Crown of Head: Understanding Common Health Conditions

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Grace Gallagher

Published 05/30/2024

If you’re wondering exactly where the crown of the head is, you’re not alone. After all, the song Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes didn’t get into specifics.

Whether you’re hoping to better understand common health conditions affecting the scalp (like a sore or itchy crown of the head) or you’re just looking for a general anatomy lesson on the parts of the head, you’re in the right place.

Here, we’ll cover how to find the crown of your head (hey, it’s not as simple as you may think), health issues commonly affecting this part of your body, plus treatment options for skin conditions on the crown.

In the simplest terms, the crown of the head (also called the vertex) is the peak of your skull. If you know where your hair whorl is (that’s the little swirl in the center of your head), then it’s typically just about smack-dab in the center of the crown.

The crown of the head's main function is to protect the skull and brain bones. 

You can find the crown of your head by touching your skull’s midline (think where a headband would go) and then moving your hand slowly toward the back of your head. When you’re at the highest point of your skull, congrats, you’ve found the crown. 

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The head is divided into several parts. It’s a lot to wrap your head around (or something like that), but don’t worry. Below, we’ll break down the parts of the head so you can picture how the crown relates to the other part.

  • The top of your head (sometimes called frontal) is fairly obvious — it’s the flat part behind your forehead where you would rest a textbook if you were trying to show off your ability to balance things on your head.

  • The parietal scalp, also called the parietal ridge, is made up of two identical bones on the sides of the head. They start above the eyebrows and wrap to the space above the ears.

  • The occipital bone is the area on the back of the head below the crown, running to the nape of the neck.

But when talking about hair loss, the scalp is typically talked about in three distinct sections:

  • The crown is the highest and roundest portion of the scalp.

  • The mid-scalp is the area from temple to temple (think about what over-the-ear headphones would cover).

  • The frontal (or frontotemporal) region includes the temples, forehead, and mid-scalp and is where you’d see a receding hairline

In men, hair loss is most prominent in the vertex (the crown — remember?) and frontotemporal regions of the head.

Below, we’ll explain common health issues affecting the crown of the head, plus treatment options for each. And if you’re here because you’re looking for ways to treat crown-of-the-head hair loss that isn’t necessarily caused by a specific skin condition (just genetics, thanks fam), we’ll also cover general hair loss treatments a little further down.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is just another name for dandruff. We’re all familiar with dandruff — it’s the itchy rash on your scalp that leaves your black shirt covered in white flakes (at least in shampoo commercials). Dandruff on the crown of head is caused by dead skin cells mixing with sebum.

Seborrheic dermatitis isn’t going to cause hair loss on its own (yay), but all that scratching can cause temporary hair loss (boo).

Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment

The good news is that there are lots of over-the-counter treatment options for dandruff. Our dandruff detox shampoo uses pyrithione zinc, a well-studied anti-dandruff ingredient that helps to regulate sebum and inhibit year production — two things that contribute to dandruff. 

Salicylic acid shampoos can also be helpful.

Sunburn & Skin Cancer

Areas of skin that are directly exposed to the sun (like a bare scalp) can be especially vulnerable to UV rays. People with hair loss on the crown of the head should know that they are at a higher risk of certain skin cancers.

One study looked at data from over 30,000 participants and found that male pattern baldness was associated with an increased risk of invasive squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Fortunately, baldness was not significantly associated with an increased risk of melanoma.

Scalp Sunburn Treatment

The best treatment for scalp sunburn is preventing it in the first place. Wearing a hat (ideally one with built-in UV protection) and applying sunscreen to exposed areas of the scalp can prevent dreaded scalp sunburn.

If the damage has been done, applying aloe vera gel or a hydrocortisone cream can help the healing process. Aspirin or ibuprofen can ease pain and reduce swelling.

BCC can manifest as many as 10 to 15 years after the initial burn, so it’s important to be on the lookout for any changes on your scalp (like shiny patches of red or pink skin, oozing sores, scar-like lesions, or scaly patches with raised edges) even if you’ve been diligent with suncare for a few years now.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that puts your cells in overdrive — when your skin cells grow quickly, it results in a buildup of dead, flaky skin. 50 percent of psoriasis cases affect the scalp.

Psoriasis does not cause hair loss on its own, but all the scratching associated with an itchy scalp can damage the hair follicle causing hair thinning or loss over time.

Psoriasis Treatment

If you suspect you have psoriasis, it’s best to see a dermatologist. Medicated shampoos can help loosen the scales, and oral and topical medications can also help. Keeping your fingernails short can be an easy way to reduce the damage caused by mindless scratching.

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of hair follicles. It can happen anywhere there are follicles, including the scalp. Folliculitis causes small red bumps on the skin that can be itchy and uncomfortable. 

Severe folliculitis can cause hair loss if left untreated. This condition is often mistaken for scalp acne, though the two are slightly different (acne is caused by excess oil whereas folliculitis is caused by bacteria getting trapped in the follicle).

Folliculitis treatment

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying a warm compress to the area three to four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time. 

Folliculitis can also be caused by shaving, so if you shave your head, make sure to use a clean, sharp blade. The AAD also recommends taking a month-long break from shaving to give the skin time to heal. If your folliculitis isn’t improving, a dermatologist may prescribe an antibiotic or other medication.

Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis, also called scalp ringworm, is a fungal condition that affects the scalp, hair follicles, and possibly the hair shaft. If you have an itchy crown of the head, tinea capitis could be the culprit. 

The condition primarily affects children, but it’s very contagious. If you have kids, you know how that goes — it’s entirely possible for an adult to get scalp ringworm.

Symptoms of tinea capitis include:

  • Scaling

  • Itching

  • Redness

  • Hair loss in circular patches on the scalp 

Tinea Capitis Treatment

Tinea capitis is typically treated using oral antifungal medications, such as griseofulvin, terbinafin, or fluconazole. Antifungal creams and shampoos, like ketoconazole, can also help.

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Many of the health conditions we touched on can cause hair loss either directly or indirectly, but not all hair loss is associated with scalp symptoms. Male pattern baldness (aka androgenetic alopecia) is the most common type of hair loss in men. 

Whether your hair loss is caused by a skin condition or pattern hair loss, here are some hair loss treatments that can help slow hair loss and possibly restore some of the hair you’ve lost.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine®) is a topical hair loss treatment. It’s a vasodilator, meaning it dilates blood vessels, bringing blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the scalp.

We offer minoxidil foam and minoxidil solution

Finasteride

Finasteride (the active ingredient in Propecia®) is an FDA-approved hair loss medication that’s been shown to slow hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth in men. 

How does it work? Studies show that finasteride can reduce the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the body. DHT is a male sex hormone that causes hair loss miniaturization that contributes to androgenetic alopecia.

These hair loss medications play nicely together, and if you’re intrigued by both, we offer topical finasteride and minoxidil spray.

Low-Level Light Therapy

Some research shows that low-level light therapy (LLLT) can help treat hair loss. The process involves wearing a helmet outfitted with lights of a particular wavelength that can stimulate the hair follicle. 

While it seems kind of space-agey, it does have some promise. One study compared people using a helmet-style LLLT device 18 minutes per day to those using a “sham device” (i.e., one that looked exactly the same but didn’t actually do anything). 

After 24 weeks of treatment, the group treated with the LLLT device showed “significantly greater” hair density than the control group. They also had greater hair diameter, meaning individual strands were thicker, which is promising for those with thinning hair.

Microneedling

Microneedling is a procedure that uses a derma-roller (a handheld rolling device with small needles attached to it) to make micro-cuts in the head. This sounds aggressive, but the needles are only about 1.5mm long each. The idea is that the mild trauma this causes to the scalp sends blood and oxygen to the area, which can help promote new hair growth. 

One of the most promising (though small) studies we’ve found on the topic looked at microneedling and minoxidil use together, and it seems to be effective. One group used just a minoxidil lotion, and the other did a microneedling procedure, which was followed 24 hours later by the same lotion.

The 12-week study of 100 men found that those who used microneedling and minoxidil had thicker hair and reported greater overall satisfaction with their results.

Haircare products

If you’re not sure where to start or you’re looking for a cosmetic fix, haircare products can be a great place to begin the fight against hair loss. 

It’s not just skin conditions that affect the crown of the head. Other medical conditions can cause pain or hair loss in this area. Below, we’ve touched on a few conditions that may cause symptoms. 

Headaches

Tension headaches, migraines, and chronic headaches can all cause pain at the top of the head (as you probably know if you’ve ever had a bad night of sleep or one too many). 

Speak to a doctor if the usual headache treatment options (pain medication, water, and sleep) are not helping or if your headaches are getting more severe.

Heart Disease

Your heart can affect your head, and not just in the poetic sense. Heart disease is associated with hair loss, but the relationship isn’t entirely understood. 

A meta-analysis of six studies found that severe baldness in men was associated with a 32 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) compared to those without baldness.

Interestingly, where you notice the signs of balding matters here (see, you’re glad you know the parts of the head). Vertex baldness (that’s a bald spot at the crown) showed a stronger association with CHD compared to frontal baldness.

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor can cause headaches and pressure all over the head and neck, including the crown. An indicator of brain tumors in infants specifically is a bulging crown.

Brain tumors are quite serious and usually have other symptoms in addition to head pain including:

  • Changes in eyesight

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Confusion

  • Seizures

  • Vertigo

  • Changes to smell and taste

If you’re interested in learning more about the connection between health and hair, check out our guide to illnesses that cause hair loss.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

You’re reading this for a reason — maybe you just love us, but more realistically you have an itchy, sore scalp, or your crown hair is looking a little thin. Here are a few things to remember about the crown of the head and scalp conditions that may affect it.

  • The crown area of the head is the highest part of the skull, also known as the vertex. 

  • Several scalp conditions, including androgenetic alopecia (baldness), dandruff, psoriasis, folliculitis, sunburn, and more can affect this area of the head, potentially leading to crown-of-head hair loss.

  • If you’re experiencing hair loss, either from male pattern baldness or because of a scalp condition, there are hair loss treatment options that can help.

To learn more, check out our guide to the most common scalp conditions. And if you’re looking to chat with an expert, you can connect with a healthcare professional online.

24 Sources

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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.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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