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Why Does My Hair Hurt and How Can I Stop It?

BY Jana Russick

Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended as medical advice. For any medical concerns, always contact your doctor.

Do you often find yourself wondering, “Why does my hair hurt so much?” Do you feel scalp pain not only when you tug on your hair but also when you do simple things like brush it? Is your scalp sensitivity such a problem that you can’t even run your fingers through your hair without feeling a sharp pain, itch, or burning sensation?

For those dealing with scalp pain and sensitivity, simply styling your hair can be a burden. Whether you struggle with scalp tenderness, inflammation, flakiness, or general soreness of the scalp, these discomforts can take away all the fun of hair care and can even make you want to shave your head altogether!

But before taking out the clippers and doing away with your tender tresses, let’s get to the root of the problem. Sensitive scalps can be linked to a number of issues, such as medical conditions, allergies, scalp dryness or oiliness, or the overall treatment of your hair. Once you discover the reason behind your hair pain, you can find the right products and treatments for alleviating these aches. Let’s get into the multiple causes of scalp pain and what you can do to counteract them.

Why Does My Hair Hurt? Origins of Scalp Pain

why does my hair hurt

Scalp sensitivity and soreness is characterized by tingling, burning, aching, stinging, dryness, or general discomfort of the scalp. Basically, if your scalp hurts every time you brush or comb your hair, you have scalp sensitivity that should be checked by a medical professional. 

As you may have guessed, there are lots of reasons why this sensitivity could be occurring. Sometimes it can be attributed to your general hair grooming habits, other times it’s linked to a medical condition or allergies. Here are some of the common reasons why you may be experiencing hair pain and what you can do to address the situation.

Sensitive Skin

Having a sensitive scalp can be linked to health issues found on other parts of your body, in particular your face and skin. If you’re prone to rashes, redness, flakiness, or other types of skin outbreaks, these symptoms may be popping up on your scalp as well and causing your hair to hurt. 

These symptoms can be caused by allergic reactions or even dermatitis, which is a condition that causes itchiness, dryness, rashes, swelling, and redness. If you’re experiencing dandruff, otherwise known as seborrheic dermatitis, or eczema on your scalp, this is an indication that you have sensitive skin in general. 

If you think your scalp soreness is a result of allergies, be sure to discuss it with your dermatologist or regular physician. You may want to closely examine the ingredients in your shampoos and conditioners. Those with allergies or sensitivities towards certain ingredients should be aware of all the ingredients listed in their hair washing products. For instance, many haircare products contain questionable ingredients, including sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and even formaldehyde. (Yes, as in the stuff that’s used in embalming fluid!)

On the other hand, Function of Beauty products are formulated without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, or gluten, and are always certified vegan and cruelty-free. For your custom shampoo and conditioner, you can also choose to have silicone-free, dye-free, and fragrance-free formulas — all great options for those who want to minimize the risk of potential allergic reactions.

If your scalp soreness is linked to overall skin sensitivity, overusing oils may be causing the skin on your scalp and skin to break out. While you may think adding oil to your scalp can soothe irritations, it could actually be making it worse. 

Instead of using oily products, opt for ingredients like aloe extract and salicylic acid. These ingredients can help soothe, hydrate, and protect hair from damage and soreness. However, if you notice that your skin sensitivity is causing significant pain or severe rashes and irritation, seek the help of a dermatologist right away.

Hairstyling Habits 

If you find yourself asking, “Why does my hair hurt?” it could just be that your head is actually hurting. General scalp discomfort can sometimes be linked to your hairstyling habits.

For example, wearing your hair in high ponytails or using hairstyles that require tight hair ties may be causing your scalp to hurt because it puts pressure on the nerve endings at the root of your hair follicles. Likewise, hairstyles like cornrows or tight ponytails and up-dos can create tension, causing headaches and hair pain

If this is the case for you, a simple solution for preventing hair follicle pain is wearing your hair down more often or styling it in less rigid hairstyles. For example, using scarves, ribbons, or loosely applied bobby pins can put less stress on your individual hair shafts, which is the unseen part of the hair cuticle that gets pulled when you brush or style your hair too aggressively. 

Follicle pain can also be caused by a larger neurological issue. If you often experience a shooting, zapping, or tingling pain on your scalp, it may be due to the pinching and irritation of the inner nerve endings. This nerve irritation can make washing or touching your hair extremely painful.

If you are experiencing extreme migraines and scalp discomfort, wearing looser hairstyles and avoiding aggressive pulling of hair strands can only do so much in preventing the scalp irritation you are experiencing. Seek the help of a medical professional. 

Greasy or Dry Scalp

Irritation tends to be more common among those with greasy or dry scalps. People who shower frequently are also predisposed to scalp sensitivity. Since these are things you are more or less able to control, it’s best to seek out hair products that aim to balance your hair oils, protect against damage, and promote overall hair wellness.

If you have a dry scalp, use a hydrating and deep conditioning treatment like Function of Beauty’s hair mask. This customizable formula can help replenish damaged-looking, nutrient-depleted strands and protect your hair from environmental stressors 

Additionally, washing your hair less frequently can also prevent hair dryness and reduce your chances of scalp sensitivity. If you are prone to oily scalp, use a leave-in conditioner that contains naturally-derived ingredients like rosemary leaf extract to curb excess oil production and vitamin E to promote a healthy scalp

Combating Hair and Scalp Pain

There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing hair pain. It could be linked to skin sensitivities, follicle pain caused by restraining hairstyles or pre-existing medical conditions, or the general condition of your scalp.

While you can’t always get rid of hair and scalp pain altogether, you can try to figure out what is causing it. Once you know the source of your scalp sensitivity, you can change up your hair routine with products aimed at soothing your scalp.

If your scalp pain isn’t linked to a skin or medical condition, there are certain changes you can make that may help alleviate soreness. Try styling your hair in more relaxed hairstyles and using hair products that promote oil control and prevent damage.

To figure out which products can help address your specific needs as well as encourage your personal hair goals, like growth, shine, and volume, be sure to take our hair quiz.