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What is a Black Dot on Scalp a Sign of?

Vicky Davis

Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 05/23/2023

Updated 03/23/2023

Black dot on scalp? Keep reading to find out what it could mean.

Say you’ve just gotten out of the shower and you notice it — a black dot on the scalp. Maybe you can scratch the dark spot off (or maybe not), but you start to wonder what it could be.

Is a black dot on the scalp a sign of a contagious infection or scalp disease? Could it be a type of skin cancer?

Healthy hair is a goal for many guys. But to achieve this, we should be paying attention to our scalps. Underneath your hair follicles, the health and condition of the scalp can affect the health of your hair.

Beyond that, there are plenty of common scalp conditions, from seborrheic dermatitis to male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia).

So before you go rushing off to search, “What does black dot on scalp mean?” we can give you some possible answers.

What Causes Dark Spots on the Scalp?

What if you find dark spots on scalp or tiny black dots on scalp that scratch off? Don’t panic — there could be several reasons for that dark spot on your scalp.

Here are some possible explanations.

Tinea Capitis

A fungal infection of the scalp, tinea capitis penetrates the hair follicle (the structure hair grows from) and may reach the hair shaft (the visible part of hair). Tinea capitis is also known as black dot tinea capitis or scalp ringworm.

There are two types of tinea capitis infection: inflammatory and non-inflammatory tinea capitis. While the non-inflammatory variety doesn’t usually result in scalp alopecia (round patches of hair loss), inflammatory tinea capitis may lead to patchy alopecia, an itchy scalp that can leave scars.

Besides a dark spot on scalp, other symptoms of tinea capitis can include brittle hair, a painful or itchy scalp, pus-filled sores or a low-grade fever.

Tinea capitis is a contagious infection caused by fungal spores transmitted onto your scalp and hair from other people, animals or objects such as hairbrushes, hats, combs and towels.

You can learn more about scalp fungus in our complete guide.

Scalp Melanoma

A black dot on the scalp could be a scalp melanoma, a type of skin cancer that most often appears on the head, neck, upper back or torso, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Scalp melanoma could appear as a black dot (a mole) that changes color or size or itches and bleeds.

Older men with androgenetic alopecia are the most at risk, although hair can cover potential black dots on scalp. This type of skin cancer is also particularly dangerous, as scalp melanoma can spread more quickly on the scalp than on other areas of the body.

To check for signs your black dot may be cancerous, the AAD recommends the ABCDE method:

  • Asymmetry. Two halves of the same spot don’t match.

  • Border irregularity. The spot has an irregular or oddly shaped border.

  • Color. The spot varies in shading and color.

  • Diameter. The mole is larger than 6 millimeters in diameter (though smaller dots can also be diagnosed).

  • Evolving. The dot changes in size, shape or color.

While scalp melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes and internal organs, it’s highly treatable when detected early and treated properly.

Make sure to thoroughly check your entire scalp, including underneath your hair. You can even ask to have your scalp checked when you go to the hair salon — a 2018 article in JAMA Dermatology found that educating hair professionals about melanoma risk can be beneficial.

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Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is another type of patchy hair loss that develops when your immune system attacks your hair follicles.

Dermoscopy, a non-invasive technique that looks closely at the skin, may find a black dot on scalp or several black dots associated with alopecia areata. These black dots are also known as comedo-like cadaver hairs and have been found in half of those with alopecia areata.

You may be at risk of alopecia areata if you’re affected by an autoimmune disease, such as thyroid disease or psoriasis.

Traction Alopecia

A black dot on scalp may also be a sign of traction alopecia. This hair loss is caused by tight hairstyles pulling on the hair, causing broken hair that may appear as a black dot on the scalp.

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What to Do If You See a Black Dot on Your Scalp

What should you do if you have a black dot on your scalp? Rather than searching for “black dot on scalp,” you should consult with a healthcare provider to determine the cause.

Fungal infections are typically treated with antifungal medications and — to prevent spread — antifungal shampoos and other topical products:

  • Griseofulvin. One of the most common medications used to treat fungal infections of the scalp is griseofulvin, an oral antifungal.

  • Itraconazole. This antifungal agent can be used as a preventive treatment for people with weakened immune systems, like those undergoing chemotherapy, as well as folks with milder medical situations.

  • Fluconazole. This antifungal agent is the most reliable treatment for yeast.

If the black spot is scalp melanoma, the condition is highly treatable if detected early. Depending on what stage the melanoma is in, you may need radiation, chemotherapy and/or surgery.

Common treatments for alopecia areata include:

  • Topical corticosteroids. These medications are applied directly to your skin to control inflammation. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a corticosteroid to suppress your immune system and reduce inflammation in your scalp.

  • Minoxidil. This medication stimulates hair growth by moving your hair follicles into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.

  • Intralesional steroids. These medications are injected directly into your skin to reduce the severity of alopecia areata. They’re considered the most effective form of treatment for patchy alopecia areata. 

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In Conclusion: Finding Black Dots on Scalp

Finding a black spot on scalp may raise some alarms or be a cause for concern. There are several conditions that could be the cause of the black specks on your scalp.

A black dot could be the result of a fungal infection on the scalp known as tinea capitis or traction alopecia, causing broken hairs from tight hairstyles that look like black specks.

Black dots could also be a symptom of alopecia areata, an inflammatory disease, or even a sign of scalp melanoma.

Due to the range of conditions that can cause black dots on the scalp, going to see a healthcare provider is an important first step to figuring out the cause. From there, they can provide a treatment plan best suited for whatever the condition is.

14 Sources

  1. Al Aboud, A. M., & Crane, J. S. (n.d.). Tinea Capitis - StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536909/
  2. Tinea capitis Information. (n.d.). Mount Sinai. Retrieved from https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/tinea-capitis
  3. Skin cancer: Everyone's at risk. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/find/at-risk
  4. Licata, G., Scharf, C., Ronchi, A., Pellerone, S., Argenziano, G., Verolino, P., & Moscarella, E. (2020). Diagnosis and Management of Melanoma of the Scalp: A Review of the Literature. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 14, 1435-1447. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8504470/
  5. What to look for: ABCDEs of melanoma. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/find/at-risk/abcdes
  6. Black, N.R., O’Reilly, G.A., Pun, S., Black, D.S., Woodley, D.T. (2018.) Improving Hairdressers’ Knowledge and Self-efficacy to Detect Scalp and Neck Melanoma by Use of an Educational Video. JAMA Dermatol, 154(2), 214–216. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/2664332
  7. Alopecia Areata - Hair loss Causes & Living With It | NIAMS. (2021, April 1). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/alopecia-areata
  8. Cardoso Chagas, F. S., Donati, A., Doche Soares, I. I., Valente, N. S., & Romiti, R. (2014). Trichostasis spinulosa of the scalp mimicking Alopecia Areata black dots. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, 89(4), 685-687. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4148295/
  9. Billero, V., Miteva, M. (2018). Traction alopecia: the root of the problem. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018(11), 149-159. Retrieved from https://www.dovepress.com/traction-alopecia-the-root-of-the-problem-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CCID
  10. Pulickal, J. K., & Kaliyadan, F. (n.d.). Traction Alopecia - StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470434/
  11. Treatment & Outcomes of Dermatophytes | Ringworm | Types of Diseases | Fungal Diseases | CDC. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/ringworm/treatment.html
  12. Skin Cancer of the Head and Neck. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/skin-cancer-of-the-head-and-neck
  13. Hair loss types: Alopecia areata diagnosis and treatment. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia/treatment
  14. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A. & Kumar, D.D. (2021, December 19). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Vicky Davis, FNP

Dr. Vicky Davis is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, leadership and education. 

Dr. Davis' expertise include direct patient care and many years working in clinical research to bring evidence-based care to patients and their families. 

She is a Florida native who obtained her master’s degree from the University of Florida and completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2020 from Chamberlain College of Nursing

She is also an active member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

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