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Why does greasy hair make my scalp ache?

Apisums asks…I wash my hair every morning. If I skip washing my hair one morning, it’s not only greasy looking, but by the afternoon/ evening my scalp actually begins to hurt. It’s like a headache on the crown of my head that just gets worse and worse until I wash my hair. After reading all of the articles out there about how washing every day can be damaging, I tried for a while to get by with shampooing every other day. On the off days I tried just using conditioner, or just using water and scritching my scalp in the shower, or not wetting it at all and just using dry shampoo. I had varying levels of success with these, but still, by the end of any day that I didn’t use shampoo, my head would be killing me. No one that I’ve ever mentioned this to has ever experienced similar aching. Any clue what this is, and what I can do to avoid it?

The Beauty Brains respond: 

Wow, that’s an interesting question! I don’t have any solid answers but I do have two guesses:

1. If you have long hair and you’re pulling your hair back into a pony tail or bun on the days when you don’t shampoo, the pressure caused by the weight of your hair could cause a headache.

2. A greasy scalp is a breeding ground for a specific fungus called Malassezia furfur. The fungus feeds on the oils and releases free fatty acids which can irritate your scalp. I’ve never heard of this irritation manifesting itself in the form of a headache but, like I said, this is just a guess.

Post script: Apisums responded to my original answer in our Forum:

“Thanks for the response! My hair is somewhat long and having it pulled up definitely makes it worse, but the ache is different from the ache i get from heavy buns. It’s more like individual spots on the scalp that become incredibly sore, even if my hair is down. I suppose I simply need to accept that it’s my destiny to be a daily-shampooer.”

Have you experienced the greasy hair headache? Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for Apisums.

{ 96 comments… add one }

  • jaann January 24, 2014, 8:13 am

    I get that from time to time, but I don’t remember if it’s because of greasy hair… though I suppose it does ring a bell. I have long-ish hair and I also usually wash my hair every day.

    When it happens, even letting my greasy hair down is just temporary relief. Moving the hair around hurts at the roots. Shampooing makes it feel better.

  • breezy January 24, 2014, 10:45 am

    I get this sometimes! My hair is short, and I round-brush blow dry it every day. I think that on mornings that I don’t wash it until the afternoon it tries to hold the shape of the blow dry (or even holding a kink from my pillow), causing it to hurt. It’s kind of like having long hair up in a ponytail but without the physical hair tie.

  • ll January 24, 2014, 11:04 am

    Yes! This happens to me, too! I have shoulder length fine hair, but a lot of it. Like jaann, moving the hair around hurts at the roots. I didn’t think about it as being connected to second day hair, but that is totally it. Who knew?! No solutions other than washing it to offer here.

    • jen April 15, 2015, 3:32 pm

      Yes, I have the same thing going on. My hair is very thin and shoulder length. If I don’t wash it everyday my scalp right in the crown area hurts. If I move my hair or if the wind blows it, it akes and is tender.

  • S January 24, 2014, 11:06 am

    This happens to me as well, but I’ve always thought it was “just in my head!” Jaann described it well also–moving my hair at the roots hurts.

  • Eileen January 24, 2014, 12:08 pm

    I’ve had long hair all my life; anywhere from mid-back to waist length. I have also always had an oily scalp and so I shampoo daily unless circumstances prevent me from doing so. I use a mild shampoo and concentrate on the scalp. I am very gentle with the hair itself and don’t scrub at it or rough it up. My hair is in excellent condition; shiny and undamaged. So, if you need to shampoo every day, I say go for it! I don’t think it is the actual act of shampooing daily that is the culprit, rather it is using an overly vigorous method of shampooing or using a harsh shampoo that has given the daily shampoo a bum rap.

    Apropos the scalp pain, I know exactly what you’re talking about. It happens to me occasionally and only when I’ve skipped my daily shampoo. For me, it’s not a headache per se, rather it is a sensitivity in certain spots of my scalp. Jaann described it perfectly when she said that moving the hair around at the roots hurts but that shampooing gives relief. Bizarre!

    • Randy Schueller January 24, 2014, 12:50 pm

      It appears we’ve stumbled across an issue than many people have but few have articulated. Therefore, I say that the Beauty Brains community gets to name it!

      Here are a couple of options:

      Greasy Achy Scalp Syndrome (GASS)
      Hair Ickiness Can Cause Unusual Pain (HICCUP)
      Pain from Minimal Shampooing (PMS) I guess this one’s already taken.

      Does anyone else have any suggestions?

  • Sarah F. January 24, 2014, 8:26 pm

    No poo I have a headache. NPIHAHA. Sorry the acronym isn’t so catchy.

    • admin January 25, 2014, 12:56 am

      Actually I think the HA HA part is quite catchy!

  • N. January 24, 2014, 9:56 pm

    GASS! And I get that too. Actually it stopped a long time ago, curiously. So I’m not sure what did it, but it really hurt!

    http://www.newhealthguide.org/Scalp-Hurts.html

  • Daria January 25, 2014, 11:55 am

    Ahhh, I’m not the only one! I have shoulder length fine hair and it does hurt like hell when I skip my morning hair washing procedure. It just feels like all the grease and dust do not let my brain work. Washing hair as fast as I can usually help a lot, so I always thought that was a neat way my organism helped me be clean!

    ps. I also have a theory that massaging your head when you wash it helps to fight headache and the days you skip it the headache comes back (I have headaches often).

  • Rachel January 25, 2014, 4:13 pm

    I also get this… I have long, thick, straight hair and only shampoo/condition 2-3 times a week, but on occasion if I go a long time between washes (like 4 days) my scalp will ache at the top of my head where the hair is most oily… very strange.

  • somebimbo January 25, 2014, 5:14 pm

    YES! I encounter the same issue.
    So glad to know I’m not alone. I don’t shampoo daily but if I skip it for a few days, it’s terrible. This used to happen to me even before I developed dandruff.

    Maybe the roots get clogged up with oil, which slightly hardens and makes it hard for the hair to move, so it pinches on some nerves. I don’t even know if that’s scientifically plausible but since acne is caused partially by hardened oil in the pore, it’s possible that the hardened oil in the pores on the scalp could be somewhat inflammatory. Beauty Brains, tell me if I’m crazy.

    • Randy Schueller January 26, 2014, 7:00 pm

      Somebimbo: You’re not crazy but you’re not exactly right either. Excess sebum is a contributing factor to acne because it feeds the bacteria that can infect the pores. But the skin oil doesn’t “harden,” rather the follicle becomes clogged with dead skin cells because they don’t slough off properly.

  • Apisums January 26, 2014, 1:26 pm

    I’m so happy to find out that I’m not alone! I’ve wondered about the possibility of hardened oil in the roots too, but like somebimbo (haha) I also have no idea if that’s a real thing that could happen.

    Also, I’d like to place my vote for “GASS”. It feels right.

  • Sarah F. January 26, 2014, 8:40 pm

    I don’t get a headache but I feel itchy and uncomfortable by the end of the second day if I don’t bathe. Yuck.

  • Julz January 27, 2014, 12:50 am

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one experiencing this! Like others have said it sometimes feels like the roots are painful when the hair is moved, but the headache also often feels like an inflammatory response, and seems to go along with my face feeling hot and flushed and oily along with an aching head until I can wash my hair. As others have mentioned it does almost feel like an inflammatory response. Any ideas beauty brains? ??

    • Randy Schueller January 27, 2014, 7:24 am

      It could be a reaction to a build up of oleic acid from the excess sebum.

  • rozy January 28, 2014, 7:47 pm

    I’ll call it PMS!

  • Joni January 30, 2014, 5:21 pm

    This used to happen to me all the time! I have long, thick hair. I’m trying to think what I’ve changed, since it hasn’t happened in a while…

    I wash my hair every other day. Daily is too often, but less often leads to very oily scalp, which will bring on the pain.

    I think the biggest change I’ve made is blow-drying my hair straight, starting at the top. (I get really weird cow-licks otherwise.) I used to let my hair air dry, but now I much prefer the sleeker, straighter look. My scalp doesn’t get achy like it used to. Perhaps those two things are related some how?

  • Shrvmom February 17, 2014, 12:09 am

    I have that REALLY bad. I have just below the shoulder length thick curly hair but mostly wear it straight. I have to have it thinned every time I go to the salon and my hairdresser doesn’t do it enough to suit me. Sometimes even shampooing doesn’t make the pain stop. It’s like my body is punishing me for not washing it every day. But with thick, nappy hair, the whole process is time consuming and tiring. Wish I had an answer. I’ve grown my hair out and cut it back to chin length twice before just to get rid of pain. And just had it cut and thinned and still hurts. Maybe I’ll have to start washing it twice a day until the pain subsides then back to every day?

  • Azi July 13, 2014, 5:27 pm

    I have read that scalp soreness when you miss one day of shampooing is linked to hypothyroidism.

  • Ginger August 21, 2014, 1:29 pm

    This is way late, but I’d like to share my ideas:

    1) Similar to what some of the others have said, some of us get pimples or some kind of folliculitis if we skip washing for a day or two.

    I’ll get at least a few VERY sore and itchy spots whenever my scalp is greasy; maybe some of you get a ton, leaving the entire scalp sensitive.

    2) For people like Daria:

    I have daily migraine. For me, nothing really alleviates them better than a long, steamy shower. Some people instead use ice packs or take cold showers, but showing is a common way to relieve the pain. In some people, either hot or cold showers can be a trigger.

    Either way, it seems that showering can affect migraine. Can it affect other headache pain, too? If so, maybe spending more time in the shower or running water over your head might be the difference in a headache v. non-headache day.

    • Apryl October 22, 2014, 6:55 am

      I’m coming in late to the game, too, but my hair’s not been this long since the 3rd grade =0,

      When I moved to Provence, the dry climate, enjoyable rosés, and my growing number of years have contributed to dehydration–the result is frequent migraines.

      Whether or not it’s related to our hair length, drink plenty Plenty PLENTY of fresh water! Santé!

  • Kim August 22, 2014, 3:23 am

    I’ve searched the internet for months looking for a solution and this is the first time I’ve seen anyone even recognize this problem!

    I hate washing my hair, mostly because of the time it takes to dry and style it (it’s long and thick and wavy), so I go as long as possible without doing it. I always end up washing it by about day 5 or 6 though solely because of the scalp pain. It gets worse when I pull my hair up into a ponytail or bun, and the pain/itching is limited to the crown of my head. It always goes away when I wash, though it sometimes still lingers for a few hours afterwards.

    Maybe I should just be less lazy and wash my hair more. :) but if anyone figures out the problem and a solution I’d love to hear it!

  • Charlotte August 26, 2014, 7:22 pm

    I get this every day! I washed my hair this morning, and it already looks greasy and my scalp aches. I tend to wash my hair every other day, so about three times a week. But the morning after washing my hair, it looks too greasy to have loose, and my scalp hurts in a headache form. If you have found a solution please let me know!x

  • amyboo August 31, 2014, 11:32 am

    I get this all tge time its so annoying but as soon as I start to feel my head hurt I wash it and it goes away I have no idea of what it can be either..

  • melanie September 5, 2014, 9:03 pm

    Hi all. I’ve come across this thread as I started with this month’s ago. The feeling is like someone has grabbed a handful of hair and pulled it and your left with the pain when it’s moved or brushed? Mine started to go like this and after a while I started getting itchy if I didn’t wash it. If I put up with the itch I develop spots. I’ve sometimes noticed u bleed when I scratch the itch and hit a spot. I think the shampoos are to blame. And conditioners make it worse. I itch now after using conditioner so only on the roots it goes. Well my daughter who is 8 has beautiful long blonde hair. I noticed when I washed it her roots still looked greasy just after shampoo so I tried nutrigloss LIGHT. Both shampoo and conditioner. For her this WORKED! no greasiness after shampooing. It helps for me but I still get the itch not so much the greasy gunky feeling although it does get greasy. I found that a strict every 2 day wash helps but yes, we need to find out if a new ingredient has been added to them. All we ever see is “for greasy hair” “for dry or damaged” and my favourite “for softer hair”! Are there any out there which actually CLEANS hair to take away the muck or are they all there just competing with adding ingredients and more chemicals to get what they claim? Dry hair? Well it needs something to keep moisture in, greasy needs a chemical to take grease away and to get softer hair it needs what?. !

    • Julie F February 11, 2015, 1:22 pm

      You might want to try a clarifying shampoo. I have used them in the past (though not recently) but I believe they are supposed to get all the gunk out of your hair.

  • Jayna September 6, 2014, 11:59 pm

    I have the same issue, and have had it for years, but here’s what I noticed:

    -If I wash my hair more often, than the pain is more frequent. If I make my scalp get used to going days between washes, then the pain doesn’t come as often, or goes away all together.

    -When I went off shampoo completely, I didn’t notice the pain between washes at all. I was washing with baking soda and vinegar, which rocked my hair world. It made it soft and shiny, and accentuated strawberry blond highlights, BUT I ran out of vinegar and had to borrow my sister’s dandruff shampoo a couple days ago. Well yesterday I got the flu, so today I stayed in bed all day with my hair in a ponytail. When I got up, I put it in a bun while I made myself some food and left it up for about an hour. Five minutes ago, it hurt so bad I had to move the bun to adjust the hair, and eventually take it down. This wasn’t the pain you get from having a hairstyle too tight, it feels like a group of bees or needles stinging your scalp in, for me, the top right side.

    There is a giant cowlick behind the crown of my head in about the same spot, and what fixed the pain for me without washing it, was arranging my hair in the direction of the cowlick. That means that right now, I have a clockwise shaped tidal pool of hair flowing from the back of my head. Hair that usually hangs down in the back of my head is now covering my right eye; hair that is usually tucked behind my ear, is sticking out in front of my ears.

    In my opinion, shampoo is to blame.

    • Apryl October 22, 2014, 6:58 am

      This is exactly what I’m dealing with. (Seriously, where was I before google?!!)

      Please rock our world with your vinegar & baking soda magic! What’s the combination?

      • Stacia February 8, 2015, 7:40 pm

        I wash my hair every day. I have very short and very fine hair, but a lot of it. It’s always been very oily, so I have always felt that I have to wash it every day just to look decent. I heard about NoPoo from a friend and tried it this past December. I did it for six weeks and then I ran out of baking soda and apple cider vinegar, so I, out of laziness, went back to regular shampoo and conditioner. Now I find myself googling about scalp pain and discovering that it is due to shampoo. So I guess I will be going back to my NoPoo. This is how I do it… I mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with warm water in a squirtable container. I apply the mixture right at the roots of my hair after wetting in the shower. Then I rub my scalp for a minute or so until I feel like I have worked the baking soda all through my scalp and hair. And I rinse it out. Then I mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of raw honey with warm water. Again, I apply the mixture to my roots and then work it through my hair, massaging my scalp. And rinse again. This leaves my hair clean, healthy, shiny, easy to manage, and with more volume. My sister has very thick, curly hair. She tried the same process and her curls were soft and shiny and easy to manage as well. So I think it works for most, if not all, hair types. It seems to bring your hair back to its natural, healthiest State.

  • emmy September 8, 2014, 9:54 pm

    Usually I have greasy hair and it has to be washed everyday. I have a pixie cut so the hair is really short . The day before I had washed my hair n straightened it I don’t know what about my hair that it’s just so oily. I woke up the next morning with greasy hair but I decided to re flat iron my hair n spend the rest of the day like that. Then I noticed when my hair was at it’s most greasy point that I had a pain on the crown of my head as if it’s been in a tight pony tail all day. I believe the hair being greasy made it hurt. So again I have a pixy haircut and I had so much pain at the crown of my head it’s so crazy to know that I had to wash my hair as soon as I got home for the pain to go away.

  • ddoll September 10, 2014, 1:03 am

    I have the same pain, like someone pulled my hair. This was something I thought I had solved years ago. I have very thick and coarse hair. It used to be very long and when I pulled it into a ponytail it would hurt by the end of the day. A solution was to French braid the hair which distributed the tension evenly throughout my scalp. But mostly I just wouldn’t put it into a ponytail. But for the last year my hair has been short and now it just hurts. I wash it every 5 to 7 days, sooner if it starts hurting. Sometimes the washing helps for a while, sometimes not right away. Good to know I’m not the only one too, but I’m beginning to think that there may be something with the shampoo also.

  • Pooja September 17, 2014, 5:00 am

    I also experience this discomfort from pain in the scalp when I don’t wash my hair for longer than three days. I believe it’s due to sebborheic dermatitis.

  • LeAnne October 9, 2014, 5:02 pm

    Hi
    My hair has always done this if I go too long without washing my hair I get this ache so bad I need to lie down or take painkiller and only happens if I don’t wash..is strange

  • MaryAnne October 11, 2014, 8:41 pm

    I have this and it comes and goes. My scalp feels like someone pulled it or like my roots are standing straight up. I usually wash my hair every two to three days but when I get this I have to wash it at least every other day. The scalp gets very oily. I have bought calming shampoo and conditioner and ph balanced shampoo. I rinse with cool water which feels great. Just washed my hair and it’s killing me. Used to be ok after I washed it but hurts now like crazy feels like my hair is standing on end. Any suggestions?

    • Randy Schueller October 13, 2014, 7:59 am

      Hi MaryAnne: We’ve been surprised by how many people have this problem. As of yet we don’t have any suggestions but we’re looking into it!

  • menny October 15, 2014, 10:23 am

    Same thing. Need to wash my hair every single day in order to avoid the pain. Dr. Think I’m crazy. All he could told me is what I DON’T have.
    Needless to say he had no clue how to help me. I have a girlfriend w the same issue, she went to 3 or 4 different dr.s had all types of tests. Every thing was good. But the scalp is still hurting. … it is really frustrating! I’m going to try to change the shampoo (using head and shoulders so far) to something natural w/out sulfate.
    Hopefully that will helps

    • Randy Schueller October 15, 2014, 11:08 am

      Menny: Let us know if changing shampoos makes a difference. It might help us diagnose the problem. Good luck!

  • Cynthia October 18, 2014, 2:58 pm

    So glad I found this thread! I’m not crazy!! I have naturally curly hair that I wear about chin length. Conversely, I have an oily scalp, so I wash my hair every day. When I skip a day, I get the root/scalp pain that hurts to move the hair. I don’t blow dry, flat iron or pull the hair up. So, it must be not shampooing. I use a vegan, organic shampoo and conditioner, so, fortunately, I don’t think washing it every day is too bad. Thanks for the information!

  • Suzan October 24, 2014, 3:35 am

    I used to get this years ago and went away when I got a shampoo from the doctor. But it’s back with a vengeance and nothing helps. Not shampoo or washing, not anything. It is really starting to annoy me and get me down as I do not know what to do to get rid of it.

  • Suzan October 24, 2014, 5:04 am

    As well the above constant scalp ache which is not due to pilling my hair back or up. My hair is relatively short and very fine and is also falling out quite a bit. Which is what happened when it happened the first time I got this kind of scalp ache it is exasperated if not washed but this will not stop the ache by washing. Although the doctors gave me Polytar shampoo first time it helped not this time though.

  • Olivia November 1, 2014, 6:16 pm

    I’ve had this too! As long as I can remember. For the past two years I’ve gone “no poo” . I just used a baking soda wash, and a vinegar rinse. And for those two years I did not have this problem. Recently I’ve gone back to shampoo, and this hair root ache has come back! How strange. I do believe that using shampoo has something to do with it. For those interested, I do about a teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of water. I put that on my scalp and rub that in. Then I fill a spray bottle with vinegar, white or applecider, any kind is fine. I also add some essential oils to help cover the smell. I use the vinegar rinse after I wash out the baking soda. Needless to say I am going back to no poo. Having my scalp ache is annoying. :S

  • Westyn November 2, 2014, 12:12 am

    For starters my hair is not “that long” its about four to five iches long. But after not washing it for a few days (3) I get the same pain. I don’t even want to touch my head because I know it will hurt if I move my hair. But as soon as I wash it and give myself a little head rub it goes away and my hair feels amazing again. Ive talked to a few other people about it and they Dont know why I’m talking about either.

  • Heather November 4, 2014, 6:12 pm

    OMG……the pain…that hurts but also feels good? I have a great temporary fix for this weird problem. If you have a dry shampoo (powder) hanging around your slew of products….you just have to sprinkle it onto your scalp and when it absorbs it relieves that weird pain till you can shampoo! try it…it really helps.

    • Stacia February 8, 2015, 7:44 pm

      I discovered that the main ingredient in dry shampoo is baking soda. I started using baking soda instead and I think it works even better! And it’s way cheaper!!

      • Amanda February 26, 2015, 4:56 pm

        My hair is pretty long and I’ve been trying to see how far I can push it between washes. Around day 3 or 4, my hair hurts SO BAD! I’ve been using a sulfate-free shampoo for about two months now and I thought that would help with the pain. I am considering the baking soda / vinegar routine. I know it would be cheaper and fewer chemicals in my hair, on my skin, and going down the drain, but if it also staves off this pain, it sounds totally worth it!

        I would like to comment on Stacia’s baking soda suggestion. I have also started making my own dry shampoo. I start with corn starch and add unsweetened cocoa powder until it becomes a light brown color so that it blends into my scalp a little better (plus my boyfriend loves the way it smells!). I keep my mixture in a mason jar and just dust it in to my hair with an old makeup brush. I have had great success with the way it looks and feels. Plus, when I use it, I don’t have the scalp pain at all!

        I’m glad to see that I’m not alone with the dirty hair scalp pain!

  • charlotte andrews November 22, 2014, 6:19 pm

    Was looking on the web for an answer to my own hair/scalp issue. I too go through the samesore scalp issue if I go more than two days without shampoo washing my hair.

  • Brooke December 2, 2014, 8:13 pm

    I have the same problem, and is driving me nuts! I’ve always had to wash my hair daily.I’m starting to think it’s my shampoo too, any suggestions on what shampoo to use? For me it was explained best when someone said, that it actually hurts to move the hair, and it feels like it’s standing up. …I suffer from frequent migraines too… so Idk if this is migraine related or oily scalp… I’ll take any suggestions I can get at this point. .. it’s very painful, and when I tell people about it, they have no idea what I’m talking about.

    • Randy Schueller December 3, 2014, 6:45 am

      Brooke: I’m sorry to hear that you’re afflicted with this problem. If we figure out a possible solution we’ll be sure to share it here.

  • Pooja December 8, 2014, 1:34 am

    I used to have the exact same problem but I figured out a way to reduce the frequency of occurrences. I have long hair that I always leave open, parted down the middle. I can’t tie it up because that’s a sure-fire way of getting a headache.

    I’ve been trying to quit shampoo and just let my hair take care of itself naturally (it’s a long and icky process that I haven’t been able to stick to). So now I shampoo my hair only once a week. Before I do, I massage my scalp with hot coconut oil. This improves blood circulation on the scalp and coconut oil is super nourishing for the hair. I got lucky recently and found a local Tibetan herbal shampoo that’s really mild and doesn’t lather much because it’s mostly natural. But my hair has never been better – it’s shiny and bouncy and soft.

    But before I made the switch to herbal shampoo, I used to get the same pain (GASS? :P). And if I had to stay true to my once-a-week-hair-wash routine, I couldn’t just wash the pain away.

    So the next best thing is to change the parting of your hair. It IS going to make the pain a little worse when you move the roots around, but it gets better I promise!

    Move it around where the pain is centered (it was the top right part of my crown, for me) and then use your fingers (not nails) to gently massage the area. Again, it WILL hurt in the beginning but keep at it and then use a wide comb to gently comb your hair.

    Give it ten minutes and you’ll feel MUCH better. If you have a really oily scalp, this might make the oil problem seem worse but the pain goes away and it really isn’t the best thing to shampoo your hair so often.

    P.S: Coconut oil can be washed away completely in the shower. It will not leave your scalp greasy if you wash it out properly. See if you can find a good herbal shampoo in your countries!

    Good luck ladies! :)

  • Randy Schueller December 8, 2014, 7:05 am

    Thanks for sharing, Pooja!

  • Ray December 17, 2014, 2:29 am

    I get the same pain at the crown (upon moving the hair) with oily hair that immediately goes away with shampoo. My mother does also and asked me what causes it…but I didn’t know…and still don’t. I believe I’ve had it in places other than the crown also…but those pains aren’t as memorable.

  • Sarah December 29, 2014, 7:00 pm

    Hah! Okay, I’m joining the club! I’ve seen quite a few boards or Q/A blogs chat about this briefly, but never to this extent, so thanks for the space for this discussion!!

    I’ve always had this issue, which makes me never want long hair. I had a hair stylist explain that I have “heavy” hair, which was enough of a pseudo-diagnosis to make me feel satisfied. However, I’m growing hair long to have wedding style options, and the aches have been tremendous! I do get greasy hair fairly often. I am suspecting oil + a sensitive scalp + “heavy-ish hair.”

    If I have it in a ponytail (or any style), wherever the hair is going against the roots seems to be really tender. I try to do a pull-through bun, a french braid, or a different style instead.

    When I use a clarifying shampoo, it helps a lot. Plus, I try to go light on conditioner, as it seems to add weight to hair. Not ideal for a daily wash. Oh, and I really want to try the vinegar/bs wash!

    Someone mentioned blowdrying. If I blow dry my hair, it’s much better. I think this is because it dries the roots and fluffs them away….maybe it even alleviates the oil that drags down on roots.

    Also, if I do leave it wet, I’ve started combing (not brushing) it to massage my roots. This has been awesome.

    At times, I’ve gone super short, and it’s amazing to have the lighter weight and to ever deal with this.

    No clue what to name it.

  • Parneet January 7, 2015, 1:23 pm

    Happens with me all the time. Like she said, if I don’t wash it for a day, it will get greasy and next day the scalp will start hurting. If I massage my head I can feel the pain when the hair are moved. I have short hair, lovely and shiny but it becomes so irritating if I don’t wash them everyday. I used to have long hair as a kid but I cut them short coz of all types of headaches I used to get. I remember I didn’t have to wash it everyday, just 2 or 3x a week. It never got greasy then. Any suggestions what pain is this and is there a way to stop it? Thanks!

  • Sarah January 9, 2015, 12:13 pm

    I also have this scalp pain when I don’t wash it every day. I have lupus. I attribute it to that. I have heard of it with other autoimmune issues too such as Hashimoto’s which is a thyroid issue. Could be an inflammatory response.

  • Victoria January 9, 2015, 3:52 pm

    I have this to. I have really long hair and I have dyed it like 4 times in my life, last time was 5 years ago though. However, my hair is best when it is shampooed, bu when I don’t wash it after a couple days my scalp starts to hurt in a certain spot and it stays like that until I wash it. It’s like it is demanding to be clean haha, otherwise I condition it every day, but I guess for some weird, odd reason it has to be shampooed in order to not hurt. haha I wonder why that is?

  • Julie January 10, 2015, 7:17 am

    I also get achy scalp! I have long hair but I’ve noticed it only hurts
    when it’s oily. I can tie it as tight as I want when it’s clean but after two days without washing it, even a messy bun will be so painful :(

  • silent January 10, 2015, 11:56 pm

    I’ve had this problem also however I don’t have greasy hair nor does it itch ,it is extremely sensitive at the roots as some have said also like some, I have constant migraines so my question is; is it related to migraines? Sometimes if I cut my hair in layers it’ll eliminate the pain for at least a month then I guess as my hair grows back the pain comes back ..could it also be the weight of my hair ?..

  • silent January 11, 2015, 12:00 am

    I’ve had this problem also however I don’t have greasy hair nor does it itch ,it is extremely sensitive at the roots as some have said also like some, I have constant migraines so my question is; is it related to migraines? Sometimes if I cut my hair in layers it’ll eliminate the pain for at least a month then I guess as my hair grows back the pain comes back ..could it also be the weight of my hair ?.. as for the name HHS heavy hair syndrome?

  • dreamer January 13, 2015, 2:44 am

    I have been dealing with this problem for the past two years and have been researching this issue for months. I finally think I have a clue to the problem. I sure hope it helps everyone as I really think it is the source of the problem (along with the terrible products we often put on our hair).

    I was living in another area for 12 years and never had a problem with my hair. As a matter of fact, my hair (which I always keep bleached or dyed light) never looked or felt better. I kept it long (shoulder length or a bit longer) and frequently wore a pony tail or would twist it up into a clip at the back/top of my head all day long, every day. Sometimes I would go 4 or 5 days without washing it and never had an issue with oily hair, etc. I even had it cut real short a few times living there and still no problems.

    The one thing that was different when I lived in that area was the municipal water was “softened”. When I first moved there I hated the feel of the water as it seemed slimey and my hair wouldn’t squeak after rinsing. But I soon got used to it and realized how much better my skin and hair felt and looked. I never had dandruff, sore scalp, scalp breakouts, hair loss, sore roots, head odor, etc. Back then I used Prell Shampoo (original), or Sauve Clarifying Shampoo or their Coconut Shampoo, all the time and Sauve Coconut Crème Rinse. Prell Shampoo and Clarifying Shampoos are pretty harsh, but I never had a problem with any of them back then.

    Well, I now live in an area where the water is unbelievably hard. So hard, in fact, that I have to add 2 cups of white vinegar to every laundry load (I’ve also started adding 1/2 cup of washing soda too) in order to get the heavy minerals out of my clothes or else the dark clothes come out of the dryer with a white powdery film on them. After living here for about a year, I slowly began having all the hair problems everyone here is talking about and it has gotten progressively worse over the last 2 years. I also have the root pain, greasy hair, scalp breakouts, and lingering head odor right after I’ve washed it. It’s been driving me crazy. My dermatologist said it was an overgrowth of yeast which she said is what dandruff is and told me to use Head and Shoulders Shampoo, but it’s not really helping and just seems to add to the greasy feel.

    I began to suspect it was the hard water here, so last night I started googling the issue and found a blog where people were having the same problems with their hair and their water. Those who resolved their hair problems did so by installing a filtering shower head or installing a whole house water softener. Right now I’m using a vinegar rinse after shampooing, but it only helps temporarily because my pillow cases are washed in this hard water and they also get the mineral buildup on them as does all my laundry (the vinegar and washing soda only helps so much with the laundry).

    My advice to all is to either have your water tested for hardness (if you have well water), or contact your municipul water supplier and ask for a report on the hardness of their water. Your scalp and hair may be suffering from calcium/mineral residue buildup from your water. And even if they tell you your water isn’t “that” hard, you could be very sensitive to it just the same.

    I plan on installing a whole house water softener as I can no longer stand this hair problem. My head itches and hurts most of the time like there is something on my scalp. It has to be calcium buildup clogging my pores and making my scalp itch and break out. Even my body itches often.

    Hope this information helps. Good luck to everyone. I feel your pain.

    • Ria May 16, 2015, 2:23 am

      Just stumbled upon this thread / site as well, as I was itching my scalp wondering “why in the world does this happen?” I thank you for your post about the excessively Hard Water (and also the “No Poo” Entries while I’m at it…) because this may actually make some sense ! The water here is SO HARD, I must dry my Glasses right away with a MICROFIBER CLOTH or new thing I found – “Spiffy Cloth”, for No Water Spots… If I Do use the Dishwasher, I must use Special Soap, Rinse aid, salt to balance the ph… It’s KOOKEY. The Granite Will get white if we do not clean up water straight away.
      So, This Water HAS to be doing something to our hair… But, my weird itchy scalp came long after I moved here…

      My Hair is extremely Fine, Long- ish, but have Professionally Colored (not going there Yet) & I have used high quality products as long as I can remember. Yes, Products are Chemicals, but try best I can. As far as list shampoo products, I only try to use things to detangle , (Magic Potion and I can only use agreeable scents… I am very sensitive to Scents, perfumes, and Chemical smells.
      I do not use anything questionable, or especially drying, etc. I have been getting my hair highlighted and lowlighted for years… It makes me feel better about this very Minute amount of hair I have. I also now get it layered, and it really helps with the illusion of having more hair than I do.

      I’ve never ever had Oily Skin, or Oily Scalp until just a couple years ago. It was one of those, “Great, Just add that to the list” moments… And I cannot get over the Oil I see after 12 or so hours of washing my hair.
      Worth mentioning, I have had acne my whole life… (Nope, not tell in my age, but the F word is comin)
      I have had headaches all my life so to me, pain on or around my head is part of life…
      This “Hurting /Aching Scalp ~ Head Syndrome” because of Itchy Scalp is very hard to Articulate… And I Feel your Pain too. Frustrating, Annoying, Perplexing…
      I agree with the gal below me – if this gets posted around her entry- that this is not a headache but a “Scalp Ache” technically.

      After you get a bad mosquito bite, you itch the hell out of it, then it aches, and YOU KNOW IT’S THERE. This IS INFLAMMMATION. Period. Not happy tissue. Done deal.

      But how are we gonna get rid of this , why does this happen to our scalp?
      I have a feeling the Root Shaft does not get enough stimulation, circulation, and it just wants it. Nature’s way of making us to something about it. Stimulate it.

      I DO FIND I GET THIS FEELING MOST when I SHOULD wash my hair.
      I try to wash my hair every other day. Never every day. If I go past that, ~ Itchy Scalp.
      I too dislike all the PREP to get HUMAN AGAIN…Shower, wash hair, get tangles out, remove hair from drain , exfoliate, Shave,… O MY GOD – YEAH.
      MEN HAVE IT NICE. Sorry, had to be said.

      But
      I can tell you some things that MAY help, coming from a Chronic Headache sufferer.
      Not wearing your hair up in a Claw, Bun or something that pulls on your head is A NO BRAINER… There were some scrunchies on the market years ago I STILL HOPE I WILL FIND… That were “No Hurt ” , made of Velour. They were AWESOME! Never pulled on your hair.
      Another thing to do… Get a MINTY OIL of some sort, to get u by until you can wash your hair~ Like Aveda’s Blue Oil (I think it’s called). I wasn’t using it for my headaches, but found it & thought this would be great! It is it a little pricey, but is convenient, quick, and when you DO FINALLY hit the Shower, the lukewarm water feels GREAT ON YOUR SCALP!!!! AHHHHH!!!!
      Now, you can probably make your own, but I have other things to make!
      Also, I will not wear Glasses – insist on Contacts, (even for Close up work) as ANYTHING ON MY HEAD HURTS. If I wear Sunglasses (Crucial, if we are talking headaches, no matter what they are from) make sure they are good ones with Springs at hinges, do not Squeeze your temples at the ear areas… And Rose Color Lenses or “Bronze” are wonderful, you can wear these all the time … Even inside Buildings and see great. Now this relates more to to “Headaches” , but maybe it can help someone.

      I hope we find a resolve to this. Thank you for all your help. My head is ITCHY. Gotta go & wash Hair!!!!

      • Randy Schueller May 16, 2015, 7:55 am

        Excellent comment, Ria. Thank you! (It makes me wanna wash my hair too!)

  • MM January 13, 2015, 8:59 pm

    This has happened to me for years, and still does now that I am 60. I simply need to wash less often, but end up with an achy crown so I wash to relieve the pain. No ponytails involved and not heavily oily – even after a few days.
    Someone should do a scientific study!

  • Meera January 19, 2015, 4:42 am

    I have the exact problem. And I think the correct description is not a headache, it should be a scalp-ache(going by me) as a scalp ache is more superficial. I feel a foreign-body sensation in my roots when I shift my hair and there is pain. I have a very oily scalp. The dermatologist I went to said that because I have an oily scalp, the dandruff causes inflammation of the roots and thus the pain. There is no problem at all if I use a medicated shampoo for dandruff every alternate day and shampoo everyday but that is really difficult to manage.
    And I have no disorders or even long hair, I have shoulder-length hair.

  • Meera January 19, 2015, 4:50 am

    Oh and here’s an option for ladies with oily scalps and the same problem– wash your hair with your regular, unmedicated, non-special-anything shampoo and then use a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo(not head n shoulders), use a shampoo that contains ZPTO or selenium oxide and wash hair according to the directions on the bottle. Use a conditioner after that. It takes time but trust me, it works wonders!

  • Liz January 21, 2015, 12:36 am

    I use tar shampoo for dandruff on a regular basis. As my hair gets longer my head will start to hurt from time to time, only relieved by washing. I think it has to do with how the hair hangs, and the length of your hair. I don’t get any pains when my hair is short. I grew my hair out, and always wear it in a loose pony tale. I painted the ceiling recently and my scalp hurt so bad afterwards, I was in agony. My hair was loose and clean and hurt. I feel that there is a certain weight and a certain direction a hair follicle can hold a hair and if it’s wrong it hurts like someone is trying to pull out your hair. When I get tired of long hair woes I have mine chopped and donated to locks of love. I never feel such scalp pains with short hair. I used to get itchy like scabs in my hair till I started using tar shampoo once a week. Tar shampoo cured that for me.

  • krystal January 24, 2015, 5:05 pm

    Yes this happens to me a lot I never knew y I have short hair three inches below my ears and its so very thick idk if mine hurts all the time because of how much I’ve dyed it or what but even shampooing in the a.m it hurts in the afternoon I have to put biooil in my hair and rub it in to make it go away its been like this since I was 19 but like I’ve said I dye it three four times a yr I know its bad how would I fix my hair its completely dead its been two years since I cut my hair to my ears and it only grew three in a half inches is there anything I can do to grow it plz don’t say stop dying it cause I have thanks for any help

  • Kim January 28, 2015, 4:58 am

    I experience the same soreness of my scalp when my hair is greasy and it is quite sensitive and unpleasant. My hair is down to my chin so not very long. I am very curious to find out what is going with this scalp sensation.

  • Gabby January 29, 2015, 11:38 pm

    Literally dealing with this right now…at this very moment.

    I do have greasy hair, but this happens when my hair is clean too. And it only hurts, it’s not itchy and I don’t get scabs or anything. I had to take some pain killers to deal with it. It’s horrible! I have to say though…it only happens when I put my hair in a ponytail. Oh, and – I have long, thick hair.

  • Vanstressa January 31, 2015, 3:19 pm

    I’m curious. I never used to experience these pains when I was growing up. Only in the past year. May I ask how old everyone is who is experiencing this pain? If we narrow the options, we may be able to come to a solution (eg: did the shampoo manufacturers change the ingredients? If so, when….).

  • Krint February 6, 2015, 5:31 pm

    Not this is a random thought, how many of you are using laptops? How many of you are using metal based laptops (mac book pro) is there a link between these factors, are they sending electricity through us and making our hair stand on end… seems in the past 2-3 years alopecia has become increasingly common. Please post how long you have been using your laptop on your lap….

  • Julie F February 11, 2015, 1:28 pm

    I am so glad I’m not alone on this! I have it right now (Wednesday) and I washed my hair on Sunday. Usually I can go every other day just fine, but after that my scalp definitely can hurt (particularly the crown.) It’s not all over my head (and not a headache) but specific spots and hurts most when I move it around. It’s bad after wearing my dirty hair up for a while and then I let it down… it’s like it still wants to go up. I have long hair, wavy, not super thick but LOTS of it.

  • Geneva February 19, 2015, 7:27 pm

    I get this scalp pain, too! I am not alone. I cannot believe that this is a thing. Soreness starts on Day 3 oily and dirty hair and won’t go away unless I wash or clean it. Dry shampoo is a band-aid fix but the soreness returns after a few hours. It seems like it won’t go away unless I wash my hair. Massaging also hurts. It’s like spreading the soreness all over. I have long straight hair that I wear loose. I don’t blow dry or iron my hair. I don’t have dandruff and my hair is generally healthy-looking. I don’t have the scalp soreness if I’m able to keep up with my shampoo-every-other-day routine. I have no clue why.

  • nayab February 21, 2015, 8:06 am

    me too suffering from this problem :( nd its breath taking :(

  • whorls February 21, 2015, 3:27 pm

    For me it has to do with grease and cowlicks (whorls) and God knows what else…. http://modernfarmer.com/2014/09/complexity-cow-lick/

  • Chash February 22, 2015, 1:27 pm

    This happens to me as well. I have long hair and usually wear it down. My hair is extra oily, and have also tried to go more than one day without shampooing. I can usually get away with it, except for the days during which I exercise. Exercising causes instant overly greasy hair and the pain while even exercising. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I were to find myself without shampoo or soap for my hair, after a week it would be an interestingly dramatic result of grease running… it’s pretty gross, therefor I will stop there

  • Angela February 24, 2015, 11:11 am

    I have this too! Everyone I ask about it, including doctors don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. Washing it always helps. It’s an achey feeling and my head is actually sore, really sore. Someone said to try baby powder on the off shampooing days.

  • Nancy February 26, 2015, 9:39 am

    I can’t believe I am reading this. I have had this on and off all my life but at the moment is is unbearable. Interestingly I have hyperthyroidism and pernicious anaemia and it seems to be linked to the sore scalp thing. This week I have been really run down: sore throat, ear ache etc and all of the classic hypperthyroidism symptoms worsen, like croaky voice, dry skin, tiredness etc have cranked up along with the terrible scalp pains. There are so many great answers on here, I think mine will be looking to my GP for answers.

  • Leslie March 10, 2015, 10:44 pm

    Omg! I have a headache as I type this out right now. I’m so glad that I’m not alone on this. My hair is about 4-5in past my shoulders and very thick and oily. I also get the pain when I don’t wash it for a few days. A shower usually helps but not right away. It takes an hour or 2 for me to feel some relief because painkillers don’t help. It’s always on the crown too, ugh. It gets so swollen and inflamed. Im SO SO SO happy I found this post though! I thought I was going crazy!

  • Julianne March 14, 2015, 4:18 pm

    Im not the only one!
    Im having a headache right now and ive realised that I havent washed my hair for two days! I guess ill be a daily washer now!
    The pain is really at the roots and hurts everytime I move my hair around! (My hair is a bit more than shoulder length)
    Thanks so much!!

  • Alicia March 16, 2015, 12:35 pm

    I too get sores from going days without washing my hair. The reason we get this is caused from bacteria not being washed away. Mine gets worse as I sweat in gym and not washing the same day. I also experience hair loss if I let the sweat and bacteria sit on my scalp too long. I hope my information helps.

  • Mallika March 18, 2015, 8:40 am

    I experience this.
    I have heavy thick shoulder length hair that’s been shorter and I still get a pain a couple of days after washing my scalp, the day the greasiness sets in. The pain is around the back area of the crown, sometimes only on the right side, other times the whole back area of the crown where I have what I think is a cow lick and hair has some of directions that it grows in. Meaning not directly flowing down like the surrounding hair. There’s no relief from this except tying my hair really tight and chocking away the pain but the minute I open it again it’s like hell. Can’t touch my scalp in the painful areas as it feels overly sensitive .Washing does relieve it. I’m so relieved to read that there more ppl out there who experience it as no doctor seems to understand what I’m telling them.

  • delightful March 26, 2015, 7:34 am

    This is what has worked for me; I wash my hair every day with a few drops of tea tree oil and make sure it doesn’t get into your eyes (I used tea tree oil every other day) mixed in with the shampoo in the palm of your hand leave on for two to three minutes rinse out do not use conditioner on scalp only on the rest of your hair is okay. I did this until the pain was gone took me about two weeks.
    If you have some areas that are still sensitive I dabbed a little baking soda in those areas and the pain was gone.
    I did see the doctor about this problem he said its happening more and more these days it has something to do with certain shampoos that remove natural oil on the scalp and in order to remedy this the company has put some other synthetic oil back into the shampoo which are causing my oil ducts to clog. The doctor did mention to me to use a baby shampoo from now on because it is mild on the scalp and conditioner only on hair past the scalp and no other products are to be used on the hair after shower either.
    I do suggest if you have this problem do consult a doctor first as they know best what the problem is.

  • PB March 30, 2015, 4:55 am

    GHAPSS (Greasy Hair Aches and Painful Scalp Syndrome)

    PAPUS (Painful Alien Probe Under Scalp Syndrome)

    PISS (Painful Irritated Scalp Syndrome)

    LAPS (Localized Area of Pain on the Scalp)

    I thought this was just sore follicles, but never thought it was from not washing. I tend to skip a day or three a week. I normally use organic and natural oil shampoos but I do have oily hair. I thought I read that when you strip the oils from your hair/skin it tries to balance out by producing extra oils. I like the idea of using baking soda and vinegar, gonna try that soon.

    • Randy Schueller March 30, 2015, 7:24 am

      “PISS” made me laugh and “GHAPSS” made me think of “GASP” (Greasy Achy Scalp Pain.)

  • Amanda Gibson April 8, 2015, 12:57 pm

    It was just on a whim that I decided to search for something about this topic.

    I’m glad I’m not alone. It really is like sore spots and to be honest it is really only the spots where I put my hair out. This only perpetuates the bad cycle as the soreness makes me want pull the strands out even more. UGH

    Definitely notice it after not washing my hair for longer periods than I usually do. I have very thick and curly hair so unlike most of the girls in these comments I cant wash my hair more than once a week. I know some of you are probably thinking that it’s gross but every one is different and with thick hair its takes 24 hrs to dry on its own , or is too expensive to go to the salon or is an intense work out if I do it my self.. about a 2 hour process soo yea no I only do it once a week. That is if I do it straight. if I do my hair curly then yes 2x a week as if I leave it longer it becomes dread locked because i cannot brush it when it is curly.

    I know most of you wont understand and on well lucky you have thin hair.

    But this soreness is still the same. I read one of the comments further up that it could be a build up blocking the roots which makes sense when you need to wash your hair.

    At the end of the day I think we have all found the same issue. It arrises when they hair needs to be washed. Wether it’s 1 week, 2-3 days or 1-2 days everyone’s hair is different.

    Im just glad I finally got some answers and opinions on the sensation I feel!

  • Anne April 12, 2015, 2:03 am

    I believe it has to do with the cranial nerves
    I really want someone to figure this out …. I suspect itdcs condition mostly experienced by women … Only thing that helps me is humming which gently massages scalp from inside

  • Tara April 20, 2015, 12:53 pm

    Years ago I researched about this and couldn’t find any information. I am glad I am not alone. One thing that causes this for me is Magnesium supplements. So I stopped taking Mg. Massage works for me and when I can’t wash my hair because of time (mine is very long) I use corn starch to remove the oil and this works too. Again I am glad I am not alone thinking I have a tumor :-)

  • Beth May 2, 2015, 6:47 pm

    I’ve been experiencing one sore spot at the dead center on the top of my head, hair breaking and splitting at the ends, texture has went from silky straight and smooth to coarse and kinky at the ends, I have no idea what caused it, it started when my hair was long but I cut it all off thinking that would help but still the same.. it gets a sticky substance also and when I run my fingers threw my hair the broken pieces seem to stick to the tips of my fingers… does anybody know what’s going on or ways to help? It’s exhausting and hurts really bad…

  • Charlotte May 16, 2015, 10:31 pm

    YES!! ALL THE TIME!! I usually wait a few days to take a shower and usually around day 3 my head hurts and if I leave it till day 4 it’s excruciating!!! I have boy short on one side and fairly long on the other. It’s not nearly as bad on the boy short side but it’s still there.

  • Milli Burg May 17, 2015, 9:57 pm

    Hi,
    My daughter has had these intense scalp pains for many years. She says her “hair hurts”. She has extremely thick and curly blonde hair that is now shoulder length. We have had it thinned and layered to help with the problem of her hair hurting. We have asked people and nobody seems to know what we are talking about. She says it helps when she washes her hair, but she doesn’t wash it every day because of the process of drying, straightening, etc… takes too long. I have wondered if it could be a type of fungus from her hair being so thick and not drying properly, but it sounds like that probably isn’t the cause. I am thinking about taking her to a dermatologist to see what they have to say about this issue. It is helpful to be able to read about others with the same problems. I have looked online to find information about this and this is the best that I have come across!
    Hope doctors can find a cause and solution.

  • roja May 19, 2015, 4:57 am

    I face the exact same problem……if I don’t wash my hair….every day leaving it oily….my head eventually ends up hurting……I actually had sebohorreic dermatitis(caused by fungus malazzeia which feeds on oil nd releses products which can cause both itching as well as pain in scalp and other body parts)Which had gone unnoticed and whose effects i had ignored until it started to affect my studies and daily routine…..I visited a dermatologist who diagnosed me with this disease and told me that my hair was very oily and I needed to was my hair with a cleanser every single day….and I don’t get those throbbing pains as long as I cleanse my hair properly!….I knw whtchya going through…..y not use a gentle cleanser that u can safely use to clean your hair everyday without bringing much damage to it!….hope this works forya! :)

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