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If you remove a ponytail or bun and your "hair hurts", you may not have much to worry about; but if you're feeling this pain all the time without pulling your hair back, then it may be cause for concern. Let's take a look at the most common reasons for scalp/hair pain:

woman with scalp pain
The temporary "pain" associated with removing a tight hairstyle can be temporary and cause no concern.

Release the bun!

Temporary "scalp pain" from wearing tight hairstyles can be the most common reason, often described as a combination of pleasurable yet comforting pain (strange as it may seem, but this is what many tight-bun wearers describe when releasing the bun and letting hair flow freely: "uncomfortably good").

Why does your scalp hurt? This particular temporary pain is caused by a sudden "awakening" of the hair follicles (where your hair grows out from) as blood rushes back to them after being pulled back from being in the same direction all day long.

woman with a tight hairstyle that can cause scalp pain
Tight hairstyles are fine, but should not be worn too often.

Be aware that pulling hair back tight can cause damage to these hair follicles, and even cause traction alopecia – the type of hair loss caused by pulling back on your hair too often, constricting blood vessels that help your hair to grow (ballerinas see this type of hair loss often, as do women with textured and Afro hair who pull their hair back tightly in order to protect the hair).

Fevers and headaches, incoming colds!

Even fighting a cold can cause certain parts of your skin to "hurt" to the touch. Some people will feel this type of skin pain on their arms, hands, or torso when their body is fighting a cold, while others feel it on their scalp. Fevers can also cause this temporary type of pain, as the skin becomes sensitive to the touch, however, if it persists, you must consult your healthcare practitioner as it may be an underlying problem that requires medication.

More than one-day scalp pain

If you're not wearing a tight bun and your scalp is tender, then you may have to have a closer look at what could be causing it. Some reasons may be:

  • Product build-up on your scalp

  • Conditioner use on your scalp

  • You're washing too often

  • Sleeping with damp or wet hair

  • Harsh products

  • Skin issues + allergic reactions

  • Illness

Some of these issues can also be the reason why you may be suffering from dandruff – so if you're noticing pain on your scalp, discomfort and itching, consider some of these reasons:

1. Product build-up on your scalp

If you're using a combination of cleansers that have too many conditioning ingredients (like 2-in-1 shampoos), silicone ingredients (like dimethicone or cyclomethicone), heavy butters (like shea or cocoa butter), gels, mousse and leave-ins, chances are you may have product build-up on your scalp.

Many people with wavy, curly and coily hair have a tendency to aim for the "perfect wave or curl" by loading up on often more than 5 products every wash day! This causes build-up that may not always be easy to remove by washing your hair and scalp. Many of these ingredients are heavy on the scalp and over time, can build up, causing comedogenic effects (clogging of the scalp pores and follicles).

The best advice is to look for more natural styling products and good cleansers that are multi-purpose. Less is best, and your scalp microbiome will thank you by producing healthier hair! (you can read more on the scalp microbiome [HERE]).

2. Conditioners are harsh on the scalp!

There really should be a warning label on the packaging of conditioners, because they are not meant to touch the scalp – only the hair length itself.

Some of the ingredients used in conditioners – the ones that actually act to condition your hair by closing the cuticle down are called "cationic", and they will only work at a certain pH level (power of Hydrogen) which is too low for that of skin. They can be irritating, causing "skin pain", rashes and redness/inflammation on the skin. If you're applying conditioners and leave-in conditioners directly on the scalp, you will find them irritating.

Some people even get t