Mold is a type of fungus that grows in moist environments and reproduces by producing spores. The term mold is sometimes used to refer to all fungus, but this is incorrect.

There’s no scientific evidence that mold grows on human hair. But another type of fungus called yeast commonly grows on the scalp and can lead to hair loss or dandruff. Some fungi can grow directly on your hair.

An online search of “moldy hair” returns many results about how to get rid of mold in your hair.

However, many of these results are from websites selling hair products marketed toward targeting hair mold, which is not a problem you need to worry about.

There’s no evidence that mold can grow on human hair. And despite the claims of some websites, your hair doesn’t smell when wet because of mold. But some other fungal infections of the scalp like seborrheic dermatitis may contribute to an odor.

A number of yeast infections can potentially grow on your scalp or hair, such as:

  • Tinea capitis. Tinea capitis, also called ringworm of the scalp, is a common scalp infection caused by yeast overgrowth.
  • Trichophyton tonsurans. The yeast Trichophyton tonsurans causes roughly 95 percent of yeast overgrowth cases in the United States.
  • Malassezia. An overgrowth of Malassezia yeast can cause seborrheic dermatitis and lead to dandruff.
  • Black piedra. This fungal infection of your hair shafts, also known as Trichomycosis nodosa, is characterized by black growths. It’s most common in tropical regions, particularly in people with poor scalp hygiene and long hair.
  • White piedra. Similar to black piedra, white piedra causes white growths.

Rarely, mold spores can enter your body through cuts in your skin and cause a serious infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This condition is known as cutaneous mucormycosis. It’s a life threatening disease that’s most common in people who are immunocompromised.

A surveillance study on the presence of mycotic infections was conducted in three California counties in the San Francisco Bay area between 1992 and 1993. Results showed the mucormycosis occurrence rate to be about 1.7 out of every 1 million people.

You don’t need to worry about mold growing in your hair, but you can take steps to prevent scalp yeast infections. Yeasts usually thrive in warm and moist environments. You can lower the chance of transferring the infection-causing yeast by:

  • avoiding going to bed with wet hair
  • showering after exercising and drying your hair completely afterward
  • avoiding touching your scalp to prevent spreading yeast to other parts of your body
  • using a different towel to dry the infected area
  • avoiding contact with pets suspected of having ringworm
  • avoiding sharing personal items such as combs or towels with people who have ringworm

You can prevent piedra by following good personal hygiene habits, especially if you live in a hot and humid climate and have long hair.

Scalp ringworm is more common in children than adults. The peak age range for diagnosis is between ages 3 and 14 years. Children who attend day care or visit other places where they encounter other children increase their chances of contracting the fungus.

Some yeast infections, like Candida albicans, are most common in people who have a weakened (compromised) immune system.

Cutaneous mucormycotic is most often seen in people who have diabetes that’s not well managed and other conditions that compromise their immune system.

Piedra is most common in people living or traveling to areas with hot and humid climates.

Mold isn’t known to grow on hair, so there are no known signs or symptoms.

Black piedra is characterized by black growths on your hair that range from microscopic to 1 millimeter in diameter. Hair often becomes weak and breaks around the infection. White piedra causes white to tan growths.

Symptoms of a cutaneous mucormycosis infection, which is when mold gets into a cut, on the scalp, for example, include:

Ringworm infection of your scalp may cause:

  • scaly and inflamed patches of hair
  • bald patches that get bigger
  • brittle or fragile hair
  • tenderness or pain on the scalp

Seborrheic dermatitis can cause dandruff and red, itchy skin.

Tips for dealing with scalp and hair fungi

Most types of fungal growths can be treated at home. But in some cases, you may need to see a doctor. If you have signs of fungal infection on your scalp or hair, it’s a good idea to see a doctor if:

  • you have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised)
  • your infection is not responding to medicated shampoos
  • you have severe itchiness
  • you’re developing bald patches
  • your scalp is painful and bothersome, disrupting your life

It’s critical to seek immediate medical attention if you think you have mucormycosis infection, which can cause black or blueish skin around a wound.

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A doctor may be able to diagnose some yeast infections by examining your skin and considering your symptoms. They can use a special light known as a Wood’s lamp to check for infection.

Many types of scalp infections can have similar symptoms, so they may want to take a hair or skin sample for analysis. Your sample will be analyzed in a lab to look for the presence of fungi.

Treatment for a fungal infection on your scalp or hair depends on the underlying cause.

Scalp ringworm

Scalp ringworm usually needs to be treated with prescription antifungal creams, lotions, or powders for 1 to 3 months, according to the CDC.

Treatment options include:


Shaving your head is the most effective way to get rid of piedra. If you don’t want to shave your head, antifungal creams or shampoos such as 2 percent ketoconazole or 2 percent miconazole applied weekly for 3 weeks may be effective.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis can be treated with prescription-strength shampoos that contain ingredients such as hydrocortisone or fluocinolone. Antifungal medications or other treatments such as light therapy may also help.

Cutaneous mucormycotic

Cutaneous mucormycotic needs prompt medical attention. Treatment may include surgical removal of damaged tissue and antifungal medications.

Scalp yeast infection

Scalp yeast infections are fairly common and can usually be treated with medicated shampoos or topical antifungal medications. Treatment for individual yeast infections may include:

  • Scalp ringworm. Generally, recovery from this infection has a good outlook when treated appropriately. Not taking medications as prescribed can be a common reason for treatment failure.
  • Adult seborrheic dermatitis. Adult seborrheic dermatitis is generally very manageable but not curable.
  • Piedra. With treatment, most people with piedra recover fully and regain all their hair.
  • Cutaneous mucormycotic. Cutaneous mucormycotic is a life threatening disease that requires prompt diagnosis. It’s seen more often in people with diabetes that’s not well managed — or poorly managed — and in individuals with other conditions that can weaken their immune system.
  • MR (clc) 4/21/2022 – the above link to article requires buying or being a member in order to access the supporting document.
  • Possibly replace with:
  • The mortality info could be replaced with any of the following info:
  • The overall mortality of all mucormycosis variants has improved from 84% in the 1950s to 47% in the 1990s, mostly because of treatment with AmB. The overall mortality of cutaneous mucormycosis is less than other presentations of mucormycosis, and in three case series it ranged from 25% to 31%. In localized cutaneous mucormycosis, mortality ranged from 4% to 10%, and in deep extension presentations, it ranged from 26% to 43%. In the largest case series, the mortality rate for disseminated disease was 83%;1 however, in recent reports it ranges from 26% to 50%.
  • IE DN (4/25): I found all these versions of the stat available to be confusing in this context. I think it is good enough to say that it can be life threatening and in which populations.
  • CE DSJ 4/26/22: Hi, Debbie. Good idea. And the source is available for those who may want to take a closer look at the study results.

Home remedies

Always speak with your doctor or healthcare professional before trying any home remedy to be sure it is safe for you given your current health and medical history.

There’s limited research examining home remedies for scalp yeast infections. For mild yeast infections, some people anecdotally report having success with:

Learn more about home remedies for ringworm here.

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Although many people may be searching online for how to remove mold from their hair, there’s no scientific evidence that mold grows on human hair.

However, some other types of fungi, such as piedra or yeasts, can grow on your scalp or hair. These fungi can often be managed at home, but a doctor can properly diagnose your infection and recommend a treatment plan.