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Why does my hair hurt?

Why does my scalp hurt when I move my hair?

Why does my hair hurt when I … Here you can insert your specific occasion, but the heart of the problem will not change much – your hair cannot feel sore. It SEEMS like your hair hurts, though there are no nerve endings in your strands to make them ache. Nerves are hidden in your scalp, so it’s more accurate to say that your hair follicles hurt or you have a sensitive scalp, which can be tied to a number of reasons.

Problem – Tight Hairstyles and Updos

When wearing tight ponytails or braids, you put a lot of pressure on the follicles, as if you were trying to literally pull those poor strands out. It’s no wonder that the nerve endings attached to the follicles are excited and strike back, making you feel pain. One can even develop a ponytail headache when affecting multiple scalp nerves at a time. What is more, too tight hairstyles can damage the follicles, leading to traction alopecia.

In fact, you can suffer from hair pain when pulling your locks back and wearing stiff updos. If your hair hurts after having it up, this can be associated with nerve stimulation caused by changing hair direction. The hair roots kind of get used to this upside-down position and the nerves react when you let your tresses down.


If you believe that your scalp tenderness is related to hairstyles you wear, it’s time to rethink them. Sure, you can keep rocking top knots and protect your natural hair with cornrows, but opt for looser styling to prevent both scalp pain and hair loss. Plus, alternate updos and loose hairstyles to avoid daily traction and make sure to unfasten your locks for the night.

Problem – Compression

Some women complain that their scalps feel sore after wearing a hat or other headwear. You are more likely to face this problem if you wear a tight hat for a long time. The reason behind the issue is quite similar to the previous point – this creates pressure on the hair roots, the scalp, and everything beneath them. The latter includes pain receptors linked to major nerves in the back of the head and the temples, so hair pain can easily turn into a nice headache. Besides, compression prevents proper microcirculation in your scalp, so you can feel tingling upon taking your headwear off as the blood is rushing back.


Removing the cause of tension is the best you can do for soothing scalp pain associated with compression. Put off your headwear as often as possible and rearrange your locks to allow them some movement in different directions.

Problem – Hair Condition

On the one hand, the scalp hurts when hair is dirty since a mix of sebum, sweat, and buildup from styling products is a wonderful breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Their thriving results in inflammatory conditions and itching. But on the other hand, the scalp hurts when you go overboard with cleansing as well. By washing your locks daily and using harsh shampoos, you deprive your scalp of sebum and ruin its healthy pH. And dry skin is a straight road to flaking and itching, of course.


Don’t replace good hair washing with dry shampoo too often. Proper scalp cleaning with a purifying shampoo or a scalp scrub should be your weekly routine, but you have to customize the schedule based on your hair type. If you need to wash your tresses really frequently, choose milder products like baby shampoos or sulfate-free options to avoid a tight scalp.

Problem – Chemicals

Allergic reactions to some ingredients in hair products are also among sore scalp causes. Even natural formulas can trigger an allergic response, not to mention aggressive chemicals contained, for example, in bleaches. You can get painful sores on the scalp immediately after applying a product even if you have intolerance to one ingredient only. But it is also possible that you will notice your scalp burning or itching after a little while. Skin redness often accompanies allergic reactions, so check this sign to confirm the possible cause.


A patch test is what we all are supposed to do before applying potentially allergenic products to our skin. However, who would really stick to this rule with shampoos and hair masks? The least you can do is keeping your eyes peeled for new products on your bath shelf. If after using them it seems that the roots of your hair hurt, itch, or burn, put them aside for a couple of days or forever – depending on whether the suspected allergic reaction is confirmed or not.

Problem – Allodynia

If it hurts to brush hair, or you feel pain on the top of the head when wearing a hat, or your scalp is sensitive to hot or cold water when you are taking a shower, you may actually suffer from allodynia. This type of pain is induced by quite ordinary actions, which normally don’t cause any soreness. Allodynia is closely associated with migraines and diseases like fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, and postherpetic neuralgia. So, if you have some symptoms of the above conditions coupled with the painful scalp when the hair moves, it can result from serious underlying deceases.


If a tender scalp goes hand in hand with migraines, you need to avoid everything that triggers this headache in the first place. Having a pain reliever at hand and taking it at the first signs of a migraine attack are also the right things to do. However, you need to consult a doctor to locate the real problem behind a tender spot on the head.

Sure, there can be other answers to the “Why does my hair hurt?’ question, including sore spots of eczema or blood vessel inflammation. So, if you are dead sure the quality of your hair care products is high and the back of your head hurts even after you get a bun unfastened, you’d better schedule a visit to a trichologist and get to the bottom of your scalp tenderness.

Featured Image: drobotdean –

by Donna Sullivan
Donna is a hairstylist with 8 years of experience. Ask her about any hair-related problem (haircuts, hairstyles, colorings, hair care) and get a pro advice!