Of the many hair loss and scalp issues that I’m asked about, a burning or painful scalp is among the most common. People want to know if what is causing the burning scalp is also contributing to the hair loss and if the two are connected. People also sometimes ask if the pain that they are feeling could be the result of all the hair loss and dramatic shedding that they are seeing. Many times, they hope that if they can stop the loss, the pain on their scalp will improve or stop altogether as the result.
There are actually many potential causes for this combination. Many of them can be treated. I will discuss some of the more common places to look in the following article.
Burning Scalp Syndrome That Is Said To Go Hand And Hand With Drastic Hair Loss: Many specialists will tell you that a condition known as “burning scalp syndrome” is common when you have many strands of hair go into the resting of shedding phase all at once. This type of scenario often occurs with conditions like telogen effluvium (TE) or dramatic seasonal shedding. It’s said that when the follicles change phases in this manner, a burning or warming sensation can be felt on the scalp and this can be painful or uncomfortable.
Many specialists will tell you that the burning is the result of inflammation on the scalp after severe loss. In reaction to this, it’s said that a chemical known as “substance P” (otherwise known as neuropeptide P) is released. This substance is believed by some to contribute to the pain. It’s also said that when you’re experiencing telogen effluvium or have many follicles go into the resting or shedding phase at once, there can be a marked increase in this “substance P” and therefore also an increase in the pain.
I also have to tell you that I’ve had specialists tell me that burning scalp syndrome is psychological. It saddens me to say that many people do believe this. The theory is that you’re so upset over the shedding that the anxiety associated with this is literally felt on your scalp. I’ve never bought this theory, but this is only my opinion. In my own experience, the burning in my scalp was accompanied by an angry red color. The pain was very real and not imagined. I do understand that physiological issues are often looked at when another cause can’t be found, but it’s frustrating to be told that very real pain that you can literally feel is all in your head.
Additional Causes Of A Burning Scalp With Hair Loss: TE or telogen effluvium is the condition that most often is associated with a painful scalp. However, there are others. An allergic reaction to products such as gels and hair dyes can also cause reactions on your scalp. (Some hair loss topicals can also cause inflammation and reactions.) Yeast overgrowth or bacterial infections can affect your scalp and can cause pain or color differences. Scalp conditions like psoriasis can cause severe discomfort including burning. And, I’ve heard and read about patients with thyroid, hormonal, or autoimmune issues having hair loss as well as issues and pain with their scalps.
In short, there are many potential reasons that you might be dealing with this. It upsets me that sometimes people are told that this pain is psychological in nature when it’s quite possible that they have a scalp or medical condition that would greatly improve (or perhaps disappear altogether) with diagnosis and treatment.
Getting Some Relief From The Pain And Burning: Until you get the answers that you need, you can try some tea tree oil, emu oil, or aloe on your scalp to see if this will provide relief and help with the inflammation. I’ve even had people tell me that spraying the medication for burns or excess sun on their scalp has helped somewhat. But, it’s often advisable to be careful with and rotate these things so that they don’t clog your follicles and create even bigger problems.