Saturday, July 13, 2024

Hair Cracking: About the Dangerous Scalp Popping Trend

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By now, you should know that TikTok, while amazing at times, is loaded with beauty hacks, trends, and tips that you definitely should not try. On said list are things like using hemorrhoid cream for undereye bags, replacing your perfume with juice from “vabbing,” and this thing called hair cracking or scalp popping. If you’ve stumbled upon one of these videos, the sound is likely burned into your mind forever.

Scalp popping, which is usually performed by someone on another person, involves yanking on a piece of hair to produce a popping sound. Many TikTok-famous dermatologists have reacted to the viral videos on the practice, advising strongly against it. But why would someone want to do it in the first place? We tapped an expert to find out.

Keep reading to learn more about scalp popping, including exactly what it is and some of the potential dangers of trying the trend.

Experts Featured in This Article

Muneeb Shah, MD, is dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery, which is based in New York City.

What Is Hair Cracking?

The videos on hair cracking are pretty jarring and may cause you to question if they’re fake, but doctors confirm this is a real thing. “Scalp popping is where people pull rapidly on the root of the hair, leading to a popping sensation,” dermatologist Muneeb Shah, MD, tells PS.

That shocking sound you hear isn’t a special effect. “The popping sensation is an audible noise produced when the galea aponeurotica separates from the underlying tissue,” Dr. Shah says. The galea aponeurotica is the medical term for the fibrous connective tissue of your scalp. The practice is believed to originate from parts of Asia and is said in some cultures to help relieve certain ailments like migraines or a bad cough, but it’s not supported by Western medicine.

Theoretically, scalp popping is something everyone is capable of, no matter your hair type. “Everyone has a similar anatomy when it comes to layers of the scalp,” says Dr. Shah. That said, if you have fragile or damaged hair, “it’s more likely to break than to pull enough to create the popping sound.” This leads us to the risks associated with trying this.

Hair Cracking Risks

There aren’t any scientifically proven benefits to hair cracking. “Similar to cracking your knuckles,” Dr. Shah says. “It can be fun to do but there really is no clinical benefit.” However, there are some pretty real and scary risks — including that it hurts.

“While the galea itself has no blood vessels, there are a lot of blood vessels that run above and below the level of the galea,” he says. “Separating the layers of tissue here can lead to bleeding, although it would be uncommon.” A risk that’s much more likely to occur is hair loss caused by traction alopecia. “[This] occurs when too much pressure or trauma is caused to the hair follicle — this is a permanent form of hair loss.”

Considering there are no proven benefits to scalp popping but there are very real risks, Dr. Shah offers this last piece of parting advice: “Don’t do everything you see on TikTok.”

Jessica Harrington is the senior beauty editor at PS, where she writes about hair, makeup, skin care, piercings, tattoos, and more. As a New York City-based writer and editor with a degree in journalism and over eight years of industry experience, she loves to interview industry experts, keep up with the latest trends, and test new products.

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