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Hypersensibilité cuir chevelu.

Scalp: The hypersensitivity of hair.

A sensitive scalp can lead to irritation and itching, and can be bothersome. Numerous factors can cause hair hypersensitivity such as individual predispositions, pollution, or even the use of harsh treatments. Which ones? Learn more in this article.

Published July 27, 2023, updated on January 27, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 6 min read

What does a hypersensitive scalp look like?

Just like the skin on the face or body, the scalp is a sensitive area, and sometimes even hypersensitive. A hypersensitive scalp is subject to several uncomfortable sensations, such as itching, sometimes accompanied by tingling, burning, or generalized irritation. The scalp can become red and show visible areas of inflammation . The manifestations of a hypersensitive scalp can vary slightly from one person to another.

In addition to experiencing itching and redness, a hypersensitive scalp is highly sensitive to touch. Even a light pressure during hair brushing or contact with the hand can trigger discomfort, or even pain. This increased sensitivity can prove to be a hindrance when styling or washing the hair. Moreover, a hypersensitive scalp can manifest in the form of significant skin dryness , leading to feelings of tightness and increased flaking.

Finally, hair hypersensitivity can manifest as a high sensitivity to hair products. The use of certain shampoos or coloring products can trigger an allergic reaction, leading to the appearance of red patches and sensations of itching.

The primary causes of hair hypersensitivity.

There are many factors that can cause scalp sensitivity. One imbalance in sebum production by the sebaceous glands is usually to blame. Indeed, sebum is an important component of the scalp and serves a protective function. It is part of the hydrolipidic film present on the surface of the epidermis and helps block external allergens and prevent dehydration. A lack of sebum can thus lead to irritation and increased scalp sensitivity.

lymphocytes , white blood cells that are part of the immune system. These cells then release lymphokines , a class of cytokines that direct the immune system's response, causing itching, redness, and skin lesions.

Another key factor in scalp hypersensitivity is the use of a too harsh cleansing care product. Indeed, some shampoos contain surfactants that ensure effective scalp cleaning but can sometimes be too detergent for sensitive scalps. The hydrolipidic film of these can then be altered, which increases the risk of irritation. It's worth noting that this film can also be damaged by the UV rays of the sun, which have a drying effect. Additionally, the wearing of hats or motorcycle helmets can contribute to scalp hypersensitivity, due to the significant friction it involves.

Another, rarer, cause of scalp hypersensitivity isallodynia. This refers to pain triggered by a stimulus that is not typically considered painful (hair brushing, light tapping, water flow...). Allodynia results from a dysfunction of nociceptors, the pain receptors, as well as abnormalities in the neural circuits of the spinal cord, nerves, or nerve endings. These abnormalities disrupt the transmission of information to the brain or the interpretation it makes of these signals, leading to the sensation of pain.

Note : some actions can help manage hair hypersensitivity, such as choosing gentle hair products, incorporating soothing agents into your hair care routine...

Hair Hypersensitivity: Could it be a Scalp Disease?

Hair hypersensitivity can also be triggered by a scalp disease. Here are the most common diseases that can affect the scalp and cause hypersensitivity.

  • Seborrheic Dermatitis.

    Often considered a form of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that primarily affects areas rich in sebaceous glands, such as the scalp. This disease is often caused by Malassezia fungi, which, by digesting the triglycerides in sebum, release free fatty acids responsible for inflammation. Common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include red and scaly patches, skin flaking, and sometimes itching, which can resemble a hypersensitivity of the scalp. These signs can vary in intensity and appear in flare-ups, with periods of remission and relapse.

  • Thecontact eczema.

    Also known as contact dermatitis, contact eczema is the result of exposure to a specific allergen. The scalp's reaction occurs after contact with an allergenic substance and is characterized by redness, swelling, flaking, and itching. This reaction is due to the mobilization of pro-inflammatory cytokines by the immune system. It is a defense mechanism of the skin in response to an attack. The allergen causing contact dermatitis on the scalp is usually present in one of the hair care products used. It is possible to completely eliminate this disease by avoiding contact with the responsible allergen.

  • The psoriasis.

    Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily manifests in the skin and joints. It presents as red, thick plaques that shed, potentially affecting the scalp and making it hypersensitive. Psoriasis is explained by a excessive cellular renewal and an accumulation of keratinocytes on the surface of the epidermis, leading to local inflammation.

  • The folliculitis.

    Folliculitis is a condition of the scalp that occurs following the colonization of hair follicles by a bacterium, fungus, or virus. These pathogens are responsible for the release of pro-inflammatory mediators, which cause small lesions that resemble acne on the scalp. These lesions are red and painful and are accompanied by intense itching. Folliculitis often leads to hypersensitivity of the scalp.

Please note : if your hair hypersensitivity is due to a scalp disease, it is essential that you consult a healthcare professional so they can guide you towards an appropriate treatment.


  • GOLDENBERG G. & al. Eczema. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine (2011).

  • WIKRAMANAYAKE T. & al. Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff: A comprehensive review Journal of Clinical and Investigative Dermatology (2015).

  • BORRADORI L. & al. Dermatologie et infections sexuellement transmissibles. Elsevier Masson (2017).


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