Who doesn’t love long and luscious hair that shines and bounces with each step?
But truth be told, not all of us are blessed with impeccable genetics. And considering the modern lifestyle, flaunting healthy hair sounds more like a far-fetched dream than an actual possibility.
Plus, everyone has different types of skin. Those with sensitive skin are more prone to scalp pain and tenderness, which may later result in hair loss.
So, what’s causing all these issues? Is it caused by certain hair products? Or are you suffering from underlying skin disorders?
We’ll be answering all of that in this informative guide on the different reasons behind a painful scalp while combing and pressing.
What Is A Sensitive Scalp?
Despite the skull being hard, our scalp is soft and tender. Hence, scalp tenderness and sensitivity is common among many people.
Moving on, your scalp contains more blood vessels and nerve endings than other parts of your body. Naturally, a sensitive or hypersensitive scalp can become a nuisance, considering the itchiness and pain that follows.
Some of the common symptoms of scalp tenderness include inflammation, itchiness, pain, numbness, redness, peeling, flaking, etc. You may also experience an unusual tightness across the scalp.
Now according to your scalp health, the level of sensitivity may differ. Usually, dry and oily scalps experience the aforementioned symptoms more frequently. Note that those who suffer from an irritated scalp may also experience sensitivity in other areas of their bodies, like the face or the back.
Do You Have A Sensitive Or Hypersensitive Scalp?
Before we get into what causes scalp pain, let’s figure out whether or not you suffer from scalp sensitivity.
The first and the most obvious sign of scalp tenderness and sensitivity is when your hair and scalp react badly to certain hair care products. This is because these products may contain harsh chemicals which can irritate the scalp.
However, unique visible symptoms like silver and red patches, white flakes and yellow flakes, and excessive itching may be a result of psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or an itchy scalp, respectively.
Common Causes Of Scalp Pain
If you’re experiencing scalp tenderness or pain without any external injuries, there could be a host of reasons behind it. Let’s check them out below…
Sometimes the otherwise warm and rejuvenating sun and the cool and calm breeze can turn into the biggest culprits behind your scalp pain! And if you live in a place that experiences extreme weather conditions, the UV rays and shivering winds can take a toll on your hair and scalp.
For example, when it’s too hot outside, all that sweating can make your scalp more prone to fungal infections. Or, you could get a sunburn which results in an itchy scalp.
Similarly, extremely cold weather can also cause a dry scalp, and constant itching can worsen scalp tenderness. In such conditions, it is best to use hydrating hair products to lock in the moisture and natural oils of your scalp.
We suggest using therapeutic shampoos, tea tree oil, or anti-fungal products to keep your hair in its best condition. You could also try covering your head with a scarf to prevent further damage.
2. Skin Disorders
Just as skin disorders affect your face, they can also damage your scalp and hair follicles. Notably, two common skin disorders that can cause scalp tenderness are psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.
A. Scalp Psoriasis
People who already suffer from psoriasis are more prone to scalp psoriasis, notorious for causing itchy red patches all over the scalp. However, this redness will be more noticeable along the hairline.
The worst part about psoriasis is the excessive itching it causes, which, in turn, results in more scalp tenderness. Plus, it is a chronic skin condition. But the good part is that you can treat your scalp sensitivity with a gentle shampoo, which should curb the itchiness significantly.
B. Seborrheic Dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis is another common condition that causes scalp irritation and inflammation. It may further cause redness, itchiness, sensitivity, and excess oil production on the scalp.
A medical professional may prescribe antifungal medication, shampoos, or creams to treat this skin disorder.
3. Hair Styling
While that blue hair dye may look cool today and for the following few days, excessive hair styling (with colors and heating products like hair dryers) can also result in a tender scalp. This is because most hair coloring products contain chemicals like ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, both of which can spell trouble for your hair follicles.
Additionally, tight hairstyles can be too harsh on your follicles and the scalp, causing scalp soreness. And in extreme cases, a tight ponytail or bun may result in excessive hair fall.
So, make sure you do not use tight accessories or style your hair in the aforementioned ways to avoid sensitivity.
4. Contact Dermatitis
When your skin is sensitive or allergic to certain products, it can suffer from allergic contact dermatitis. The symptoms include inflammation, itching, peeling, and rashes.
One can suffer from contact dermatitis by using certain cosmetics and hair products, different metals, laundry detergents, etc. The condition could also arise if you live in a highly polluted area or come in contact with contaminated water.
Knowing the root cause of the issue will help you eliminate it completely and avoid any irritation on the scalp.
You could also switch to organic products for your hair and body. This is because some users may be allergic to certain chemicals or ingredients in their shampoos, conditioners, serums, and other hair care products.
5. Head Lice
All of us know what a nuisance a lice infestation can be. Among children and adults, head lice is a common hair issue since they are highly contagious. They are known to live for about a month and lay eggs on the scalp, so there’s no stopping them. As a result, you’ll notice flakes and bumps on your scalp and experience excessive itchiness.
If you notice head lice, the first thing to do is ensure the people around you are well-protected. Do not share any hair accessories or products that can cause your head lice to contaminate more areas.
You could opt for medicated shampoos to heal sores and curb lice infestations. However, the best way to get rid of them is to use a fine comb.
6. Infections (Around Hair Follicles)
Infection of the hair follicles is called folliculitis, and it can get quite painful every time you touch your scalp. Sometimes the condition may worsen to the extent that even moving a hair strand can cause pain and irritation.
Although the back of the scalp and the neck region are more prone to this infection, it can occur anywhere on the scalp. Once infected, your hair follicles may also get irritated, which may later result in hair thinning and balding.
Another common scalp infection is tinea capitis, commonly known as ringworm of the scalp. The culprit here is a type of fungus that creates tiny, scaly patches across the entire scalp. Like head lice, this fungus is also quite contagious and can spread through shared combs, towels, and more.
Speaking of the treatment, you will have to consult a medical professional who may prescribe antifungal medication. In most cases, one ends up using both a medicated shampoo as well as an oral tablet.
7. Stress And Anxiety
If you suffer from migraine headaches or tension headaches, chances are that you may experience scalp pain as well. While it does not have any direct correlation with scalp tenderness, it can make it sensitive to touch. As such, some medication may help alleviate pain; eventually, you will need to find ways to treat stress and anxiety for a permanent fix to your scalp pain.
What Worsens Sensitive Skin?
The urge to itch a sensitive or sore scalp is high, considering how the aforementioned scalp conditions can cause flakiness, dryness, and more. However, itching often leads to bigger problems, further resulting in stubborn sores, throbbing pain, and even bleeding.
While itching, you could unknowingly scratch a sensitive area and create an open wound. This can increase the risk of potential infection, and the condition may become contagious. You may even suffer from irritated or inflamed skin, making your scalp condition even worse.
How To Treat A Tender Scalp
Keeping your scalp protected and moisturized is key to curbing itchiness and soreness. You can switch to natural hair care products containing moisturizing agents.
We also recommend protecting your scalp from external irritants, like dust and pollution. Try covering your head with a scarf, cap, helmet, etc., or just carry an umbrella if you can. However, wearing a tight cap or hat for too long is also not recommended as it could lead to excessive sweating and irritation.
2. Use Specialized Hair Care Products
Using specialized products like an antibacterial cleanser, anti-dandruff shampoo, over-the-counter medication, etc., can help diminish some visible symptoms and provide relief from itchiness.
Less severe conditions can even be treated with homemade ointments, dressing materials, and more. However, if the discomfort persists, it is best to consult a medical professional.
3. Incorporate Essential Oils Into Your Hair Care Routine
Some essential oils could also come to your rescue for treating allergic reactions or other scalp conditions. For instance, lavender oil can help heal stubborn sores but make sure you dilute it first. Most of the time, undiluted essential oils can make your allergic reaction worse.
As such, it is best to dilute them with a carrier oil, like sweet almond oil, which is known to offer multiple hair care benefits. Simply add 4-6 drops of the preferred essential oil for every ounce of the carrier oil, and conduct a patch test first.
If you do not experience any discomfort, continue using the oil mixture on your scalp. Make sure you gently massage it onto your scalp and do not scratch any wounds or scales. Similarly, gently brushing is recommended, at least till the time your scalp condition improves.
Lastly, leave on the oil mixture for about 15-20 minutes and rinse off with a gentle shampoo. You may need to rewash 2-3 times to ensure none of the oil is left between your hair strands.
4. Gentle Washing, Brushing, And Massaging
As mentioned earlier – be gentle with your actions to avoid any discomfort. You could also try gentle head massages by moving your fingertips in slow, circular motions. For this process, you could use essential oils or any prescribed medication.
We also recommend applying ice to the affected area for 10-minute intervals. Doing so will not only provide instant relief from the constant itchiness but also treat wounds.
5. Seek Medical Treatment
Of course, if all else fails and your symptoms keep getting worse, seeking medical attention is your best bet. According to your condition, your doctor will be able to prescribe suitable medication and products. They could also refer you to a dermatologist for special treatment.
FAQs Regarding Scalp Tenderness
Are there any myths regarding scalp pain and tenderness?
Yes. Although we recommended homemade ointments for treating mild irritation, ingredients like vinegar, lemon, yogurt, etc., cannot cure scalp tenderness. Drinking eight glasses of water, too, is beneficial for your overall health but is not proven to improve your scalp health.
How do you prevent a sore scalp?
If you do not suffer from any of the aforementioned symptoms, you can take some preventative measures. Firstly, avoid using harsh products that may contain toxic substances. It is also recommended that you avoid spending too much time out in the sun, especially if your head is not covered.
Finally, try indulging in hobbies and surrounding yourself with genuine friends and relatives to manage your stress levels.
While some people may experience scalp soreness and hair loss due to genetics, an underlying medical condition could be the root cause for others.
So, if you want to maintain a healthy scalp, make sure you indulge in the practices mentioned above and seek medical attention as soon as the symptoms become severe. For starters, if you have begun experiencing pain or tenderness on the scalp, try waiting for a week at the most. If the discomfort persists, it’s high time for you to consult a doctor or a dermatologist.