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What is a Scalp Cyst?

Anna T.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A scalp cyst is very much like a cyst on any other part of the body. Scalp cysts usually look and feel like a pimple and typically occur when a hair follicle in the scalp becomes infected. In addition to looking and feeling like a pimple, they may also bleed and leak keratin, which is a whitish-colored fluid, similar in appearance and texture to pus. Most of the time scalp cysts are fairly small in size and go away without any medical treatment. It is possible for cysts to become very large and cause hair loss and other problems, but this is extremely rare.

There are several different things that might cause a scalp cyst to form. Some people are genetically predisposed to cysts on the scalp, while other people occasionally get them because of excess oil on the scalp. When the hair and scalp get too oily, the follicles can become blocked, which can cause a cyst to form on the scalp. People who frequently scratch their heads might also be more susceptible to cysts on the scalp because excessive scratching can injure hair follicles. Research also suggests that cysts are more likely to form after a person experiences a sudden increase in testosterone levels.

Most doctors agree the best method of treatment for very small, pimple-like scalp cysts is to simply leave them alone. A person should avoid squeezing or picking at scalp cysts because these actions can irritate the cyst, which might cause infection and swelling. Small cysts will almost always go away with no treatment over time. In addition to not touching the cyst, keeping the hair and scalp clean while the cyst is present may also help ensure it goes away quickly.

If a person's has a cyst staysthat on the scalp for longer than a few weeks, is very painful to the touch, or grows to a large size, it may be necessary for him to see a doctor. Cysts that get worse instead of better and do not go away on their own often have to be treated with antibiotics. Even though it is rare, scalp cysts occasionally grow to be as large as golf balls and must be surgically removed or professionally drained. A person's best chance of preventing these potential problems may be to avoid touching or picking at his cysts and to see a doctor if his cyst doesn't appear to be improving after a few weeks.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Anna T.
By Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By anon349029 — On Sep 22, 2013

I'm not sure if I have a cyst, but most likely I do, but it's like a pimple, and it's dripping blood. I can't stop picking at it, and I don't know what the best solution is. My father isn't convinced it's a cyst, so he doesn't think it's anything special, or anything to worry about, but I feel like I'm going to bump into the cyst hard, and blood will be drained out of me.

By anon342722 — On Jul 23, 2013

I have several scalp cysts that I inherited from my mothers side of the family. I have had a couple removed, but have a few more that I need to. Last week, I hit my head while getting into the car and one must have ruptured because I was able to squeeze out the cheesy material. A week later it is still oozing a bit.

I have an appointment with the dermatologist next week, and my primary doctor gave me antibiotics so that it doesn't get infected, but it keeps oozing clear/yellow liquid every now and then. I am assuming it's normal, since it has not been removed completely.

By anon323366 — On Mar 05, 2013

I have a cyst like lump on my head that bleeds even though I do not squeeze or touch it. It is really irritating as the blood dries around the hair and becomes hard and difficult to brush. The cyst is not painful, but looks really scary. My concern is the amount of blood that flows out of this cyst.

By anon314466 — On Jan 18, 2013

I have a scalp cyst. I've had it for nine years now. At first it was small and I didn't pay it any mind over the years because I didn't think it was anything.

Two years ago it got bigger and then started getting pus in it. I got scared and went to the hospital. The doctors told me it was an oil deposit and to squeeze the pus out and it will go away, but it never did.

I have it on my head now and it got as big as a jawbreaker candy and it's about to start getting pus in it again. My hair has fallen out all around it and in other places as well.

I have a real oily scalp and I don't wash my hair every day so i guess that's why I got this. I have an appointment to remove it in about a month, but I want it off now. I can't hide a bald spot and big bump at the same time when there's no hair to cover it.

By seag47 — On Mar 01, 2012

Scalp cyst removal is surprisingly not as painful as most people would think. My dermatologist had to take a cyst out of my scalp because it kept growing larger, and it didn't hurt me at all.

He injected lidocaine into the area, and this numbed it. He made a slit in my scalp and got the cyst out, and then he stitched me up. The whole process only took about fifteen minutes.

Ordinarily, I would not have seen a doctor about small scalp cysts. This one was unlike any I had ever had, and I didn't know how much bigger it was going to get!

By Oceana — On Feb 29, 2012

@cloudel – My scalp cysts are painful even before I squeeze them. I guess all that inflammation just makes them really tender.

Sometimes, I forget to be gentle with them in the shower. When I scrub the cyst area as roughly as I do the rest of my scalp, I often yell out in pain.

Like you, it is hard for me to leave them alone. I find myself running my fingers along my scalp during the day, and when I come across a cyst, I start picking at it.

I run to the mirror and press on both sides of the cyst to drain it. I am always amazed at how much pus one of these small cysts can hold. Sometimes, it is under so much pressure that it shoots out like a bullet from a gun and hits the mirror.

By StarJo — On Feb 29, 2012

I have hair that is somewhat oily. When I used to wash it every other day, I was getting a lot of scalp cysts. I didn't know until reading this article that the oily buildup probably caused them to develop.

These days, I wash my hair daily. My scalp just gets too itchy if I don't. I imagine that all that scalp scratching I did years ago probably contributed to my cyst formation.

I can't imagine having a scalp cyst the size of a golf ball. My small cysts were fairly tender. I would imagine that a large one would be impossible to live with for very long!

By cloudel — On Feb 28, 2012

I have gotten scalp cysts before, and I have always squeezed the pus out of them. I can't stand for a swollen bump with a white head to just sit there on my skin.

Squeezing them is pretty painful, though. It's amazing how tender the scalp can be! I know that I'm not supposed to be squeezing the cysts, but I just can't bear to leave them alone.

After I get the pus out, the area is really tender for awhile. When I use shampoo on the area, it burns badly.

I've considered using an acne cream on them, but I'm afraid that might make my hair fall out. I wish I could learn to leave them alone, but I probably will continue popping them.

Anna T.
Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
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