Tingling can occur in any part of the body, though it’s more common in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. You’ve likely experienced having these parts of your body “fall asleep.” This condition, known as paresthesia, occurs when pressure is put on a nerve. It can happen once in a while (acute) or recur on a regular basis (chronic).
A pins-and-needles sensation on your scalp is sometimes accompanied by itchiness, numbness, burning, or prickling sensations. Pain and sensitivity might occur alongside tingling.
Like other areas of your skin, the scalp is filled with blood vessels and nerve endings. Tingling may occur as a result of nerve trauma, physical trauma, or irritation.
Some of the most common causes of tingling scalp include skin conditions, irritation from hair products, and sunburns.
Hair products can irritate the surface of your scalp. The most common culprits are dyes, bleaches, and straightening products. Applying heat can worsen irritation.
Some shampoos contain fragrances or other chemicals that irritate the skin. Forgetting to rinse your shampoo out can also cause itching.
Other sources of scalp irritation can include:
- laundry detergents
- poison ivy
Skin conditions can affect the skin on the scalp, causing symptoms such as prickling, itching, and burning.
Psoriasis occurs when skin cells reproduce faster than usual. It causes raised patches of dry, scaly skin. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, scalp psoriasis affects at least one out of every two people who have psoriasis.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of eczema that affects the scalp along with other oil-prone areas. It can cause itching and burning. Additional symptoms include redness, oily and inflamed skin, and flakiness.
Folliculitis is another skin condition that can cause scalp tingling. It occurs when the hair follicles become swollen and inflamed. Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections are among the most common causes. In addition to a burning or itchy scalp, folliculitis can cause pain, pimple-like red bumps, and skin lesions.
Giant cell arteritis (GCA)
Sometimes known as temporal arteritis (TA), GCA is a rare condition that typically affects older adults. GCA occurs when your body’s own immune system attacks the arteries, causing inflammation. It can cause headaches, pain and tenderness in the scalp and face, and joint pain.
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Weather-related factors can cause scalp symptoms. In cold climates, winter weather can leave your scalp dry or itchy. Heat and humidity, on the other hand, may leave your scalp feeling prickly. Like the rest of your skin, your scalp can burn with sun exposure.
Scalp tingling can also be caused by:
- head lice
- migraines and other headaches
- multiple sclerosis
- nerve damage or dysfunction (neuropathy)
- poor hygiene
- scalp infections such as tinea capitis and tinea versicolor
- stress or anxiety
Scalp symptoms can be connected to hair loss. For example, people with a hair loss condition called alopecia areata sometimes report burning or itching on the scalp. However, most sources of scalp tingling are not linked to hair loss.
Scalp tingling doesn’t always require medical treatment. Mild scalp tingling sometimes goes away on its own. When the cause is a hair product, stopping use should relieve tingling.
Test hair products such as relaxers and dyes on a small patch of skin before using them, and opt for a gentle shampoo, such as baby shampoo or sensitive scalp shampoo.
Symptoms of skin conditions such as scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis tend to worsen with stress. If you suffer from a skin condition, try to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. When possible, minimize sources of stress in your life and make time for activities you find relaxing.
You can prevent weather-related scalp tingling by taking care of your scalp and practicing good hygiene. In winter, lock in moisture by washing your hair less frequently. You should always cover your head when you’re out in the sun.
Treating the underlying condition can help relieve a tingling scalp. If you have a skin condition that is affecting your scalp, a doctor can suggest appropriate treatments.
Scalp psoriasis is treated with over-the-counter scale-softening products, psoriasis shampoos, topical creams, and prescription medication.
Seborrheic dermatitis is treated with medicated dandruff shampoos, topical creams, and prescription medication.
You should see a doctor if your scalp tingling is not going away. When scalp tingling and related symptoms get in the way of your everyday activities, make an appointment with your doctor.
GCA requires immediate treatment. If you’re older than 50 and are experiencing symptoms of GCA, seek emergency medical attention.
Irritation and skin conditions can cause tingling, prickling, or burning in the scalp. Most aren’t cause for concern. Scalp tingling is not usually a sign of hair loss. Treatments for the underlying condition are often helpful in relieving a tingling scalp.