Why Does Your Hair Hurt?

Hair pain may not be the most common topic of conversation when you're catching up with friends, but it is definitely a very real condition. Scalp tenderness can get pretty uncomfortable, and it can arise for a whole bunch of reasons, from simple things like oil buildup that occur if you're not washing your hair frequently enough, to more complex medical conditions like shingles.

To get a better understanding of hair pain, we spoke to dermatologists Morgana Colombo, MD  who filled us in on the most common causes of hair and scalp pain, the best ways to treat hair pain, and even how to prevent it.

What Can Cause Hair to Hurt?

Not Washing Your Hair Enough

If you don't wash your hair frequently enough (the specific recommendation ranges depending on your hair type), oils may accumulate and build up on your scalp, contributing to hair pain

Wearing Your Hair Too Tight

Tying back your hair too tightly is not the greatest idea. "Tension or heavy weight on hairs can produce inflammation and pain," Colombo tells us. Unfortunately, hair pain isn't the only potential problem here: If you wear your hair pulled back too tightly for a prolonged period of time, this can also lead to hair loss, she says.


It only takes one migraine to know that they're absolutely no fun to endure. Migraines cause many different types of pain, including dull or sharp pain throughout your scalp or even just in one area. "Patients with migraines may also have allodynia, where nerves on the scalp become hypersensitive to pain and minimal touch or pressure on the scalp will trigger significant scalp or hair pain," Colombo says. 

Hair Loss

If you're shedding a lot of hair, you might experience scalp or hair pain, especially at the crown of your head. This pain may also occur before the shedding begins, the dermatologists say.

Nerve Pain

Your scalp or hair may hurt if you have shingles or another condition that's causing nerve pain. "Patients will present with pain on the scalp in a localized area," Colombo says.


Dandruff and psoriasis are two inflammatory scalp conditions that can cause scalp pain, itchiness, and redness, Colombo says.


Deep folliculitis is a skin condition, often caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, where hair follicles become inflamed and painful. Folliculitis might appear like a pink or red bump or pimple on the scalp.

Bacterial and fungal infections on the scalp are rare, but they can present as inflamed plaques that are pink, scaly, painful, or itchy, and may be draining pus, Colombo says.


Dermatitis is a broad term used to describe skin rashes and irritation. Various forms of dermatitis can cause hair pain, including allergic dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Dermatitis can arise as a reaction to hair dye or other hair products and can lead to inflammation, itching, and pain.