyebrows with it during episodes of yellow scabbing.


@OeKc05 – I have used antiseptic gel on my pimples after squeezing them, and I have noticed yellow scabs like the ones you described. It may very well be the cause.

I know that people are not supposed to squeeze pimples, but once mine form a white head, I can't just leave them there. I squeeze out the pus, and then, clear liquid oozes out, along with some blood. This is when I dry the area off with cotton and apply antiseptic gel.

The area remains gooey for awhile. Eventually, I get a crusty yellow scab that I have to be careful not to scratch at, because it is easy to remove. If I scratch it off, then the oozing will start all over again, and any progress in the healing department will be void.


I think there must be some link between antiseptic ointment and yellow scabs. Every time that I put this ointment on a cut, I get a yellow scab within a few hours.

The ointment itself is clear, so I know it isn't just dried antiseptic that I'm seeing on my skin. The yellow scab is really flaky and hard.

I think it's possible that the antiseptic is drying up the fluid that is seeping from the cut. Maybe the yellow scab is just dehydrated pus. Has anyone else ever gotten a yellow scab after using this type of ointment?


@simrin – I have had yellow scabs before, but the wounds have always healed without any extra help. I think they are fairly common.

Since you are not leaking any pus, you are probably fine. Generally, if a wound seeps pus or is swollen and tender, it's best to seek a doctor's advice. Otherwise, it should heal on its own.

If it doesn't show signs of healing in a couple of weeks, then you should probably have it checked out. You don't want something festering in your system for a long time.


How do I know if a yellow scab is normal or if it's a sign of infection?

I accidentally cut myself white cooking the other day. I cleaned and bandaged the cut right away. It was okay for a few days but now it has a yellow scab. It is pretty dry though, there is no pus inside and it's not oozing out any liquid.

Do you think this is an infection? Is a yellow scab ever normal? Can anyone give me some tips to tell these things apart?


My sister got a yellow scab all over her tattoo when she first got it. I remember she showed it to me and asked "Do you think this is normal?" I said that I highly doubt it and dragged her to the doctor. Her tattoo was actually infected!

After the doctor gave us a sermon about how dangerous tattoos are, he said that he has seen this several times and thinks that it's more common when poor quality ingredients are used. He prescribed a topical antibiotic cream which took care of it.

I think it was a good scare because my sister hasn't gotten another tattoo. She was talking about getting three or more before this incident. My mom is certainly happy about this!


Last year, after numerous sinus and cold infections, I started getting yellow scabs in my nostrils. They were pretty rigid and difficult to remove. And even after removing, they would come back very quickly.

I went to my family doctor right away and he did a blood test to make sure that I was not dealing with an infection. I tested clear and he said that it's probably due to the many infections I had earlier in the year. He said that my sinuses might be clearing up or the fluid left over from previous infections might be leaking out causing the scabs.

I think he was right. For several weeks afterwards, I cleaned my nostrils regularly with warm salty water and also used a nasal spray with saline daily. The scabs went away in a couple of weeks.

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    • Scabs that form at the site of a cold sore can be yellow.
      By: uwimages
      Scabs that form at the site of a cold sore can be yellow.
    • A man with lesions turning into yellow scabs on his hand.
      By: Stephen VanHorn
      A man with lesions turning into yellow scabs on his hand.
    • Seborrheic dermatitis often leaves yellow scales on the scalp.
      By: diego cervo
      Seborrheic dermatitis often leaves yellow scales on the scalp.
    • Once an individual has been exposed to the herpes simplex virus, the virus will typically lay dormant in their bodies throughout their lives.
      By: Monkey Business
      Once an individual has been exposed to the herpes simplex virus, the virus will typically lay dormant in their bodies throughout their lives.