Scalp fungi: causes, symptoms and treatments

Unfortunately, there is an infinite variety of fungi present in our bodies, often in a latent state and without affecting us to any great extent. These plant micro-organisms develop in our bodies in the same way as fungi found in forests. All it takes is a favourable environment (insufficient or excessive hygiene, lowered immunity, antibiotics) for them to proliferate. Without appropriate remedies, a small, innocuous red patch can quickly spread to cover a large area of the body or scalp.

There are around 40 varieties of fungus that can affect the scalp. Most of them are highly transmissible and, without proper care, can have a serious impact on your health; in fact, some mycoses (diseases resulting from the action of a fungus) can spread to other areas of the body and become more difficult to treat.

However, once identified, most mycoses are easily treated with simple, effective treatments, combined with a few basic precautions.

The main sources of contamination

Other people

When you come into contact with a person carrying a fungus, for example by shaking hands, it's easy for the fungus to spread to your own scalp, simply by touching your hair or scratching your head. The fungus can then start to thrive. Of course, this is by no means systematic.

A benign disease that frequently affects children (before adolescence) and immunocompromised individuals, ringworm (tinea capitis) is one of the best-known mycoses of the scalp. Extremely contagious, ringworm can be cured by local and oral treatment combined with strict hygiene measures and isolation of the infected person. Weakened hair can become brittle and fragile, so hair loss cannot be ruled out.

The animals

Many animals, starting with pets (dogs, cats, rodents), but also farm animals, are carriers of fungi. This is particularly true of young animals, puppies and kittens. The mode of migration to the scalp is exactly the same as that described in the previous example. Be careful: if the vet tells you that your favourite pet has ringworm, you run a high risk of being contaminated, as the spores of a fungus called dermatophyte will migrate from the animal's coat (or claws) to you and settle on the skin of the body or scalp. Fortunately, if you are infected, you cannot transmit ringworm of animal origin to another human being. 

Objects

This is a mode of transmission that is often overlooked: items shared with other people, such as bath towels, combs, hairbrushes or clothing, can also act as vectors for a fungal infection.

The environment in the broadest sense

The two great friends of fungi are heat and humidity. When both are present, for example in a changing room or shower in a sports hall or swimming pool, fungi thrive. So it's very easy to catch a fungus in these places. Of course, the fungus can grow on any part of the body, from the feet to the groin to the head!

How do you know if you've been infected by a fungus? How do you make the right diagnosis?

The symptoms are varied and can fluctuate from person to person.

On the other hand, if symptoms such as itching appear very suddenly, dandruffScaly, dry patches or hair loss can all be signs that your scalp has been infected by a fungus. A careful examination of your scalp will help determine the possible causes of these unpleasant symptoms.

Let's take a moment to look at possible hair loss caused by fungal infection. First of all, this is a relatively common consequence if the infection is left untreated and allowed to flourish without proper care. The links between a fungal infection and the appearance of hair loss are relatively poorly understood. What is known, however, is that fungi do not act on DHT. They do not cause androgenetic hair loss. On the other hand, they can cause hair breakage in the affected areas, the appearance of patches of alopecia or even scarring alopecia.

Normally, hair breakage will stop as soon as the fungus has been treated. So it's the lesser of two evils.

A much more annoying consequence is the patchy patches of hair loss. These areas can remain long after the fungus has disappeared. The problem is that no-one can tell or predict when hair will grow back in these areas.

Finally, scarring alopecia. This is an even more unfortunate consequence, since scarring alopecia is irreversible, with very rare exceptions. It is caused by a deep inflammation of the scalp tissues induced by prolonged exposure to a fungal infection, which eventually leads to deep-seated dysfunction of the scalp tissues, resulting in the appearance of scar-like areas where the hair falls out and does not grow back.

At Clauderer, as hair experts, we are well aware of the phenomenon of dandruff on the scalp; these unsightly but generally completely painless flakes are caused by a very specific fungus called pitiryasis capitis. Naturally present in our bodies, external factors such as stress, overly aggressive hair care products, etc. can "wake it up" and unbalance cell renewal.

In short, it is important to treat a fungal infection of the scalp early on to avoid the appearance of serious forms such as scarring alopecia, or its spread to other parts of the body, or the transmission of the fungus to those around you.

Rest assured, it's very easy to get rid of a fungus. Fortunately, there are effective remedies available.

Treatment and prevention of scalp fungus

Treatments are very simple. Doctors generally agree that antifungal medication should be taken orally rather than topically (applied to the scalp). Treatment may take several weeks.

At Clauderer, we find that both therapies lead to rapid and convincing results. However, as the first results appear quickly, some people tend to shorten the treatment period, considering that they are rid of the fungus before the end of the treatment prescribed by the doctor. This early cessation is not without risk, and we warn our customers about it. In fact, in this case, the fungus is likely to return much more strongly and more frequently, and getting rid of it will then become longer and more complicated.

Of course, when you start a treatment of this type, we strongly recommend changing your hair accessories (including combs and brushes) and meticulously washing any items that have been in contact with your scalp. First and foremost, towels of course, but also sheets and pillowcases. Mushrooms can remain on these surfaces for several months, causing recurring infections.

As we have seen, the treatments are simple and relatively quick.

What steps should I take to avoid getting fungus on my scalp? 

The first is to wash your hair regularly to keep your hair and scalp clean. At Clauderer, we also recommend that you apply a moisturiser to your scalp to ensure perfect scalp hygiene. cleansing milk before shampooing. Choose a gentle shampoo that is as natural as possible, without ingredients are likely to attack the fragile skin of your scalp. Shampoos are specially designed and formulated to rid the hair of impurities (pollution, sebum, etc.), but are not really suitable for truly cleansing the scalp.

The second is to dry your hair and scalp thoroughly, especially in hot weather. As we've seen, fungi tend to proliferate much more quickly in damp, hot environments. The best way to dry your scalp is to pat it dry with a clean towel. We often tend to "rub" our scalp with the towel. This common practice should be avoided at all costs: it damages the hair and does little to dry the scalp properly.

The third is to avoid sharing towels, hairbrushes, combs or other items with other people in order to minimise the risk of fungal infection.

The fourth is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after stroking a pet.

If you have a pet, we also recommend that you have it examined regularly by a vet. In fact, your pet may be carrying a fungus without showing any signs of the infection. Only a vet can diagnose it and prescribe the right treatment.

The fifth is to avoid as far as possible any contact with hot, damp surfaces in communal areas (swimming pools, sports clubs, etc.). It is particularly advisable not to walk barefoot in these places, but always to wear sandals or flip-flops.

In conclusion

As we have seen, scalp fungus is a perfectly normal infection that can be easily cured, provided it is diagnosed as early as possible and treated with appropriate medication and impeccable hygiene - in short, common sense advice.

Early treatment is essential. If left untreated, a fungal infection of the scalp can lead to irreversible damage such as scarring alopecia. It would be a shame if it came to that.

Jean-François Cabos

Jean-François Cabos is the creator of a unique hair care method based on the research he coordinated, which led to the publication of the book "Cheveux, Racines de Vie" with Hélène Clauderer by Robert Laffont (Collection "Réponses/ Santé").

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