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Maybe you've been there: At the end of a long day, you take your hair down and it feels ... weird, maybe even painful.
It's as if your hair has a mind of its own and it really wants to be back up in that ponytail. Sound familiar?
It's a common sensation, but why does it happen? First of all, it's not really our hair itself that's hurting, but the structure underneath that's getting stressed.
"The way to think about it is that the hair you see is just the tip of the iceberg," Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, director of hair disorders for Kaiser Permanente in northern California, told TODAY Style. "There's a lot going on underneath the hair — nerve endings, blood vessels, oil glands. If you think of that structure as a unit, that sensation starts to make a little more sense. If you move the top portion, the hair fiber effects what's going on underneath."
And when that structure gets pulled in a direction it's not used to for a long period of time, it almost gets stuck. Mirmirani warned that the problem can be worse for people who have long, thick hair.
"There's probably also some folks who just have an increased sensitivity," she added. "Just like how some people are naturally more sensitive on their skin."
Unfortunately, there's no fix once that "hair hurt" sinks in. In fact, in severe cases, it might be a warning sign for something more problematic, said Dr. Shani Francis, a hair loss specialist in the Chicago area.
"It's good to think of your hair like a flower or plant that's anchored into the soil," she told TODAY Style. "Any time you're constantly pulling on something, constantly pulling on that plant, if there is sustained tension, eventually it's going to cause a symptom — inflammation. And sustained or chronic inflammation can turn into what we refer to as traction alopecia."
In other words, hair loss.
"People get this with hair weaves, man buns — you see it (with) ballerinas because they always wear the tight buns on top of their heads," Francis said.
So what's a long-haired girl (or guy!) to do? Try to rotate the height of your ponytail throughout the day, and save the tightest styles for special occasions.
Mirmirani and Francis, both board-certified dermatologists with the American Academy of Dermatology, said many of their patients suffering from hair loss had warning signs all along, but ignored them. So if you feel any pain from tight ponytails or other hairstyles, take caution and back off. Hey, blowouts are always in style!
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