Why Is My Scalp Tingling?

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Feeling a tingling sensation on your scalp? Known as paresthesia, this common experience may feel like a tingling, prickling, burning, or itching sensation on the skin. Chances are you’ve experienced this pins and needles sensation when your arm or leg “falls asleep” after sitting or lying in one position for too long. 

Temporary (acute) paresthesia typically occurs when too much pressure has been placed on a nerve or blood circulation has been disrupted. This sensation goes away most of the time once pressure is removed from the nerve or you get up and move around.

Some people may have recurrent or ongoing (chronic) paresthesia caused by injury, medication, skin sensitivities, or a health condition that affects the central nervous system. Determining the cause of your tingling scalp is essential for getting proper treatment. 

In this article, we’ll explore potential causes of paresthesia of the scalp, how healthcare providers make a diagnosis, and potential treatments. 

Black woman with long braided hair itching her scalp with both hands.

AndreyPopov / Getty Images

Causes 

There are a number of factors that can cause persistent tingling on the head and scalp. 

Skin Sensitivities 

One of the most common causes of tingling scalp is sensitivity to environmental factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, cosmetics (e.g., shampoo, hairspray), and pollutants. Some hair care products and other cosmetics contain chemicals and fragrances that can cause skin irritation that may cause itching, tingling, or burning sensations on the scalp.

A 2021 study found that having sensitive skin is linked with a sensitive scalp, and women are more likely to experience sensitive scalps than men.

Skin Conditions

Skin conditions can affect skin all over the body, including the scalp. These conditions may cause symptoms such as burning, itching, prickling, or tingling on the scalp. With some skin conditions, a rash may accompany these symptoms. Skin conditions that may cause a tingling scalp include: 

  • Atopic dermatitis: Often called eczema, atopic dermatitis causes red, dry, itchy patches of skin on the scalp. Scratching and itching can break the skin and may lead to infection.
  • Folliculitis: An inflammatory disorder that affects hair follicles on the scalp, folliculitis can lead to tingling scalp. Folliculitis can cause small red bumps and skin lesions on the scalp and hairline that may lead to burning, itching, and tingling. Common causes are bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
  • Psoriasis: Scalp psoriasis is characterized by patches of dry, scaly skin on the scalp. It may look like dandruff or appear as crusted, thick plaques all over the scalp. It can also cause plaques on the forehead, back of the neck, and skin surrounding the ears. Scalp psoriasis affects at least half of people living with psoriasis.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: One of the common types of eczema affecting the scalp and hairline, seborrheic dermatitis can cause patches of red, scaly, itchy thick patches on the scalp. It may also appear on other body parts near the scalp, such as eyebrows, hairline, eyelids, and nose.  

Medication Side Effects

Certain medications (e.g., anticonvulsants, chemotherapy drugs, blood pressure medicines, psychotropics) may cause a tingling scalp. This can occur when medications cause injury or damage to the peripheral nervous system (nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord). 

Alopecia

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes irritation and damage to hair follicles. This leads to hair loss that often comes out in small, quarter-size patches. Many people with alopecia may experience tingling, itching sensations before hair loss occurs. 

Anxiety/Stress

When under stress, your body releases stress hormones that readies your body for the “fight or flight” response. This rush of stress hormones to the brain leads to blood flow being directed to areas that can help you escape the perceived threat, and may lead to tingling in other parts of the body.

One study found that anxiety can lead to hyperventilation (taking in too much oxygen) that can also cause scalp tingling.

Migraines

Many people have a sensory experience, known as an aura, at the onset of a migraine that can cause sensory and visual disturbances. Some aura migraines cause a “pins and needles” tingling sensation on the skin and may affect the scalp. Migraines also affect blood flow into the head and scalp, which can cause paresthesia and other sensations on the scalp. 

Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA)

A common blood vessel disorder in older adults (ages 50+), giant cell arteritis causes inflammation in arteries that lead to poor circulation. Symptoms of GCA include headaches, visual disturbances, arm and jaw pain, and scalp tenderness. 

Other Causes

Other causes of tingling scalp include: 

What Is ASMR?

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a sensory experience to audio or visual stimuli that trigger a tingling sensation that often begins in the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and spine. Not everyone experiences ASMR, but those that do often say it is a pleasurable sensation that promotes feelings of calm relaxation.

Symptoms: How It Feels


Paresthesia of the scalp can feel different from person to person. Common sensations include:

  • Burning 
  • Itching
  • Numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Prickling
  • Tingling

Treatment

Treatment for tingling scalp varies, depending on the underlying cause of the sensation. If a skin condition is affecting your scalp, your healthcare provider may suggest treatments such as special shampoos, topical creams, or prescription medications.

If an underlying medical condition is causing scalp tingling, your healthcare provider will provide a diagnosis and recommended treatments that suit the condition.

Summary


A tingling feeling in the scalp (paresthesia) can occur for many reasons, including anxiety, ASMR, chemical irritation, medication, migraines, nerve compression, skin sensitivity, and underlying health conditions. If you have chronic (ongoing) scalp tingling, see your healthcare provider. They will perform a physical examination and run tests to determine the cause and recommend appropriate treatments.

A Word From Verywell

A tingling scalp can be an unsettling, uncomfortable sensation. For many people, it is temporary and goes away on its own.

If you are experiencing ongoing scalp tingling, talk with your healthcare provider. They will do a physical examination, ask about your symptoms, and may order diagnostic tests (e.g., blood work, imaging tests) to determine the cause. They will provide guidance on appropriate treatment for any medical conditions that may be causing a tingling scalp. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is tingling scalp diagnosed?

    Healthcare providers will diagnose your tingling scalp based on your medical history and symptoms. They will do a physical examination, which may involve testing your reflexes and muscle function, and may order tests (e.g., blood tests, nerve conduction study, imaging tests) to identify the underlying cause. 

  • What are some at home remedies for tingling scalp?

    Scalp tingling is often temporary and may go away on its own or through the use of home remedies and lifestyle modifications, such as:  

    • Avoid hair products that contain added fragrances 
    • Do a skin patch test before using new cosmetics (e.g., shampoo, conditioner)
    • Get plenty of sleep 
    • Exercise regularly 
    • Make time for relaxation (e.g., breathwork, meditation, walking) 
    • Maintain good standing, sitting, and sleeping posture 
    • Stress reduction 
    • Visit your healthcare provider for regular check-ups
  • When should I see a doctor for tingling scalp?

    See your healthcare provider if your tingling scalp has lasted for several days or longer, if the sensation is interfering with your day-to-day life, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as hair loss, headaches, or pain elsewhere in the body. 

  • Are tingling scalp and hair loss related?

    A tingling or itchy scalp can be a sign of impending hair loss. For example, people with alopecia may experience scalp tingling prior to losing hair. However, most causes of tingling scalp do not lead to hair loss. 

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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