The ‘Scalp Popping’ TikTok Trend Isn’t Just Gross—It’s Dangerous

Photo credit: Bongkochrut Rojanatreekoon / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bongkochrut Rojanatreekoon / EyeEm - Getty Images

A fascinating, yet somewhat scary TikTok video is going viral of a barber engaging in what's been called "scalp popping," where he pulls his client's hair hard enough to create a popping sound against the skull. The single video has already garnered over 1.7 million views. While it appears satisfying to the client (and maybe the viewer), doctors are warning against this controversial TikTok trend.

The trend is so risky that even TikTok has issued a warning against it on the hashtag #scalppopping: "Performance, imitation, or encouragement of dangerous amateur stunts and risky behavior that can lead to serious injury or death is not permitted on TikTok," the company said in a statement.

What is scalp popping?

"This is when pull the hair so hard you pop the galea off of the skull that you create [a] popping sound," explains Anthony Youn, M.D., a Detroit-based plastic surgeon and TikToker with over 5.6 million followers, in a recent video reacting to the trend. The galea aponeurotica is a tough sheet of soft tissue connected to the scalp.

TikTok users are claiming that they or others have tried the method as a treatment for head-related ailments ranging from migraines to cluster headaches.

Dr. Youn explains in a previous video on the trend that by popping the soft tissue off of the skull like this, you can cause bleeding or a nasty sore on the side of your head.

Is scalp popping bad?

In short, yes. Scalp popping is very bad.

"Please don't do this!" Dr. Youn wrote in a comment. "It can tear the inside of the scalp, which can bleed a ton on the inside. Think Boxer or MMA fighter with scalp hematoma."

"I would be concerned that the hair follicle would be damaged at the base, creating inflammation and even scarring," says Mona Gohara, M.D., a Connecticut-based dermatologist. "Scalps weren't meant to be popped."

If you've seen what these blood-filled cysts look like on someone's head, or are worried about losing your hair in general, that should be enough to stay away from scalp popping.


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