Doctors Warn Against 'Scalp Popping' After 'Disturbing' Video Goes Viral

Scalp popping has risen once again on TikTok, and although it has a long history in South American cultures, doctors have warned Newsweek against the practice.

Popular TikTok cosmetic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn duetted the goosebump-inducing video just yesterday with his reaction, and it has gained over a million views already.

In the original clip, a barber tugged at the hair of his client, inducing a chilling popping noise multiple times.

"What the hell is going on here," said Dr. Youn in his video response. "This is when you pull the hair so hard you pop the galea off the skull that you create a popping sound."

For most, the startling noise is enough to deter them, but for those tempted to try it themselves, Newsweek spoke to doctors who broke down the practice and warned directly against it.

"The popping sound you hear is when the hair is pulled so hard you're actually popping the galea off from the skull," said Dr. Ross Perry, managing director of medical and cosmetic skin clinics Cosmedics Skin Clinics. "The galea is the tough fibrous sheet of connective tissue that extends over the cranium, forming the middle layer of the scalp. The fact that he continues to do this in numerous places on the head is shocking and disturbing.

"This should never be attempted at home or in a salon as there are a number of dangers associated with this. Firstly you can easily tear the inside of the scalp which can lead to bleeding and possible infections, it can become sore and extremely uncomfortable. It can also cause damage to the hair follicle on a long term basis which could lead to hair loss and let's not forget damage to the neck and head from the force of the hair being pulled," he added.

"It can [also] cause a subgaleal hematoma which is when a pool of blood forms under the scalp and can be incredibly dangerous."

Stating the Obvious

Yannis Giantzides, managing director at Harley Street Hair Transplant Clinics, explained the damage scalp popping can have on hair to Newsweek: "To state the first, obvious one— painfully ripping and pulling your hair out and consequently creating patchy bald areas all over your scalp. It could potentially cause folliculitis too. This can be a very itchy, sore and unpleasant skin condition where hair follicles become inflamed."

Although the recent viral video has zoned in on the practice, South American communities have embraced scalp popping, or chukake, for a long time and regard it as an effective remedy for headaches.

"This technique was much practiced in my family. My mother and my aunts were experts in pulling hair. They would pull on each other's hair when they had headaches," wrote Brayan Coraza Morveli for Cusco Eats.

"I remember that people would often come to our house to have their hair pulled. Almost always it seemed they were on the edge of fainting from pain. They would say that they had taken a lot of medicine or pills and that the pain would not go away. Their last option was to come to our house and, as you might expect, they went away very grateful for having their pain alleviated, for being cured of it."

Although the technique is praised by some, others have suggested that the effectiveness of it is simply just the distraction the sensation offers from the headache pain instead.

Dr. Ross Perry addressed this idea, telling Newsweek: "'Scalp popping' isn't new and Mexican women and other cultures have been doing it for years as a way of allegedly relieving headaches, however there are no medical trials or research which backs this theory up. In my opinion, it just isn't even worth attempting."

Man pulling hair against white background
A file photo of a man pulling his hair. Getty Images