Dissecting Cellulitis – Hair & Scalp Expert

dissecting cellulitis scalp hair loss

What is dissecting cellulitis of the scalp?

Cellulitis is a common skin infection that may be treated with antibiotics but it has the potential to be serious if not treated immediately. According to WebMD, cellulitis happens when bacteria enter a break in the skin and spread. It is a sign of infection, which may cause swelling, redness, pain, or warmth to touch. It typically affects the skin on the lower legs but it may also involve other areas of the body.  However, there is a condition unique to the scalp called dissecting cellulitis.

Dissecting cellulitis of the scalp is a condition where pus-filled lumps develop on the scalp. The condition starts with one or two pustules that eventually multiply. They cluster together to form painful lumps. As a result, we see scarring and permanent hair loss. This condition most often occurs seen in black people, African Americans or those with curly hair. It can be emotionally disturbing because of the striking appearance.

What causes dissecting cellulitis?

The exact cause is unknown. However, it may be due to the curved shape of hair follicles. It may also be from blocked and ruptured hair follicles. This results in inflammation and bacterial infection. While doctors don’t believe the condition is not hereditary, there are instances where it runs in the family, so genetics may play a role.

What other problems can occur with the condition?

People with dissecting cellulitis of the scalp may suffer from other diseases related to the rupture of hair follicles. These include severe acne, boils, and cysts in the groin, armpits, and back. In some cases, fever or swollen lymph nodes can occur.

How is dissecting cellulitis diagnosed?

This condition can usually be diagnosed by careful examination of the scalp. In some cases, your dermatologist may request a scalp biopsy. This is where a piece of skin and hair is removed for examination. This helps the dermatologist rule out other infections since other diseases can resemble dissecting cellulitis.

How would your dermatologist help with treatment?

Your dermatologist will try a range of treatments to reduce the pain and pus formation of dissecting cellulitis. For starters, you need to adopt preventative measures to avoid flareups. As much as possible, avoid picking and squeezing the bumps. See a dermatologist as soon as the condition appears, to prevent permanent hair loss. You should see one with specialty training in African American skin and ethnic skin types. 

Possible medications

Your doctor will use a combination of antibiotics, steroids, and other topical treatments. A prescription antibacterial shampoo is often prescribed, along with antibiotic solutions. Topical corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics and steroids in pill form.

Corticosteroid Injections

Injecting steroids into the lumps decreases pain and swelling. As a result, this can halt the condition. Corticosteroid injections last about a month and are effective in reducing symptoms. These shots will wear off and you may need more at some point.

Combination Therapy:

More than one of the above treatments may be needed to halt the disorder and to prevent permanent hair loss.

Is there a cure?

Dissecting cellulitis of the scalp is a chronic condition. It can flare up frequently, especially if you are not on the correct treatments. While there is no cure, early treatment can help to reduce scarring of the scalp. Furthermore, this prevents permanent hair loss.

At Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics, our Hair and Scalp Center is a tertiary care center for the most complex and advanced cases of hair loss and scalp disease. If you’re tired dealing with these issues, then you’ve come to the right place.


For a knowledgeable consultation on skin injury and possible infection, you may call 301-678-5772. Also, you can book an appointment online. Dr. Ife Rodney is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist. She is an expert in skincare, anti-aging, and skin rejuvenation for all skin types. Eternal Dermatology is conveniently located in Fulton, MD. We also serve Clarksville, Columbia, Ellicott City, Laurel, Bowie, Silver Spring, and Howard County, Maryland



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