A sensitive scalp could make your head hurt—the experts explain why

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Here’s all you need to know

For people with short hair, the conundrum of locks that cause pain is unfathomable. “How is that possible,” is the most common response. Understandably so, because at the end of the day, hair is just dead tissue. How can it cause pain? The truth is, it’s a sensitive scalp that’s causing you grief, and sometimes, it can be challenging to navigate. “The scalp is rich in nerve endings, and when these nerves become irritated or inflamed, it can lead to pain or discomfort in the hair follicles,” says Dr Kashish Kalra, hair transplant surgeon & founder of Dr Kalra Skin Clinic. Inflammation, infections, or tension in the scalp muscles can increase the sensitivity of the nerve endings, making things like styling or even running your hands through your hair quite painful.

Do you need to worry about scalp pain?

Hair/scalp pain is usually not a cause for concern but if it hurts often or for extended periods, it could indicate certain scalp disorders. “Dermatological conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema are common diseases that cause scalp discomfort,” reveals Dr Ipshita Johri, founder of Skinfinity Derma. She recommends consulting a dermatologist to check for any underlying issues. But generally, it’s factors like harsh hair care products, washing too often with hard water, extreme weather conditions, sun exposure, and hairstyles that put too much tension on the scalp–it’s probably what makes your ponytail hurt too.

The experts also point out that stress affects the scalp a lot. Because when you’re stressed, the body releases cortisol, which increases inflammation throughout the body, including the scalp. And if a stressful day leads to muscle tension in the scalp and neck, your hair might feel all of it too.

Could your lifestyle and hair care routine be to blame?

Your scalp can be quite moody and something as trivial as going days without washing or using too many products at once, can set it off. “Certain hair care practices like vigorous brushing can also cause a sensitive scalp and exacerbate sensitivity,” enlightens Dr Kashish. So if you’ve been neglecting hair hygiene and letting the buildup of oil, dust, and grime set up shop on your scalp, the hair pain is on you. What’s not on you are changes in blood flow, headaches or migraines that can also cause pain in the scalp.

How to get rid of hair pain

“When it comes to scalp health and maintaining your hair, gentle hair care is the key. Also, incorporating a scalp scrubber to get rid of regular build-up keeps it free from product build up and bacterial growth and can reduce discomfort,” recommends Dr Ipshita. It’s a good idea to massage your scalp to get the blood flowing and use lukewarm water to avoid irritation when you wash your hair. Simple solutions, like wearing a hat or a woollen cap, can help maintain your scalp flora if you go out in hot or cold weather. If it feels extra itchy or sore, calming and soothing ingredients like tea tree oil, coconut oil, or chamomile water can be handy as leave-in treatments. Harsh chemicals like sulphates, alcohol, or artificial fragrances can worsen by stripping your hair of natural oils, and your routine is better off without them. And even though the 2000s fashion is making a comeback with tight baby braids and zig-zag buns, try not to overdo them to keep your scalp tension-free.

This article was originally published on Vogue India.

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