Hair Hurting

Girl feeling pain when combing her hair
Q: Is there such a thing as hair hurting? I often feel pain when I wash or brush my hair. I’m sometimes afraid to touch it because it hurts. Does hair have nerves?
A: There are no nerves in the hair’s structure per se. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that we can cut, blow-dry, flat-iron and curl our hair, as well as perform numerous chemical processes on hair without causing any discomfort to almost all clients.
There are nerve-endings attached to the root or follicle of the hair though. This is demonstrated by the fact that we can feel when someone touches or pulls at our hair. These nerve endings are particularly sensitive, and can cause the client a considerable amount of pain in certain circumstances or scalp disorders and root disorders.
1. Wearing your hair in very tight hairstyles such as a tight ponytail or bun, (often the case in ballet dancers and other athletes), corn-rows etc. will probably cause pain to the scalp and hair follicles. Even when you loosen the hair, it will hurt all over you scalp and it will feel as if you actual hair is hurting when you touch it or brush it.
This is because of the prolonged stress caused to the follicles of the hair when the hair is worn in a hairstyle that is too tight. Try wearing you hair loose or in a very loose style as often as possible, as this will minimize rigid hairstyle-induced pain.
2. Tension headaches often cause the scalp to contract, which has a stressful effect on the follicles of the scalp as well. Prolonged or chronic tension headaches can cause the follicles to become irritated and painful, which will lead to the feeling that your actual hair is hurting, especially when you touch or brush it.
If you suffer from chronic headaches, it’s best that you do some research on how to alter you lifestyle to minimize headaches, as well as going to a doctor for further evaluation and advice or treatment.
3. If you are experiencing extreme hair loss, your scalp may also be tender and very prone to pain. If this is the case, you will have to determine the reason for your specific case of hair loss, and deal with that, which will in effect take care of you painful scalp problem. Hair loss can be triggered by many things such as stress, depression, unhealthy lifestyle, chemotherapy, pregnancy, chronic disorders etc.
4. Fungal infections such as ringworm can also cause considerable pain and discomfort to the scalp, and inadvertently to the follicles of the hair. These infections can cause swelling, irritation, scabbing, bleeding etc. of the scalp, which will of course affect the nerve endings in a painful manner. Fungal infections should be treated by a medical professional.
If you can’t pin-point the origin of your pain from the above reasons, if the pain persists for long periods of time, or if you experience any type of bleeding, crusting or hair loss on your scalp, you should go and see a medical doctor for further evaluation. Most of the time this is not necessarily a serious condition, and can be treated easily and effectively once you’re able to determine the origin of your scalp’s discomfort or pain.
Photo: Tinatin/Shutterstock
See also:
Hair Diseases
Traction Alopecia
What exactly is hair made of and how does it grow?