Sensitive scalp: does this condition exist? An epidemiological study

Contact Dermatitis. 2008 Apr;58(4):234-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2007.01288.x.


Background: The concept of the 'sensitive scalp' is vague. However, the 'sensitive skin syndrome' is probably not limited to the face.

Objectives: To evaluate and analyse sensitive scalp conditions.

Patients and method: 1011 individuals, representative of the French population, were investigated.

Results: 44.2 % declared suffering from a 'sensitive scalp' (47.4% of women versus 40.8% of men). Of these subjects, 11.5% reported having an associated scalp disease versus 1.1% of non-sensitive subjects. Hair loss was significantly associated with scalp sensitivity. The scalp was dry for 24%, normal for 58%, greasy for 16% and mixed for 1%. 13% complained of prickling, 25% of itching and 2% of burning or pain. These symptoms were more frequent among those with a 'sensitive scalp'. The main triggering factors were considered to be pollution, heat, emotions and shampoos. No other area of skin sensitivity was specifically associated with scalp sensitivity.

Conclusion: 'Scalp sensitivity' exists and occurs frequently. Triggering factors are numerous. Symptoms appear different from those of facial skin sensitivity. Further studies to define and assess sensitive scalp conditions are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alopecia / epidemiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Causality
  • Emotions
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Hair Preparations / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pruritus / etiology
  • Scalp Dermatoses / epidemiology*
  • Scalp Dermatoses / etiology
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Skin Diseases / etiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Temperature


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hair Preparations