Have you experienced ‘hairache’? The annoying discomfort you feel after taking your hair out of an updo at the end of a long day is something most of you are probably familiar with. It happens to me on a regular basis, even after a simple loose ponytail. So, what happens when your hair ‘hurts’? Is the ache coming from your hair, your head, or both? As it turns out, it’s not your actual hair that hurts at all.
Dr. Angela Lamb is the director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice, director of dermatology at the Institute of Family Health and an assistant dermatology professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. She told The Huffington Post that it’s the nerve endings attached to each specific hair that are actually affected when the pain happens.
“Hair follicles are some of the first receptors of feeling,” she said. “Your hair is a whole component of your nervous system, so when you pull it up that puts pressure on the nerve endings that are at the root of the follicle. When you do that over time, they get sore.”
According to Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles dermatologist, it also has to do with how your hair grows accustomed to one position. “The nerve endings get used to the hair being in that direction,” Wu says. “Then when you take your hair down, the nerve endings get stimulated again, so your scalp feels more sensitive.”
Of course, this does not mean that you should never wear your hair in a ponytail. But the discomfort you feel from time to time is not completely harmless. As a matter of fact, pulling your hair up repeatedly and too often can, as Lamb explained, “put you at risk for something we call traction alopecia: Hair loss literally just from putting up stress and tension on the hair.” Wu added that repeated pulling can also make your hair a lot “thinner”.
That’s not all! If you are constantly wearing the same old hairdo, it can permanently damage your hair. “Hair is dead, it’s just made of Keratin, but certainly if you put too much tension and pressure on it, that can cause breakage,” Lamb said. That’s why you should try different variations of updos, including braids and ponytails.
When it comes to braids, it’s important that we remember these can sometimes pull tightly on the scalp. Lamb warns that “braids are one of the main culprits of traction alopecia,” and that goes for all hair types. Her advice for women who love braids is: “Make sure they are loose and not pulling on the hair too much or too tight.”
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your hair, but make sure to be careful when it comes to your scalp.
“Don’t do it every day,” Dr. Angela Lamb says. “If you have it up during the day, be sure to take it out for the evening. And just don’t do a pulled back style daily ― that’s when you can run into problems.”
Here‘s a throwback of hairdos from the 60s.