What is the Cause of a Sensitive Scalp & How to Treat It Naturally

What is the Cause of a Sensitive Scalp & How to Treat It Naturally

A sensitive scalp can cause persistent itchiness, discomfort, and even pain, affecting your daily life and overall well-being. Addressing these concerns is crucial for maintaining a healthy scalp, as untreated sensitivity can lead to more severe issues like inflammation or infections. If you’ve ever asked yourself “why is my scalp so sensitive?”, rest assured, in this article we'll explore the common causes of scalp sensitivity, such as allergic reactions, harsh chemicals, and stress, and provide natural remedies and care routines to soothe and protect your scalp. By understanding the underlying triggers and adopting gentle, effective treatments, you can restore comfort and promote a balanced, healthy scalp.


Key Takeaways 

Effective Natural Remedies and Daily Care Tips: Choose gentle, hypoallergenic hair care products free from harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances. Maintain a balanced hair washing routine using lukewarm water and gentle techniques. Protect your scalp from environmental triggers with breathable fabrics and protective gear. Natural remedies like chamomile, calendula, witch hazel and properly diluted essential oils such as jojoba and argan oil can be used with caution.

Maintaining a Healthy and Irritation-Free Scalp: Understand and address sensitivity triggers, use gentle products, and maintain a nutrient-rich diet. Practice stress management with meditation or yoga. Consult a dermatologist for persistent symptoms to get accurate diagnosis and advanced treatment options, ensuring a comfortable, irritation-free scalp.


Understanding Sensitive Scalp

A sensitive scalp can be more than just an annoyance—it can significantly impact daily comfort and confidence. But what causes sensitive scalp? Common triggers include allergic reactions to hair products, harsh chemicals, environmental factors like pollution or weather changes, underlying skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, and even stress levels. Recognizing these underlying factors is key to formulating a tailored approach towards scalp care. Symptoms of sensitivity can range from itching, redness, and flaking to more severe reactions like burning or pain. While self-diagnosis can be a starting point, consulting with a dermatologist or trichologist ensures accurate assessment and personalized treatment plans. With proper understanding and proactive measures, individuals can regain scalp health and enjoy a comfortable, balanced environment for their hair and skin.


Common Causes

Several factors contribute to scalp sensitivity, ranging from external triggers to internal imbalances. Environmental factors like pollution, UV radiation, and extreme weather conditions can strip the scalp of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. Chemical exposure from hair products containing harsh ingredients such as essential oils, certain preservatives, and artificial fragrances can also trigger sensitivity reactions.

Furthermore, underlying skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can manifest on the scalp, causing inflammation, itching, and flaking (you can read more about scalp eczema and psoriasis here). Lifestyle factors like stress, inadequate hydration, and poor diet can exacerbate scalp sensitivity by weakening the skin's barrier function and disrupting its natural pH balance. Understanding these common causes empowers individuals to make informed choices regarding their hair care routine and overall well-being.


Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of scalp sensitivity can vary widely, with common indicators including persistent itchiness, redness, flaking (dandruff), and a sensation of tightness or pain on the scalp. Individuals may also experience a burning or tingling sensation, particularly after using certain hair care products or being exposed to environmental triggers. If this is the case, immediately stop using those particular products and switch to minimalist, fragrance-free, essential oil-free products.


A severe case of dandruff


While self-diagnosis based on symptoms can provide initial insights, it's crucial to seek professional evaluation for an accurate diagnosis. A dermatologist or trichologist can differentiate between common scalp conditions like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis and true scalp sensitivity. Diagnostic tools such as scalp evaluations, patch tests for allergens, and medical histories help pinpoint the underlying causes of sensitivity, leading to more targeted and effective treatment strategies. If tests reveal an allergy or sensitivity to certain ingredients in your products, professional diagnosis will ensure appropriate management and alleviation of symptoms by identifying and avoiding triggering ingredients.


Natural Treatments for Sensitive Scalp 

Before diving into natural remedies, it’s important to note that when using herbal remedies or essential oils, it's essential to practice safe dilution and application to avoid irritation. Diluting essential oils with a carrier oil such as coconut or almond oil helps prevent skin sensitivity. Additionally, performing a patch test before applying the diluted mixture to the scalp ensures compatibility and reduces the risk of adverse reactions. It’s important to regularly perform these patch tests, as skin allergies to herbal or essential oils can be developed over time through repeated exposure. Incorporating these safe practices maximizes the potential benefits of these remedies for scalp care while minimizing the potential for irritation or discomfort. Remember to use caution when choosing natural remedies. 


Using gentle hair care products free from harsh natural extracts and essential oils is paramount for those with extra sensitive or reactive scalps. Harsh natural ingredients and artificial fragrances can exacerbate sensitivity and lead to further irritation. Opting for mild shampoos and conditioners, free from common irritants, is essential. The Better Scalp Company's Just Shampoo, designed specifically for sensitive scalps, excludes these harsh ingredients, offering a gentle yet effective cleansing experience without compromising on scalp health. 


Herbal Remedies

If you want to know how to treat sensitive scalp naturally, you can start with natural herbs like chamomile, calendula, and witch hazel. Chamomile, with its anti-inflammatory properties, can help to reduce redness and irritation. Calendula, rich in antioxidants and skin-soothing compounds, nourishes the scalp and relieves discomfort. Witch hazel, known for its astringent properties, can reduce inflammation and itching, providing relief for sensitive skin. Remember that what works for some people might not work for others. Should you decide to treat your scalp with herbal remedies, please note that chamomile is listed as one of the top 100 skin allergens by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Therefore, if certain herbal remedies don’t work for you, try avoiding them and using gentle, non-herbal products. 


Essential Oils for Scalp Care

Essential oils like jojoba, argan, and rosemary can offer a wealth of benefits. Jojoba oil closely resembles the natural oils produced by the scalp, making it an excellent moisturizer that doesn't leave a greasy residue. Argan oil is rich in vitamins and antioxidants, providing nourishment and protection to the scalp and hair follicles. Rosemary oil stimulates blood circulation, promoting hair growth and scalp health.

As mentioned above, if essential oils are not providing you with relief, don’t be discouraged. Tea tree oil, jasmine, and peppermint are all listed in the list of the top 100 skin allergens, therefore it isn’t uncommon for skin to react poorly to these oils. Use essential oils with caution, and always perform patch tests before applying it onto your scalp.



Gentle Hair Care Products

For sensitive scalps, opting for natural, hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners is crucial. Look for products that are free from harsh ingredients like essential oils and artificial fragrances, which can exacerbate sensitivity. Instead, prioritize gentle cleansers derived from natural sources like coconut or plant-based surfactants.

Key ingredients to look for in gentle hair care products include soothing botanical extracts such as aloe vera. It can provide hydration, calm irritation, and promote scalp health without causing further sensitivity. Additionally, seek products enriched with nourishing oils like argan, jojoba, and avocado oil, which moisturize the scalp and strengthen hair strands.

The Better Scalp Company's Just Shampoo and Conditioner are excellent choices for sensitive scalps, formulated without common irritants. They utilize gentle cleansing agents and nourishing botanicals like aloe vera to soothe the scalp and maintain a healthy balance. By choosing natural, hypoallergenic hair care products, individuals can effectively manage scalp sensitivity while promoting overall hair and skin wellness.


Daily Care and Preventative Strategies

Maintaining a healthy hair washing routine is essential for scalp hygiene without exacerbating sensitivity. Opt for gentle shampoos and follow up with a moisturizing conditioner to nourish the scalp and hair strands.

Minimizing exposure to external triggers is key to managing sensitivity. Protect your scalp from harsh weather conditions by wearing hats or using protective hair products. Shield your hair from UV radiation with UV-protection sprays or hats when outdoors for extended periods.

Stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga play a crucial role in supporting scalp and skin health. A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids promotes overall wellness, including scalp health. Incorporate foods like leafy greens, fish, nuts, and seeds into your diet for optimal hair and scalp nourishment.


Optimal Hair Washing Routine

To maintain a healthy scalp without causing irritation, it's important to follow an optimal hair washing routine. Everyone is different, so wash your hair as often as you like. Washing your hair up to once a day is ok, as long as your scalp is comfortable with it. Use lukewarm water instead of hot water, as hot water can further dry out the scalp and exacerbate sensitivity.

When washing your hair, use gentle techniques to cleanse the scalp and hair strands. Start by wetting your hair thoroughly, then apply a small amount of gentle shampoo to your fingertips. Gently massage the shampoo into your scalp using circular motions, being careful not to scratch or scrub too harshly. Using a scalp massager can help the shampoo better penetrate between your strands. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water, ensuring all shampoo residue is removed. Follow up with a moisturizing conditioner, focusing on the mid-lengths to ends of your hair, and rinse with cool water to seal the hair cuticles and lock in moisture.



Managing External Triggers

Protecting your scalp from external irritants is essential for managing sensitivity. When outdoors, especially in areas with high pollution levels, consider wearing a hat or scarf to shield your scalp from pollutants and dust particles. 

Choose material made from breathable, natural fabrics like cotton or silk to minimize scalp stress and allow for better airflow. Avoid tight hairstyles that pull on the scalp, as they can contribute to discomfort and irritation, and even hair loss (know as traction alopecia, read more about it here). Additionally, select hair care products specifically designed for sensitive scalps, free from harsh chemicals and fragrances that can exacerbate sensitivity.

By being mindful of external triggers and making informed choices about clothing and hair care products, you can create a protective barrier for your scalp and reduce the risk of irritation and sensitivity.


Stress Management and Nutrition

Implementing stress reduction techniques is vital in managing scalp and skin sensitivity. High stress levels can exacerbate inflammation and contribute to scalp irritation. Engage in activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, which in turn can positively impact scalp and skin health.

In addition to stress management, maintaining a balanced diet plays a crucial role in supporting skin health and reducing inflammation. Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts, as these nutrients help nourish the scalp and reduce inflammation. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, like berries, spinach, and kale, to support overall skin health and combat oxidative stress.


When to Consult a Dermatologist

It's crucial to recognize persistent symptoms that may signal underlying scalp conditions necessitating professional evaluation. If you’ve ever asked yourself “Why is my scalp sensitive to the touch?”, you might need to see a dermatologist. Symptoms like chronic itching, redness, or flaking that don't improve with home remedies warrant attention. Dermatologists play a crucial role in providing personalized care and advanced treatment plans for individuals with sensitive scalps. Consulting a dermatologist ensures accurate diagnosis and access to specialized treatments that may not be available over-the-counter, leading to effective management of scalp sensitivity and improved overall scalp health.


Recognizing Persistent Symptoms

Persistent symptoms such as prolonged redness, severe itching that disrupts daily activities, or pain on the scalp are clear indicators that it's time to seek professional help from a dermatologist. These symptoms may signify underlying scalp conditions that require specialized diagnosis and treatment. During a dermatological consultation, expect a thorough examination of your scalp, including a discussion of your medical history and lifestyle factors. Your dermatologist may perform additional tests such as skin biopsies or allergy patch tests to determine the root cause of your scalp sensitivity. Read this article to find out how patch testing can find what’s causing your rash.  If that’s the case, you might be required to bring all your personal care and household products to your appointment for ingredient examination. Based on the findings, they will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to address your specific concerns, which may include prescription medications, topical treatments, ingredients to avoid, or lifestyle modifications. Seeking professional help ensures accurate diagnosis and comprehensive care for managing scalp sensitivity effectively.


Patch testing on skin


Advanced Treatments

Advanced treatments for sensitive scalp conditions often involve prescribed topical medications or therapeutic shampoos specifically formulated to target underlying causes of sensitivity. Dermatologists may prescribe corticosteroid creams or ointments to reduce inflammation and itching, providing relief for severe symptoms. Therapeutic shampoos containing ingredients like ketoconazole or selenium sulfide can effectively address scalp conditions such as dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, which can contribute to sensitivity.

The latest advancements in treating sensitive scalp conditions include innovative therapies like phototherapy, which uses light-based treatments to reduce inflammation and improve scalp health. Laser therapy is another emerging option that stimulates blood circulation and promotes healing, offering potential benefits for individuals with chronic scalp sensitivity.

Consulting a dermatologist allows access to these advanced treatments, ensuring comprehensive care and effective management of sensitive scalp conditions. Stay informed about the latest advancements in scalp health to explore the most suitable treatment options for your specific needs.



Understanding and managing itchy scalp issues is vital for maintaining overall scalp health and comfort. Integrating natural remedies like chamomile and jojoba oil, and adopting gentle daily care routines can provide significant relief. However, always exercise caution with new treatments and prioritize hypoallergenic products. Persistent symptoms should not be ignored—consult a dermatologist to receive a precise diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. By combining natural solutions with professional guidance, you can effectively nurture a healthy, irritation-free scalp, enhancing both your comfort and confidence.


Itchy Scalp: Frequently Asked Questions

What causes a sensitive scalp?

Sensitive scalp can be caused by allergic reactions, harsh chemicals, environmental factors, underlying skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, and stress.

What are the best natural remedies for sensitive scalp?

The best natural remedies for a sensitive scalp include chamomile, calendula, witch hazel, and properly diluted essential oils such as jojoba and argan oil.

How often should I wash my hair if I have a sensitive scalp?

You should wash your hair as often as needed, up to once a day, using lukewarm water and gentle techniques, provided your scalp is comfortable with it.

Which dietary changes can help reduce scalp sensitivity?

Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and flaxseeds, and plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as berries and spinach, to help reduce scalp sensitivity.

What shampoo is good for sensitive scalp?

A good shampoo for sensitive scalp is one that is natural, hypoallergenic, and free from harsh ingredients like essential oils and artificial fragrances, such as The Better Scalp Company's Just Shampoo.


Read our other blog posts about the safety of natural products, the top 100 skin allergens, and fragrance and how it can affect our scalp.