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Why is My Scalp Sore to the Touch? Sensitive Scalp: Causes and Remedies

3 mins

Andela Patrnogic

Wondering “why is my scalp sore to the touch?” See how to get quick relief and heal your sore scalp through these simple home remedies!

A scalp that is tender to the touch needs proper care and gentle handling. In most cases, topical treatments can alleviate symptoms and heal your scalp. What exactly does your sore scalp need and what can make it feel worse? Get all the details here. 

Table of Contents

  • Symptoms of a sore scalp
  • What can a sore scalp mean?
  • Seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff
  • Lice infestation
  • Sunburn
  • Dry scalp
  • What are the best oils and shampoos for a sore scalp?

Symptoms of a sore scalp

A tender, irritated or itchy scalp is a hassle. Combing your hair can be a painful affair. It can be embarrassing to scratch your scalp in a social situation. And if the pain is pretty severe, you may Google how to reduce or eliminate it overnight. The answer to the question 'why is my scalp sore?' depends on the cause of the problem in the first place. A number of things can make your scalp feel unusual in different ways. Have a look at the common reasons and ways to resolve a sore scalp. 

sore scalp, how to treat sore scalp

What can a sore scalp mean?

Scalp sensitivity is usually caused by external factors but health issues may also play a role. Home remedies and alternative medicines can relieve symptoms. If the scalp pain is due to an immune system disturbance, your doctor may prescribe medications in pill form.

Seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff

When you have dandruff, you don't just deal with white skin flakes on your scalp and hair. You also experience itching and red skin. The symptoms tend to flare up when you're stressed or during cold, dry weather.

Dandruff can go away on its own without treatment. But treating it at the earliest can spare you the itching and pain. 

To get rid of the dead skin build-up, cleanse your scalp and hair gently every day with a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates can strip away too much moisture, making your scalp dry and more prone to irritation. 

Lice infestation

Head lice are common especially among kids, but adults aren't immune! While the lice don't hurt your scalp, they can cause intense itching. Constant scratching can, in rare cases, lead to infection. 

sensitive scalp, scalp issues

Doctors recommend wet combing to remove lice from hair. In this method, you spray a conditioner on wet strands of hair and use a fine-toothed comb to comb your hair from the root to the end. Lice are visible to the naked eye: you’ll see the small brown insects moving around on your scalp or nits that attach to the hair shaft. 

Another effective lice removal method, which you can use in conjunction with wet-combing, is treating your hair and scalp with essential oils. While essential oils don't kill lice, they suffocate them and make them easier to catch and eliminate when you comb your hair. 

The best oils in this regard are tea tree oil, lavender oil, peppermint oil, neem oil and clove oil. As you may already know, essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin. A carrier oil needs to be used to dilute the essential oil. Also, do skin patch testing to determine whether the oil suits you (or your child) fine or triggers an allergic reaction. 

Add the mixture of essential oil and carrier oil to a spray bottle and saturate your hair with it. Leave it on for at least 12 hours. Again, essential oils won't kill lice so you will have to wet comb your hair to remove the adult lice and their eggs. 


Another possible answer to 'why is my scalp sore' is that you're suffering the after-effect of sunburn. Prolonged exposure to the sun can make your scalp and other exposed areas of your body red, tender and warm to the touch.

Thankfully, home remedies can make scalp pain from sunburn subside quickly and heal it within a week or so. 

  • Shower in cool water to soothe your scalp and relieve discomfort;
  • Moisturize your hair with coconut or aloe vera hair oil to soothe your scalp; 
    coconut oil
  • Use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo to cleanse your scalp;
  • Essential oils are cooling agents and provide temporary relief to a sunburned scalp. Dilute with a carrier oil and rub gently into your scalp; 
  • Avoid hair products, blow-drying, flat ironing and other heat treatments until your scalp has healed;
  • Wear a hat or other accessories to protect your scalp when it's healing;
  • Stay hydrated to moisturize your skin. 

If the pain is distracting and interferes with daily activities, taking medicine internally can help. An OTC like aspirin or ibuprofen will offer quick relief. 

Dry scalp

itchy scalp, scalp issues

A dry scalp can result from nutritional deficiencies. What deficiencies cause scalp pain? Vitamins B12, B6, and B3 can manifest as flaky rashes on the scalp, face, neck, and chest. Increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, or using appropriate supplements, can address the deficiency. 

Even as you enhance your diet, you can reduce scalp dryness and pain through hair oils that have anti-inflammatory properties and help skin irritations on the scalp. Coconut oil jojoba oil and Bhringraj oil (Eclipta prostrata/false daisy) are recommended for scalp dryness, burn, and redness. 

What are the best oils and shampoos for a sore scalp?

When treating a sore scalp from sunburn, itchy scalp from lice, or red and greasy patches from dermatitis, your choice of hair products matters a great deal. You want to use oils, shampoos, and essential oils that are gentle on your scalp, alleviate symptoms and support healing. That means no harsh parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, or silicones. Here are some products you want to check out:

10-in-1 Hair Oil

best hair oil, wow hair oil

As its name implies, this oil is a powerful concoction of moisturizing oils, cooling essential oils, and anti-inflammatory plant extracts. It also contains essential vitamins that reduce scalp dryness and nourish your hair minus the greasy look. 

Have a look at our complete collection of hair oils here

Coconut Milk Shampoo

coconut milk shampoo

Coconut milk extract does wonders for a sunburned scalp while also hydrating and promoting blood circulation. This shampoo also has argan oil, an inflammatory that helps your scalp heal after prolonged sun exposure. Check out our full collection of shampoos here

Lavender Essential Oil

lavender essential oil

Lavender essential oil soothes an itchy scalp and fights dandruff. It is best diluted with jojoba or coconut oil. You'll be amazed at the many beneficial properties of our therapeutic-grade single oils and blends

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Author: Andela Patrnogic

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