What Could Cause a Tingling Sensation In My Head and Scalp?

Paresthesias are defined as abnormal sensations of tingling, burning, prickling, or a feeling of pins and needles. Tingling can occur in various parts of the body due to damage, injury, or nerve compression. It is common for these sensations to occur in the scalp due to the high number of sensory nerve endings there.

This article will look at various causes of scalp and head tingling, and possible treatments.

woman's scalp

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Causes of Head Tingling Based on Sensation

The tingling, itching, or burning sensations you may feel in your head and scalp have different causes such as dermatitis, migraines, and scabies.

Itching

Inflammatory conditions of the skin often cause red patches, plaques, scaling, or dandruff on the scalp and an increased release of histamine that causes itching. Specific dermatological conditions that can cause scalp itching include:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis: A form of eczema that causes red patches and yellow scaling of the skin, especially on the scalp
  • Scalp psoriasis: An inflammatory, autoimmune skin condition that causes red, itchy, scaly lesions on the scalp
  • Atopic dermatitis: A form of eczema that causes dry, irritated, red, and itchy skin
  • Contact dermatitis: A skin reaction from contact with an allergen or irritating substance
  • Angiolymphoid hyperplasia with eosinophilia: A growth of small blood vessels surrounded by white blood cells that causes discolored nodules on the skin
  • Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia: An inflammatory condition that causes hair loss in which hair follicles are replaced with scar tissue
  • Lichen planopilaris: An inflammatory condition that results in patchy permanent hair loss mainly on the scalp
  • Folliculitis decalvans: Rare inflammatory condition of the follicles that's often painful and recurrent and can lead to permanent hair loss

Burning

Scalp burning, often accompanied by itching, is typically a symptom of inflammation from infections of the head and scalp that can occur from organisms such as bacteria and fungi or from parasites such as head lice and mites. These include:

Skin burning can also occur from an irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin, or from an allergy to harsh chemicals. This can include:

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair products
  • Hair dyes
  • Detergents
  • Chemical hair treatments 
  • Hot or cold temperatures

Tingling

Scalp tingling results from overstimulation of sensory nerve endings in the skin of the scalp, which can result from neurological conditions or injuries that damage nerves. These include:

Nerve damage that can cause scalp tingling can also result from inflammatory systemic conditions that cause damage to the nervous system over time, such as:

Pleasurable Head Tingling 

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) describes the sensory experience of feeling tingling and pleasant sensations in the scalp. This pleasurable tingling is typically in response to certain audiovisual triggers, such as whispering, tapping, scratching, and certain hand movements. These tingling sensations are not harmful and often help people relax.

If the Sensation Persists

Tingling sensations can come and go, but if the sensations are recurrent and last for more than a week, you should schedule a visit with your healthcare provider. Ongoing scalp tingling may be a sign of a skin condition, nervous system disorder, systemic disease, or sensitivity reaction that requires proper diagnosis and symptom management.

Treatment

Treatment for tingling in the head and scalp is determined based on the cause.

Skin 

Inflammatory conditions often require medication like corticosteroids, which can be taken by mouth or applied topically to the scalp. This medication helps reduce inflammation as well as the tingling, itching, and burning. 

Topical lotions, gels, and foams to moisturize the scalp and decrease dryness can also help with itching and tingling, especially if caused by different forms of psoriasis and dermatitis. 

Nerves

Treatment for scalp tingling from overstimulated nerve endings often requires medication to reduce inflammation and abnormal firing of nerve signals. Some medications that may be prescribed include antihistamines, anti-seizure medications (such as gabapentin), and antidepressants. 

Topical treatments with shampoos or lotions that contain cooling ingredients like menthol or camphor can have a mild anesthetic effect to reduce nerve sensitivity and tingling when applied to the scalp. 

Infection

All types of skin infections require appropriate medical treatment depending on what type of pathogen or parasite caused the infection. Oral or topical medication to kill bacteria, fungi, mites, lice, or worms will be prescribed by your healthcare provider. 

Systemic Conditions 

Specific treatment for systemic conditions is needed to treat the underlying cause of your scalp tingling. These include medications, maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet, and exercising regularly to decrease widespread inflammation throughout the body. 

Things to Try at Home

Shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, and coal tar have anti-inflammatory effects and can help reduce scalp inflammation and tingling. 

Summary

Tingling in the scalp, which can also cause burning and itching sensations, can result from a variety of different skin conditions, infections, nervous system disorders, systemic diseases, chemicals from hair products, and more. Treatment for scalp tingling will depend on the underlying cause, which can include medications to cure infections and reduce inflammatory conditions. Symptoms can also be managed by avoiding triggers and using topical treatments applied to the scalp.

A Word From Verywell

Persistent scalp tingling may indicate an underlying condition, such as an infection, a skin condition, or a neurological disorder. Be sure to discuss all your symptoms with your healthcare provider, even if you think they are unrelated. For systemic conditions, tingling generally improves or disappears when the underlying cause is managed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does head tingling cause hair loss?

    Scalp tingling does not cause hair loss. However, hair loss that results from other reasons, like central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, an inflammatory condition that causes destruction of hair follicles, can cause scalp itching and tingling. 

  • What do you do when a weird feeling in your head comes and goes?

    Tingling sensations in the head that come and go may not be anything to worry about. If symptoms persist over time, you should schedule a visit with your healthcare provider to determine if there is an underlying condition causing your symptoms.

  • What does poor nutrition have to do with tingling head sensations?

    Poor nutrition causes widespread inflammation throughout the body, which can damage nerves and produce sensations of numbness, tingling, burning, itching, and pain.

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2 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.
  1. Rattanakaemakorn P, Suchonwanit P. Scalp Pruritus: Review of the Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Management. Biomed Res Int. 2019;2019:1268430. doi:10.1155/2019/1268430

  2. Poerio GL, Blakey E, Hostler TJ, Veltri T. More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PLoS One. 2018;13(6):e0196645. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0196645