by Jenny Bailly
Delphine AchardRecently, after a five-day stretch without shampooing (hey, I had a great blowout--and there was a polar vortex on), my hair was painfully dirty. Literally. My scalp hurt.
The cure was simple: I washed my hair, combed it out, and left it loose. Pain gone. But I was curious about how my greasy roots could actually cause me physical discomfort. I called Jennifer Chwalek, a New York City dermatologist who has done research in hair biology. Her first possible explanation: seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff, a condition aggravated by oil buildup. But I didn't experience itching or notice flakes--could it still be dandruff? "Sometimes seborrheic dermatitis manifests only as scalp inflammation and tenderness," countered Chwalek. But not usually. A more likely explanation: the dirty-hair ponytail. "When your hair starts to get greasy, do you pull it back?" asked Chwalek. But of course. "Well, just a couple days of tight ponytails or buns can create enough traction on the scalp to irritate the superficial nerve endings around the hair follicles," she explained. The result: Your hair hurts. If your hair is long and thick (mine is), the more acute the discomfort. Mystery solved. And going forward, my dirty-hair style of choice: loose braid.
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