If your child has a tender head, you’ll know about it. It can be a daily struggle to brush or comb their hair, or you might have already given up daily brushing! The hard pins of an inferior brush or teeth of a comb can scratch the delicate skin on their scalp. As the brush finds even the slightest tangle, it can pull at the hair roots causing your child pain. The morning hairbrush routine can become a torturous experience for you and your child. But there is a way to reduce the sensitivity.
What Causes Sensitive Scalps
Children have a more sensitive scalp than adults. Babies' scalps are extremely sensitive but as children grow, their scalp sensitivity lessens a little each year. In some children the sensitivity doesn’t reduce due to a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). They find it difficult to process sensory information such as sound, movement and touch causing them heightened reactivity. The painful touch of the brush on their head is too much to bear. For other children (and some adults), it’s a case of a sensitive scalp that you can work on desensitising.
How to Desensitise the Scalp
Past experiences of having their hair brushed leaves some children traumatised. They fear that every stroke of a brush or comb will cause them pain. If you follow a plan, it’s possible to turn around their fears so much that they even enjoy the experience and start brushing on their own!
Before you start, invest in a quality natural bristle brush that won’t pull or tug your child’s hair. Ugly Swan Scream-Free™ brushes have a mix of natural boar bristles and soft hand-dipped nylon pins for gentle detangling. Many parents find their child’s sensitivity disappears from the moment they start using a natural boar bristle brush and they don’t need to follow these steps. But if you have a child who has been traumatised by previous hair brushing experiences, take it slow with these simple Scream-Free steps.
Tell your child you’re only going to brush their hair five times. While you count to five, make five strokes and tell your child they did a great job. Continue with the five strokes each day for the first week.
Let your child know that you’re going to extend the brushing to 10 strokes of the brush for the next week. Continue praising your child as you gently brush. The increased number of strokes will help work on their scalp sensitivity. It's important at this point to ensure you're brushing from scalp to tip with long gentle strokes, very softly placing the brush on the scalp each time.
If your child is still distressed or sensitive, continue a second or third week where you do five or 10 brushes. But if the sensitivity has subsided, you can give the brush to your child to do the brushing. Encourage them to count to five as they complete each stroke. If they are progressing well, move to 10 strokes per day.
Continue praising your child as they brush and offer a reward for their increased brushing and bravery. Over the space of a month or two, you should see a decrease in scalp sensitivity. Your child will feel more confident that brushing their hair doesn’t hurt as much as it once did.
If brushing alone is a struggle, try giving your child a deep massage of the scalp. You might think a light touch will be more tolerable but a deep massage with your fingertips helps prepare the scalp for the next step of brushing or hair washing.
If you think your child is suffering from an extremely sensitive scalp and no amount of gentle brushing, praise and rewards help, you may need to see a professional. Start by visiting your GP.
Brushes for Sensitive Heads
The right brush can make all the difference to a child with a sensitive scalp. Many parents believe all brushes are equal but that’s not the case. Soft natural boar bristles and hand-dipped nylon pins bend against the scalp while hard synthetic bristles and pins have no give as they rest against the scalp or move through the hair shaft.
Ugly Swan developed its range of Scream-Free™ brushes with children’s sensitive scalps in mind. The founders all have daughters with sensory issues around brushing their hair. You can read more about our story. Scream-Free Detangling Brushes are made from a combination of natural boar bristles and soft pins that are ideal for sensitive scalps.