Causes of a Sensitive and Painful Scalp

Sensitive and painful scalp can be caused by a number of factors, ranging from easy-to-treat dandruff to infection or infestation. Keep reading to read more about the potential causes and what you can do to treat them.

Understanding Sensitive and Painful Scalp

Many individuals relate scalp tenderness with an enhanced level of sensitivity to head pain, however this isn’t always the case. Scalp tenderness can show itself in various forms. Although prickling, burning, or tingling sensations on any part of the scalp prevail symptoms, inflammation also covers symptoms such as flaky, itchy skin.

What Causes Sensitive and Painful Scalp?

The causes of skin sensitivity can vary.

Common Skin Disorders

Dermatitis prevails and includes general inflammation of the skin. The symptoms can include an itchy rash and swollen or reddened skin with blisters, crusts, or flakes. The symptoms can be caused by contact with numerous typical things, such as:

  • certain metals
  • particular soaps
  • poison ivy
  • specific cosmetics
  • contamination
  • water
  • specific laundry detergents
  • certain hair products


Folliculitis, furunculosis, and carbunculosis are all infections of the hair follicles that can cause scalp sensitivity. These infections can be painful, sore, or warm to the touch. They often impact the back of the neck, back of the scalp, or under the armpit. Often, pus can be squeezed out from these skin lesions. They’re often treated with warm compresses and oral antibiotics.

Fungal infections of the scalp, such as tinea capitis, are most common in children and can cause loss of hair. Treatment for this type of infection is typically topical. Tinea versicolor, a yeast infection of the skin, may be treated with a special shampoo that’s applied to influenced areas for a few days initially and after that regular monthly.


What might appear like flakes of dandruff might be lice. If you’re experiencing any itching or have red bumps that might crust or slime, you should look for instant medical attention. Lice is highly contagious and can measure up to 1 Month on your scalp or body. Lice eggs can live even longer. Creams and shampoos prevail choices for treatment.


A tension headache can likewise cause a delicate scalp, but it’s not a common cause of it. Stress, depression, or anxiety can cause or get worse the symptoms, making muscles tense. Rubbing the scalp may help alleviate some of the symptoms. Non-prescription (OTC) medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin might likewise supply relief.

sensitive scalp pain headache

Sensitive scalp pain with headache

Temporal Arteritis

Temporal arteritis is condition where the temporal artery, a blood vessel that works on the side of your head in front of your ear, ends up being inflamed and extremely tender to touch. The symptoms related to this condition include jaw pain, headaches, and visual disturbances. Temporal arteritis most often impacts the senior. This is specifically true of those with a condition called polymyalgia rheumatica. Temporal arteritis is typically treated with corticosteroids. If temporal arteritis is left neglected, it may lead to loss of sight.

Other Possibilities

Skin sensitivity can be caused by:

  • ultraviolet radiation
  • heat
  • cold
  • wind

Scalp inflammation can likewise be aggravated or set off by loss of hair. For women, hormones can likewise play a part depending on the menstruation.

Risk Factors to Consider

Those with naturally oily or dry scalp are more susceptible to scalp sensitivity and may even experience sensitive skin in other areas. Those who are stressed out, anxious, or depressed might likewise be most likely to experience symptoms. This is also true for those residing in areas with varying environments or cold temperature levels. Individuals with allergies or asthma might also be more likely to experience dermatitis.

How Is Sensitive and Painful Scalp Treated?

Depending upon the cause or symptom, treatments may vary. Special hair shampoos like Selsun Blue, which includes selenium sulfide, or Head & Shoulders, which consists of zinc pyrithione, can help ease irritation or dry, flaky scalp. Ibuprofen or comparable OTC medication might help alleviate inflammation or headaches that cause sensitivity.

Oil for sensitive pain on scalp

Oil for sensitive pain on scalp treament

Particular necessary oils like lavender or rosemary can help heal sores that may be causing scalp pain. Be careful though. Applying too much oil to your scalp may make your symptoms even worse. To apply oil, take a glass of warm water and add a 1/2 teaspoon of the oil you want to try. Mix it well and carefully massage the mixture into your hair and scalp. Leave it in for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it out.

Depending upon your symptoms, you may have to seek medical attention. If first-line treatments aren’t relieving your irritation, they might recommend stronger medication or special hair shampoo. If unique care is required, you doctor may refer you to a dermatologist.

The Takeaway

Although some individuals naturally have a tender scalp, an underlying medical condition might also be causing your symptoms. If symptoms are severe and continue to continue, you should arrange an appointment with your doctor. Whether this can clear up in a few days or a few weeks depends upon your symptoms.

Last modified: August 17, 2016


The Author

Reyus Mammadli

As a healthy lifestyle advisor I try to guide individuals in becoming more aware of living well and healthy through a series of proactive and preventive measures, disease prevention steps, recovery after illness or medical procedures.

Education: Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.

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