Can a ponytail be a headache to wear? Pony-tentially. Take a look at this Twitter exchange between singers Camila Cabello and Ariana Grande:
Granted, Grande’s ponytail is larger than your typical ponytail. It is a grande ponytail or perhaps even venti one. It sits very high on her head and is large enough to have been the subject of this Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon skit:
No, Grande’s ponytail doesn’t look and act like Chewbacca’s arm in real life. In case you didn’t know, those were props used in the skit. Nonetheless, Grande’s hairstyle is indeed an advanced one that not everyone can dive into wearing. In other words, it may not be for “wookies.”
That’s because a ponytail and its impact is about physics and biology. Heck there is even a ponytail shape equation, published in Physical Review Letters in case you wanted to predict what your ponytail will look like, given factors such as stiffness of your hairs, gravity, and the curliness or waviness of your hair. Alternatively, you could just look in the mirror and try different types of ponytails. The tighter you pull a ponytail and the more weight there is, the more pressure you may put on your scalp. Unless your scalp is made of chiffon, it can withstand a little tugging. However, a pull that is too strong can irritate the nerve endings in your scalp. That’s one reason you typically don’t attach a barbell to your ponytail.
But sometimes the irritation felt from your ponytail can go beyond the simple tugging feeling. Stimulating these nerve endings could possibly cause a chain reaction, activating other nerves, making your skin particularly hypersensitive and leading to a condition called cutaneous allodynia. Cutaneous allodynia is when a normally non-painful stimulus, such as lightly touching your hair or gently combing your hair, causes a disproportionate amount of skin or scalp pain. That’s when you start experiencing real ponytail pain.
Further progression of the chain reaction can lead to ponytail headaches or discomfort beyond the area that is directly being pulled. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a one-trick ponytail. The same type of ponytail can cause very different reactions for different people. A comfortable hair style for someone else, may not be so nice for you and vice-versa. Moreover, having a history of frequent tension headaches or migraines can mean that you are more susceptible to developing a ponytail headache. Also, anything that may change the sensitivity of your nerves such as fibromyalgia or various neuropathies can make you more likely to get different types of ponytail pain.
Oh, and even though I have been using the terms ponytail pain and ponytail headaches, these issues are not exclusive to ponytails. Any hairstyle or situation that may pull at your scalp may cause these phenomena. It’s just that terms like “man bun pain” and “man bun headaches” may have other connotations.
Hair’s another risk of pulling hair your hair tightly for too long. Traction alopecia is a condition in which repeated tension on your hair follicles damages them, leading to hair loss. Initially, this can be temporary, with your hair re-growing once the tension is relieved and damage has healed. However with continued or repeated tension and damage, eventually the hair may not re-grow.
This process does not happen overnight but takes time. So there should be time to change your ‘do if you see some of the warning signs, like bumps, redness, itching, scaling, blisters, or stinging on your scalp or missing or broken hairs.
Therefore, try to not be too tight with your ponytail, meaning tight in a physics sense and not a fashion or friendship sense. If your hai style is making it difficult to close your eyes, it is way too tight. Wearing a hairstyle should not feel like getting BoTox. Pay attention to any pain that you may be suffering. If you are experiencing discomfort, experiment with altering the positioning of your ponytail. Moving your ponytail around your head and wearing your hair down periodically can give your scalp a rest. If you still have pain after you’ve let your hair down, try gently massaging your scalp. Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain medications may help but don’t take these too often.
Nonetheless, don’t let this news discourage you from wearing a ponytail. While I don’t have general population ponytail statistics, many, many people seem to wear ponytails or similar hairstyles every day with no real problems. Ponytails can have lots of advantages such as being easier to maintain than some other styles and keeping your hair out of your face, especially if you are playing sports. You can’t stereotype someone’s experience with a ponytail. For example, not all men who wear ponytails own ferrets.
Just be aware of the hair that you wear and adjust your ‘do so that it fits you.