There are several factors that can cause a scalp burn, from infections, skin disorders to sunburns and hair dye burn. Here we will look at some of these causes and treatment options that you can try out.
Hair chemical scalp burns and treatment
Hair dyes, highlighters, relaxers, bleaching agents, and other hair products with harsh chemicals can trigger this problem.
Hair dyes are the most common culprit. This is because hair dyes contain caustic chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, and persulphates. These chemicals open up the hair shaft allowing bleaching to take place.
On the downside, the chemicals contained in hair dyes can cause chemical burns on the scalp. The extent depends on several factors, for instance, the length of exposure to the dye, and the amount of hair dye used.
Scalp burn from relaxers is another common issue. The active agent in hair relaxers is a strong alkali, although there are products with ammonium thioglycolate instead. Most cases are caused by strong alkali or strong bases (for instance hydrochloric acid, or sodium hydroxide). Any relaxer can result in chemical burns if applied wrongly. Therefore it is advisable to seek a professional to apply the product or to exercise caution and learn how to properly use the product before applying it.
If you experience the burning sensation due to a hair product, it is advisable to immediately wash off the product. Hair dyes cause a tingling sensation when applied. However, if you begin to feel uncomfortable, rinse off the product and make sure it doesn’t get into the eyes. After washing off the product, inspect it. If it is severe, then you’ll need to consult a physician.
There are home-care approaches that you can try out to heal the minor chemical scalp burn. First, rinse it with apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is a weak acetic acid. Applying the vinegar on the scalp (after you’ve rinsed off the product) helps balance the pH of the skin. This, in turn, speeds up the healing process.
Alternatively, you can dab the apple cider vinegar on the affected area. After this, you can apply a cream or ointment to soothe the burn. You can purchase the Aquaphor ointment at the drug store, or Neosporin antibacterial cream. Aloe Vera gel is also recommended to soother the affected area.
You can dress the scalp burn using a dressing specifically made for burns. Let your scalp heal. Do not irritate any scabs that form or try to use strong medicated shampoos or other chemical hair products on your scalp. Moreover, do not cover them using weaves or wigs. Your scalp needs to breathe. Alternatively, you can opt to cover your hair with a silk scarf.
Gently dabbing vitamin E on the affected area can also help accelerate healing.
Burning scalp caused by the Sun and relief
Frequent or prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to a sunburned scalp. The symptoms include redness in the affected area, a burning sensation, and itchiness along with flaking of the skin that is often mistaken for dandruff. In extreme cases, it may cause fever or chills.
When it comes to a burning scalp due to long exposure to the sun, it is advisable to try home remedies.
For instance, applying apple cider vinegar on the affected area can help soothe the scalp and speed up healing.
Avoid using anti-dandruff shampoo at this point because the flaking of the skin is probably due to the sunburn. Using an anti-dandruff shampoo will make things worse and lead to irritant dermatitis. Opt for a sulfate-free shampoo and a natural conditioner that does not contain dimethicone.
After washing your hair, apply the apple cider vinegar on the affected area. Aside from the vinegar, a green tea rinse can help speed up the healing process. Boil some water and pour it over a bag of green tea. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. After that, remove the tea bag and put the mixture in the refrigerator. After the mixture is lukewarm, remove it and pour it over your freshly washed hair. Do not rinse off the green tea.
Applying Ibuprofen or aloe Vera gel can help soothe it.
Preventive measures are always the best option. For instance, wear a hat if you are going to stay in the sun for too long. You can try some simple hairstyles such as a ponytail to cover the scalp thereby minimizing the risk of a sunburn. Also, you can invest in a good sunblock for hair with a broad SPF (we love the Aveda Sun Protective Hair Veil).
Other causes and remedies
There are other causal factors that could trigger a burning sensation on the scalp. These factors include a harsh weather condition-for instance strong winds, cold, and the harsh effects of the sun. It could also be due to infections such as dermatitis.
Dermatitis is a common skin condition that affects the scalp. Its symptoms include scaly patches, stubborn dandruff, reddish skin, and itching. You may also develop blisters, flakes, or crusts. This skin condition can be triggered by several factors. They include:
- The use of hair care products with harsh ingredients
- Using laundry detergents with harsh chemicals
- Certain soaps
Scalp burning at times can accompany other conditions such as psoriasis, hair loss, eczema, and allergies.
There are instances where there are no visible symptoms (such as peeling or flaking of the skin). Here, this condition may be an indication of some underlying condition. For example, infections affecting the hair follicles such as folliculitis and carbunculosis can cause scalp tenderness, including the scalp burning feeling. Conditions affecting the blood vessels, nerves, and tissues can also lead to a “burning” sensation.
There are certain headaches that can make you feel like your scalp is burning, for instance, the tension headache or any a headache affecting the nerves. In rare cases, the condition is due to skin cell cancer or melanoma.
Other causal factors include:
- Lice infestation
- Insect bite.
- Allergic reactions
- Improper headgear (headbands and helmet)
- Scalp irritation from over-brushing
A proper diagnosis from a Medical Practitioner will help determine the right treatment option for you. Alternatively, you can try to relieve the scalp burn by massaging your scalp in circular motions using your finger-tips. You can try a cold compress by putting on ice on the affected area for about 10 minutes. In most cases, the simple use of first-aid ointments, a chemical free skin care routine, and avoidance of the trigger can lead to the issue healing in time. On the other hand, long-lasting, painful experiences should be reported to a doctor for examination.
- Forster, K. et al. “Hair Bleaching and Skin Burning.” Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters 25.4 (2012): 200–202. Print.