7 Reasons Why the Scalp Hurts When Pressed or Combed

Linda White

Some people have more sensitive skin than others. However, it’s never normal for you to feel pain when you touch your skin. If your scalp hurts when touched, pressed, or combed, there is likely to be an underlying issue that needed to be remedied.

Tenderness of the scalp is a common issue because there are so many possible conditions linked to it. Whether you have a painful scalp when your hair moves, or when you’re touching it, you need to find the cause before you can get relief.

Some of these scalp conditions deal with your skin and hair follicles and can be treated with topical solutions. Other causes may be more internal. Sometimes, you may be able to identify the problem on your own by recognizing symptoms. Other times, it may take a doctor to find out the scalp condition that’s affecting you.

Usually, following regular scalp care routines can help to prevent or weaken any external conditions that may be causing so much pain and tenderness. This includes things like avoiding certain products, lowering your stress levels, and staying out of the sun. However, these precautions are only useful if you know what is causing the tenderness.

Why Is My Scalp Too Sensitive to Touch?

This guide will cover several different conditions that may cause your scalp to feel pain when touched, combed, or pressed. Aside from this obvious discomfort, there are additional symptoms to consider if you have a sensitive scalp.

Some of the most common include:

  • Inflammation
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Itching

Sometimes, however, there are no visible symptoms, only the tenderness when touched. Scalp tenderness can be caused by one condition or several problems that affect the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues that surround it.

This article will list some of the most common causes associated with scalp sensitivity without injury. If you’re experiencing discomfort when your scalp is pressed on, consider these conditions as a possible cause. The sooner you can identify what might be causing the pain, the easier it will be to start treating the problem.

  1. Contact Dermatitis

Scalp tenderness is often caused by the skin’s reaction to certain things. This is known as dermatitis. You may have an allergy to certain products, or your skin may be sensitive. Dermatitis can cause inflammation. In some cases, it can even cause rashes, itching, and peeling. Some of the most commonly linked causes of contact dermatitis are:

  • Cosmetic hair products
  • Laundry detergents
  • Water
  • Pollution
  • A variety of metals

Once you’ve pinpointed what products or factors cause problems for your scalp, the easiest thing to do is eliminate them from your life as much as possible. Switching to natural hair care products is a great place to start.

Many people have negative reactions to some of the harsh chemicals found in traditional shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. Natural products will not only help to soothe your scalp, but they can even give you healthier hair. Many times, scalp tenderness will go away on its own once the culprit is taken away.

  1. Infections

Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles. It can cause pain whenever your hair is touched or moved in any way. While it most commonly occurs near the back of the scalp or the neck, it can appear anywhere on the head. Additionally, hair follicles can become clogged and cause irritation. If they do, you even run the risk of your hair thinning, or balding.

There are also fungal infections to consider, such as tinea capitis, or ringworm of the scalp. Ringworm creates small scaly patches on the scalp that can be very itchy and uncomfortable. It is also a highly contagious fungus that can be spread through things like towels, combs, or even skin to skin contact. Treating ringworm often requires an antifungal medication, such as a medicated shampoo along with an oral tablet prescribed by your doctor.

  1. Head Lice

No one likes to think about an infestation of any kind attacking their scalp. And, we often associate head lice with children, but adults are not immune to it. Lice are highly contagious. They can live for nearly a month on your scalp, and lay eggs in the process, creating a never-ending cycle. The symptoms of lice include flakes, itching, and bumps on the scalp. These bumps may feel crusty.

While medicated shampoos can help with lice, removing nits over the course of several days with a fine comb is the best way to get rid of them completely. If you do have lice, be sure to make sure the people you come in contact with the most are well-protected, and avoid sharing things until the lice are completely gone.

  1. Hair Styling

Sometimes, the choices we make with our hair can cause scalp tenderness. If hair follicles are pulled too tightly too often, it can create extra sensitivity. In some cases, excessive pulling on the hair could even cause hair loss.

Be aware of the way you treat and style your hair. Tight hairstyles like high ponytails can often cause sensitivity. So can accessories like tight headbands, or even bicycle helmets. If you have to style your hair a certain way each day, try not to pull it too much.

  1. Weather

Everything from the sun’s powerful UV rays, to the bitter winds of cold weather, can affect your hair and scalp, and cause irritation. Sunburn is often a culprit behind a tender scalp when it’s touched. It can create peeling and itching as well that may appear to be dandruff.

Cold weather conditions can create a dry scalp, which can lead to itching, flaking, and tenderness when touched. Using products that can rehydrate the hair and scalp can be helpful in reintroducing the moisture needed to alleviate pain.

Everything from therapeutic shampoos to natural solutions such as tea tree oil can help to lock in moisture and protect your scalp from further damage. As a preventative measure, keep your head covered as much as possible during harsh weather conditions.

My scalp hurts when I touch it

  1. Stress or Anxiety

One of the most common causes of scalp pain comes from within – headaches or tension headaches. Frequent headaches are often caused by stress, and though it may not seem like they would directly affect the scalp, they can make it feel tender to the touch. Taking certain medications to alleviate headache pain is a quick solution. But, to help stop the pain on a more permanent basis, look for ways to lower your stress levels.

  1. Skin Disorders

The scalp can face many irritating conditions that require extensive treatment. Two of the most common skin disorders that affect the scalp are seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. Seborrheic dermatitis causes inflammation across the scalp and may result in greasy, itchy red patches of skin that cause sensitivity.

It is often treated through the use of antifungal or anti-inflammatory shampoos or creams. In some cases, prescription antifungal medication may be needed to get rid of the problem fully.

It is estimated that about 50% of people who already deal with psoriasis will get it on their scalp, as well. Scalp psoriasis also can create itchy red patches, especially along the hairline. These patches can be tender in nature and can lead to excessive itching, which tends to create even more irritation.

Psoriasis is, unfortunately, an incurable disorder. However, it is treatable through the use of things like specialized shampoos, hair products, and simple lifestyle changes to reduce flare-ups and intensity.

What Makes a Sensitive Scalp Worse?

Of all these conditions and circumstances, most can be completely treated. No one wants to live with a scalp that is constantly painful to the touch. However, many of these circumstances also come with side effects that may make the scalp feel even worse.

With many skin disorders, allergic reactions, or even infestations of any kind, one of the biggest problems people face when dealing with a scalp problem is the urge to scratch. An itchy scalp is irritating and uncomfortable. But, it can also lead to bigger problems when it comes to overall scalp pain.

Why is there pain when I touch my scalp?

No matter what may be causing scalp tenderness, to begin with, excessive itching can cause your scalp to bleed, or become ‘cut’ open. This can put you at risk for potential infection. It may also cause your scalp to burn and become even more inflamed and irritated.

How to Treat a Tender Scalp

If you’re asking yourself why the top of your scalp is so sensitive, consider the possible circumstances in this list. Obviously, each instance requires a specific treatment. However, there are general things you can do to help protect your scalp, and prevent it from regular discomfort.

Keeping your scalp moisturized is important. Using natural cosmetic products will also help with a variety of different issues. Protect your scalp as much as possible from what’s harming it, and you’re less likely to feel the tenderness whenever it gets touched.

If the treatment options suggested in this article don’t alleviate your symptoms, you may want to seek out medical care for more advanced solutions. An irritated scalp should never lead to things like blurry vision, eye pain, or frequent fevers. If the tenderness does start to influence other health factors, seek out additional treatment.

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