Ever wondered why brushing out a head full of knots causes one child to barely wince but the slightest tangle causes a flood of tears for another?
It relates to our scalps being as individual as we are. The nerves underneath our hair follicles and in the scalp are very sensitive – more so for some people - especially young kids.
What Causes a Sensitive Scalp?
Scalp sensitivity, also known as the more endearing term ‘tender-headed’, is determined by several factors including genes, physical attributes and the environment.
Our genes determine many physical attributes including our skin, eye and hair colour. The colour of our skin relates to the volume of melanin in our bodies. Less melanin results in lighter skin colour. It’s thought that the lighter the skin colour, the more sensitive the scalp so it’s common for fair children to complain about having their hair brushed and combed. The hard, sometimes sharp pins in a brush or teeth in a comb scratch their scalp causing pain.
Age is a determining factor for sensitive scalps. Children generally have more sensitive scalps than adults.
Some health conditions have been identified as causing hair and scalp problems. Thyroid problems, autoimmune disease and iron deficiency are linked to hair loss, scalp dryness and sensitivity. Some medications can cause dry scalps and hair loss. Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can occur on the scalp causing red patches, itchy or scaly skin.
Some people report their sensitive scalp is caused by using the wrong shampoo. A shampoo that is too harsh will wash away the scalp’s natural oils. It’s these oils that protect the skin on the scalp so it doesn’t become too dry or irritated.
Climate is another major factor in sensitive scalps. A dry scalp is common with cool winter temperatures but sun and wind can also cause the scalp’s sensitivity to increase - just as changing weather conditions can cause eczema to flare on other parts of the body.
The chemicals in pollution can also cause microinflammation and irritation of the scalp, leading to increased sensitivity.
Treatments for Sensitive Scalps
There are plenty of remedies for scalp and hair problems but most of them are old wives tales that do little to help. Everyday care for your scalp is what can improve scalp sensitivity. The more you brush your hair, the less sensitive it will be but you need to start with a quality, gentle brush. Try these other basic tips for good scalp care.
- Use hair care products that won’t cause microinflammation or irritation of the scalp’s skin. Try a mild shampoo such as a baby shampoo or look for one that has a pH of 3.5-4.5 as they’re gentle and won’t strip the skin of its moisture. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off all shampoo.
- If the cold weather plays havoc with your scalp, try to keep the indoor temperature fairly constant so you don’t feel too cold or hot. If your hair is thin, protect the scalp from the sun with a hat whenever you’re outside.
- Throw out any plastic combs or brushes with hard, inflexible pins or teeth. As the plastic pins and teeth move across the scalp they can scratch and irritate the skin causing inflammation. Daily brushing or combing with inferior products doesn’t allow the skin to heal and further inflammation occurs.