Dealing with scalp tenderness 


Scalp tenderness is common and causes a great deal of pain and discomfort. Learn how to manage this condition with our experts’ tips and advice.


1. What is scalp tenderness?
2. What causes scalp tenderness?
3. Symptoms of scalp tenderness
4. How to treat scalp tenderness?

Do you know the secret behind lush, strong hair? A healthy, balanced scalp. Unless you nourish your scalp and shower it with some much-needed TLC, getting closer to your dream of sporting long, beautiful locks can get difficult. Sure, you can rely on serums that promise shiny hair or products that add volume to your tresses, but are these permanent? Unfortunately, no! These quick fixes may give you momentary respite but end up doing more harm than good. This becomes a major hair care issue if you experience scalp tenderness. 

Does your hair hurt when you comb or even move it? Does tying your hair into a ponytail or simply braiding it get agonising? If your answer to these questions is “yes”, you are dealing with scalp tenderness. However, this condition is common and treatable. We’ll tell you how, but first, let’s get acquainted with this condition. 

What is scalp tenderness?

Scalp tenderness is the tingling, painful, or burning sensation you experience, when you pull your hair back or move your hair. You might suspect that this pain is coming from your hair strands. However, the strands do not have nerve ends, so this uneasy pain stems from your scalp. People often describe scalp tenderness as the feeling you experience in the aftermath of combing or brushing your hair aggressively. It feels like something is pulling on your scalp. You may experience scalp pain in the form of-

  • Itching
  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Tingling 
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Skin flaking
  • Inflammation or swelling

You might experience either one of these sensations or a combination of these if you touch your hair or lightly stimulate the hair strands.

What causes scalp tenderness?

Understanding tender scalp causes can help you find the right treatment for this condition. Scalp tenderness is caused by:

  • Sunburn:

Since your unprotected scalp is skin, the sun affects it the same way it does the other parts of your body and can cause severe sunburns.

  • Pulling or tugging on hair:

High ponytails, braids, cornrows, all look amazing. However, these hairstyles pull tightly on your hair and can cause a great deal of strain on your scalp. 

  • Skin disorders:

Skin conditions like dermatitis can cause severe scalp pain. It causes inflammation of the skin, rashes and swollen skin. These symptoms are often triggered when the skin encounters common things like certain metals, laundry detergents, and hair products.

  • Using hot water on hair:

Hot water may soothe your skin after a long and tiring day, but it is your ticket to scalp pain. When you wash your hair with hot water, it can cause thermal burns on your scalp, leading to scalp pain, and turning those burns into sores.

  • Infections:

Folliculitis, furunculosis, and carbunculosis are the infections of the hair follicles that are known to cause scalp tenderness. These infections are painful, can cause sores and are sometimes warm to touch. 

  • Infestations: 

Lice infestations can wreak havoc on your scalp. They can cause red bumps on your scalp that can crust or ooze. You’ll need immediate medical attention since lice are highly contagious. 

  • Headaches: 

Tension headaches can cause scalp pain. And anxiety, stress, depression can worsen your symptoms. 

  • Sensitive scalp:

If you have sensitive skin, it extends to your scalp as well. With a sensitive scalp, anything mild can trigger a severe reaction.

  • Underlying scalp condition:

Scalp tenderness can occur due to some underlying issue that weakens the skin. And a weakened scalp barrier becomes less effective at protecting the good stuff like moisture and keeping out the bad stuff like irritants.

Symptoms of scalp tenderness

Recognising the symptoms can give you the opportunity of finding the problem and seeking prompt treatment. The symptoms of scalp tenderness are:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Numbness
  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Throbbing
  • Sensitivity

Sometimes, there are no visible symptoms that show scalp tenderness, while there are other instances where the condition becomes painfully obvious. This usually involves flaking, peeling, and scaling of the skin. Scalp tenderness is also a common symptom in conditions like psoriasis, *hair loss, and eczema.

How to treat scalp tenderness?

Tender scalp treatment largely depends on what causes it. And now that you know the causes, let’s look at some practical treatment options:

  • Take a break from hair washing:

If you are experiencing scalp pain after switching to a new hair product, it indicates an allergic reaction. Your scalp might be reacting to the ingredients used in the new hair product. So, rinse your hair with cold water instead of washing it with a shampoo. Let your scalp breathe for a few days.

  • Get the skin condition treated: 

If your scalp is flaking or peeling, run a soft hairbrush through your scalp when it is dry. If scales or dandruff are visible on the hairbrush, this indicates that you might be dealing with psoriasis, eczema, or seborrhoeic dermatitis on your scalp. You will have to consult a dermatologist to treat these conditions, and only then will your scalp tenderness subside. 

  • OTC for headache-induced scalp pain:

If your scalp pain stems from a headache, over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help ease the headache and subsequently get rid of the scalp pain. 

  • Use the right shampoo:

Scalp tenderness can occur due to scalp sensitivity or dandruff, which is why you need the right shampoo and conditioner to deal with the hair care issues at hand. You can try Head & Shoulders Apple Fresh Shampoo for flake-free hair. This shampoo is ideal for sensitive scalp and cleans it to remove the early signs of dandruff. Moreover, it even helps you fight itching, irritation, and oiliness that often results in scalp tenderness. Also, the gentle, pH-balanced formula protects your scalp and is gentle for daily use. Use  Head & Shoulders Apple Fresh Conditioner after shampooing to moisturize your hair and keep it fresh and clean.

Scalp tenderness can escalate into serious hair care problems if you don’t address it immediately. Your hair and scalp are delicate, and you need to be gentle with them. Create a mindful hair routine and consult a doctor if you get no respite from the pain in your scalp.

*All references on this page refers to hair fall or hair loss due to breakage.