18 answers

8 Year Old Son Has "Smelly" Hair/scalp

My 8 year old son's hair smells bad! Does anyone else have this problem? It will smell nice only right after he washes it but by the end of the day- it stinks! I have been having him wash his hair everyday but I just want to make sure it is "normal" . Is it maybe oily scalp at this early of an age? I don't know if that would make it smell bad or not, I don't have oily scalp but I think his dad does (we are divorced). I do not have this problem with my other two kids, they can even go a few days without washing. Any advice?

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Featured Answers

Hi, I am a mother of three. Ages, 14, 9, and 3. My oldest son was the same way at that age. I think it is pretty normal for some boys. By the time he was 11 it wasn't so bad anymore. In the mean time we kept his hair cut very short the help with the cleanliness. We also had him shower in the morning and at night.

K.,
Sometimes food intolerances come out in pores and it can smell bad. If it smells like regular sweat or dirt, then that's probably just what it is and you'll just have to keep it clean. If it smells just bad and you can't explain it and he's having some other weird symptoms, I'd consider looking into a possible food intolerance.
-G.

More Answers

My 8 year old daughter has the same thing. It started last year. I even took her to the doctor. They said some kids start with hormone changes this early. They checked her for hair growing in other places. Very weird. If any hair was found then they were going to run tests on her hormones. But that never happened. And so they just told me to use a dailey clarifying shampoo (sauve). And do not blow dry because heat makes it sweat more. Not like you would to your son. Just so you know... When summer came she had stinky pits. Aww!! Way to young. She only wears a light deoderant on very hot days. My other daughter could go a couple of days and her hair still smells like the shampoo. Every kid is different. Good luck!

Hi K.,
My son is 8 as well and we have the same problem. I have him take showers every other day to. I have been trying different shampoo , but having no luck. Hope you find an answer.

I have a book called Is This Your Child, By Dr. Dorris Rapp www.drrapp.com and it talks about food allergies/food intolerances. A smelly scalp often goes along with smelly feet, hands and dandruff, which is a sign of a yeast overgrowth, that means limit the yeast/sugar in his diet...I know, tell an 8yr old to limit their sugar intake, but sugar acts as a fertilizer for sugar, making people crave it more. A good dose of probiotics will do him good, espeically if he has had a lot of antibiotics in his past. You can try a modified low sugar diet, which is not so bad. Also try a shampoo that has tea tree oil or chammomile in it to help decrease the odor, but eventually will have to get rid of the yeast in the body. The book is good, and there is a great chapter on yeast overgrowth and how to combat it. Good luck!

Hi K.,

I used to be a hair dresser, and I can tell you that I encountered a LOT of kids, especially boys coming in for their hair cut and their scalp would smell so bad - and their mothers would be mortified about it. Most of the time, it is this way because the boys will used their bath water to rinse off their hair rather than using fresh water from the tap.

Also, some children perspire more than others - and it could be the glands are sweating a bit more than the other children's' are.

For my son, I noticed the same thing -and I had to make
SURE he wasn't using the bath water to rinse his hair - or it would end up smelling by the end of the day...

I hope this helps...
M.

I would check with Doctor. Could be infection of some kind. It could be down in the scalp. What seems like oil maybe a discharge of some kind. Maybe an infection in the follicles.

When you get a urinary infection one of the symptoms is foul smelling urine.

Talk to your Doctor about your shampoo. I know my son has to have a purer shampoo the cheap shampoo usually have alcohol of some kind in them.

I would not mess around.

try arbonne's tea tree oil shampoo. i can send you a sample if you like. tea tree oil fixes everything and arbonne's products don't have phtalates, parabens, or any harsh carcinogenic chemical.

K., I am having the same problem with my son - but he is only 2 months old and barely has any hair yet, just "peach fuzz". My other two children (girl and boy) have never had this problem, so I was completely taken aback by it with this child of mine! His scalp has this terrible "dirty hair" smell, but obviously it's not from his poor hygiene or even his hair ... since he has none! His scalp doesn't feel or look oily either, so it has been very baffling to me. In his two short months of life so far, I have found that using a strawberry-scented conditioner helps keep the bad smell away for a little longer than if I only use baby shampoo. (I'm sure there are many other hair products that could similarly help ward off the smell for awhile.) Even so, the smell ultimately returns within a few hours after I bathe him.

My husband's scalp has a tendency to develop the same smell, as does my husband's brother, seemingly sooner than most people. For example, my other two kids and I could go for days without washing our hair (not that we'd want to!), and I swear it wouldn't smell, but by the end of a day, my husband's hair will smell bad, even though he showers every day. That has caused me to think that there must be some genetic aspect to the problem. I've been trying not to obsess over it, but the top of my little guy's head definitely smells bad almost all the time, so it's funny that you are posting this question that for me is very timely!!

L.

My husband had oily hair and the more active he was, the worse the problem was. He showered every morning and whatever time he got home from work. Problem solved. Make sure the boy is doing a good job washing his hair. If he leaves it oily the problem will only get worse thru the day.

It sounds like he has a scalp fungal infection. Your pediatrician can give you a medicated shampoo that will cure it really fast.

Hormones, he is just starting to change. I would get a nice tea tree oil shampoo it should help.

His diet could be partly to blame.

K.,
Sometimes food intolerances come out in pores and it can smell bad. If it smells like regular sweat or dirt, then that's probably just what it is and you'll just have to keep it clean. If it smells just bad and you can't explain it and he's having some other weird symptoms, I'd consider looking into a possible food intolerance.
-G.

My now 12 year old had the same issue a couple years ago. It started occurring after he made the decision to grow his hair longer. My son has very thick hair and washes it daily. At the end of the day it does have a smell - nothing offensive but just not good. I attribute it to him not using any gel or mousse product AND he won't blow dry it. The few times I have forced the issue and made him at least dry it (he hates using product), I noticed an improvement. My challenge is getting him to follow through with the blow drying - he takes his AM shower once I leave for work. So maybe try using a gel or mousse and blow drying it. Good luck!

Ok... I am assuming here only so please forgive me if I am wrong!

I notice you say HE washes his hair... which is fine! Just make sure he is actually using the correct shampoo you put out for him and after his shower that it is completely rinsed out. Also, tell him he has to massage the scalp. You want to make sure he is not just plop and dropping some shampoo on his head running his fingers through it fast and then rinsing it.

If he is taking baths, make sure he is not "swimming" in the bath water after rinsing his hair. Also, if he is taking baths, make sure he is rinsing his hair with clean water and not the bath water he was in. I noticed my infant daughter stinking the next morning after my hubby gave her a bath... sure enough that is what happened- I explained to him that he is just putting the dirt back on her hair... But hey, I give him credit for trying ;)

Also, if it is oily scalp. You will most likely notice it if you rub your fingers on his scalp- not sure how to explain this but you will know! Try it right after he bathes and then later in the day- compare the two.

Good luck with this! Many blessings!

Hi, I am a mother of three. Ages, 14, 9, and 3. My oldest son was the same way at that age. I think it is pretty normal for some boys. By the time he was 11 it wasn't so bad anymore. In the mean time we kept his hair cut very short the help with the cleanliness. We also had him shower in the morning and at night.

My daughter started this issue (also smelly pits!) in 2nd grade -- so it could be a pre-pubescent thing. Of course, check with your doc about it just in case it means something else (e.g., diabetes sometimes makes one smell "fruity" for example).

In the meantime, try a "clarifying" shampoo OR a dandruff shampoo (really gets the scalp extra clean). Another option (though old fashioned) try rubbing baking soda through it (use it like shampoo) -- a friend says it adds squeeky-clean shine to her oily hair. Or, try rinsing with vinegar (again, this is a clarifier).

In comparing notes with friends, I've noticed the curlier one's hair is, the quicker it gets stinky (I've got poodle hair, myself). A beautician told me it could be because curly hair is porous, so collects minerals (from the water), residue (from products, conditioners) and smells (like smoke) more easily.

Hope one of these thoughts hits the button!

My friend always complained about her husband and son having this. I had never heard of anyone having this before. I know she now really massages her son's scalp when washing and she says it does help.

Everyone has different scalps and thus different needs when it comes to hair care. When I was small I could go two or three days without washing my hair. I have to wash my hair everyday now because I get the night sweats.

My daughters don't have to wash their hair everyday during the winter months, but in spring, summer and fall they need to wash everyday or they get a smelly head...like a sour washcloth that has been in the sink for a few days.

I have a brother that had to take a bath twice a day starting when he was very small...and then started wearing deodarant when he was eight years old. He started puberty in late elementary school and had a little mustache by the time he finished middle school.

He just has an oily scalp and will need to wash his head every night or morning. Like I said my brother had to bath every night and then again in the morning before school.

If he's not really oily then just get a spray for his hair. Like a detangler or a hair deodarant....to spray in his head after he plays. They use to make something for people to spray in their hair to get a smokey smell out...I don't know if they still make it since I don't smoke anymore.

He's normal though...don't worry about that.

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