Hair Care

One Spot Woes: Why Is My Scalp Tender in One Spot?

Tenderness in your scalp can sometimes signal underlying chronic medical conditions or infections. But worry not — it is highly treatable!

Written by Shayonee Dasgupta

On Feb 4, 2024 – 7 minutes read

Why Is My Scalp Tender in One Spot

Are you curious about ‘why is my scalp tender in one spot?’. A sore scalp may sound surprising given hair strands are essentially dead cells. Yet, scalp soreness is a condition that affects a vast majority of the population across the globe. 

Your hair follicles have sensory nerve endings that respond to touch like the rest of your body. Even lightly touching or moving your hair can fire up the neurons to send pain signals to your brain. For some, chronic headaches like migraine can also result in scalp tenderness. 

If you have ever wondered why is my scalp tender in one spot suddenly, this guide is for you! Learn everything you need to know about the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of scalp tenderness. 

What Is Scalp Tenderness?

Tender Spot On Top Of Head When Touched

Accurately defining scalp tenderness is a challenge as everyone’s perception of ‘tenderness’ is different. 

Broadly speaking, any itching, burning, tingling, pain, or discomfort that you experience as you touch your scalp or move your hair can be classified as scalp tenderness(1). The intensity usually varies from mild to moderate like a tender spot on top of the head when touched. 

The tenderness can be throughout your scalp or only at specific points.

Symptoms Of Scalp Tenderness

Scalp tenderness manifests differently in different people. 

Commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Soreness
  • Tingling 
  • Sharp pain
  • Prickling 
  • Burning 
  • Inflammation
  • Numbness
  • Irritation/discomfort
  • Flaking
  • Peeling
  • Scaling

It is also possible that you may not show any visible symptoms or experience several symptoms together. 

Causes Of Scalp Tenderness

Both medical and environmental reasons contribute to scalp tenderness:

Medical Factors

  • Infected hair follicles: Conditions such as folliculitis(2) and carbunculosis lead to scalp tenderness. Folliculitis refers to inflamed hair follicles on account of injury or infection. Carbunculosis occurs when a group of hair follicles get infected by a bacteria and become pus-filled. 
  • Temporal arteritis: This is an autoimmune disorder that results in inflamed blood vessels inside the brain and the reduced blood flow results in scalp tenderness. 
  • Occipital Neuralgia: If the occipital nerve, located at the back of your scalp, is damaged, it can cause a sharp pain in your scalp.
  • Scalp psoriasis: An autoimmune disorder that results in dry and scaly patches on the skin including the scalp. Scalp psoriasis(3) can cause tenderness along with flaking and itching. 
  • Dermatological conditions: Seborrheic dermatitis (a severe form of dandruff) can leave your scalp inflamed and increase tenderness.

Environmental Factors

Why Is The Crown Of My Scalp Sore
  • Excessively tight hairstyles especially tight braids can result in scalp tension and traction alopecia, leading to scalp tenderness.
  • Frequent use of heat and styling tools
  • Weight or chemical reactions from hair extensions
  • Allergic reaction to any hair product
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Exposing your scalp to too much sunlight sunburn- scalp sunscreen

Scalp Tenderness Diagnosis And Treatment

To diagnose scalp tenderness, your doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms and potential triggers. Depending on the symptoms, you may have to undergo a scalp biopsy, MRI, or an ultrasound to nail down the root cause. 

The treatment depends on the cause:

Scalp psoriasis Topical lotions and medicated shampoos containing salicylic acid
Seborrheic Dermatitis Anti-fungal shampoo
Folliculitis/carbunculosisAnti-fungal shampoo Antibiotics Corticosteroids
Temporal arteritisprednisone/other steroids 
Occipital neuralgia Physical therapy, botox, massage, heat pad

What Factors Increase The Chances Of Experiencing Scalp Tenderness?

You are at an increased risk of scalp tenderness if you:

  • Have naturally dry or greasy scalp
  • Are experiencing stress, depression, or anxiety 
  • Suffer from conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, dandruff, lice infestations, asthma, or allergies

How To Get Rid Of Tender Spots On The Scalp?

Specially formulated shampoos, serums, and hair lotions can help to get rid of any tender spots on your scalp. It is also crucial to observe proper scalp hygiene. 

However, persisting tenderness requires prescription-strength ointments and creams along with painkillers. These should be taken only as per the advice of a licensed doctor. 

Home Remedies For Scalp Tenderness

  • Mix a few drops of tea tree essential oil with jojoba oil and apply the mixture thrice a week. Leave it on for an hour before rinsing it off.
  • Mix apple cider vinegar with water in a 2:1 ratio and use it as a final rinse for your scalp. You can do this once a week but make sure to not wash it off using shampoo.
  • Apply cold or heat packs on your scalp for 10 minutes.

How To Prevent Scalp Tenderness?

Here’s what you can do to keep scalp tenderness at bay:

  • Make sure to rinse your hair and scalp thoroughly to prevent build-up
  • Steer clear of tight hairstyles
  • Protect your hair and scalp from harsh sunlight 
  • Apply gentle pressure while brushing your hair
  • Avoid hair products that contain alcohol or other potential irritants

Best 5 Products To Get Rid Of Scalp Tenderness

If your scalp tenderness presents itself in isolation and is restricted to itching and flaking, you can try commercially available products. 

Here are some house favorites:

RHRI Folliculitis Shampoo

RHRI Folliculitis Shampoo

This targeted scalp treatment enriched with salicylic acid and essential oils goes deep inside your hair follicles and helps them to heal from within. 

Price: $21.99

  • Comes with an exfoliating brush to ensure maximum absorption
  • Provides immediate relief from itchiness
  • Very gentle on your hair

Has a strong scent which may be uncomfortable for some

Malibu C Scalp Therapy Wellness Remedy

Malibu C Scalp Therapy Wellness Remedy

This weekly treatment is specially formulated for flaky, irritated, and itchy scalp. Fortified with Salicylic Acid and Vitamin C, the serum soothes and heals your scalp. 

Price: $3.90 per sachet 

  • Clarifies your scalp without drying it out
  • Removes and prevents build-up
  • 100% vegan

Can sting extremely sensitive scalps

OGX Extra Strength Refreshing + Invigorating Teatree Mint Dry Scalp Treatment

OGX Extra Strength Refreshing + Invigorating Teatree Mint Dry Scalp Treatment

This is a non-medicated scalp solution enriched with tea tree oil extracts that removes buildup without drying out your hair. It needs to be applied on towel-dried hair and is suitable for all hair types and textures.  

Price: $10.99

  • Not greasy
  • Instantly reduces itchiness

Requires frequent reapplication and gets used up quickly

divi Scalp Serum

divi Scalp Serum

Formulated with a combination of Copper Tripeptide-1, Caffeine, Tea Tree Oil, Amino Acids, and Hyaluronic Acid, this serum helps to create a healthy scalp by removing product buildup and reducing itchiness. It is formulated for all hair types and textures.

Price: $ 48

  • Gets absorbed instantly 
  • Doesn’t make hair strands greasy

Expensive compared to the rest

Canviiy ScalpBliss Organic Itch-Calming Serum

Canviiy ScalpBliss Organic Itch-Calming Serum

The serum contains extracts of aloe, lavender, witch hazel, manuka honey, and peppermint oil that instantly calms down an itchy and irritated scalp. The ergonomically designed bottle ensures precise delivery of the product. You can use it before or after styling your hair. 

Price: $19.98

  • Non-greasy formula
  • Formulated without alcohol, artificial fragrance, and parabens
  • The serum is non-runny which makes application a cakewalk

The minty fragrance may be bothersome for those with sensitive noses


1. Why does my scalp hurt when I move my hair?

You may experience scalp pain when touched due to a number of reasons including inflamed hair follicles, traction alopecia, seborrheic dermatitis, or scalp psoriasis. 

2. Why is my hair sore at the roots?

Excessively tight hairstyles can lead to soreness in roots. Other causes include scalp infections and trichodynia. Trichodynia is a burning sensation in the scalp usually experienced by women facing severe hair loss. 

3. Why is my scalp tender in one spot and hair loss?

Alopecia areata can make your scalp tender in one spot and lead to hair loss. 

4. Is it normal to have a sensitive spot on your scalp?

As the scalp tends to be the third most common area that experiences sensitivity, it is not unusual to have a sensitive spot on your scalp. 

5. When should I be concerned about scalp pain?

If your scalp continues to be tender or painful for more than two weeks, you should see a healthcare provider immediately. If you experience sudden scalp pain along with fever, redness, chills, etc., seek emergency medical care.

6. Can a brain tumor cause scalp sensitivity?

Brain disorders including tumours can be accompanied by an itching or tingling sensation in the scalp. At present there is only one reported case of scalp sensitivity related to brain tumor. 

7. Can stress cause a tender scalp?

Stress increases the level of a hormone called cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol have a direct impact on hair follicles and can lead to tenderness of the scalp. 


Next time you start wondering ‘Why is my scalp tender in one spot’, know that it is not a figment of your imagination. 

It is a real problem that can arise due to a number of reasons. The appropriate treatment plan can reduce the severity of symptoms and allow you to let your hair down sans any uncomfortable feeling.

  1. National Library of Medicine. (n.d).Sensitive Scalp. [Online] Available at:
  2. MedlinePlus. (n.d).Folliculitis. [Online] Available at:
  3. National Psoriasis Foundation. (n.d).Scalp Psoriasis. [Online] Available at:

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Shayonee is a dedicated writer and mental health advocate whose research-driven approach allows her to deliver well-informed, evidence-based content on diverse aspects of women’s health and lifestyle.

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