For most people, strapping on their seatbelt as soon as they sit in a car occurs naturally with little thought. Now, TikTokers are issuing PSAs for an entirely new and unconventional car safety tip: Remove that claw clip from your hair before hitting the road.
The warning comes after a handful of people have shared their own painful and now-viral experiences with the chunky hair accessory, named for its large hair-grabbing teeth, after getting into a car crash while wearing one. The videos are sending shockwaves of fear among the many “claw clip girlies.”
Put simply, the clip can slash your scalp if your car is hit or rams into an object, forcing your head backward onto the pointy object.
It happened to a TikToker who goes by @paisley.rileyyy. While riding in a side-by-side (a type of off-road vehicle) with a friend, a sharp turn shoved her head backward into a metal pole, thrusting a claw clip into her scalp. Luckily, she didn’t experience any head trauma besides a cut big enough to require five staples. The clip, in case you’re wondering, remained unscathed.
“I was very lucky; it could’ve been so much worse,” Paisley said in one of her TikToks.
A girl in the UK shared her much more dramatic story earlier this week on TikTok. After crashing into a tree, her car skidded across the road and flipped over, smushing a claw clip into her head, where it remained lodged until a nurse removed it at a hospital, according to the Mirror. The clip left an 11-inch gash in her scalp.
Emma Jurkowski, 21, shared her claw clip accident on TikTok back in 2021, long before the helpful PSAs started making their rounds on social media. The California model and college student told BuzzFeed News she got into a minor fender bender when a large gardening truck hit her car from behind in a residential area.
Both Jurkowski and her friend were wearing claw clips in their hair when the collision occurred. The pair were spared from having their scalps injured, but they did experience some headaches and neck pain that lasted a few days. (Jurkowski followed up with a doctor due to a history of concussions; she was OK!)
“It was a pretty minor incident to where I think if we didn’t have claw clips in, we probably wouldn’t even have been in any pain at all,” said Jurkowski, who noted that the clip kept her head in a forward position, so the awkward angle likely contributed to her lasting neck pain following the impact.
“I didn’t even know this was a thing,” Jurkowski said, “but we were very fortunate it wasn’t a serious accident.”
Dr. J Mack Slaughter, an emergency medicine doctor working in the north Texas region, told BuzzFeed News he has discussed the claw clip chaos with other emergency physicians in the state who said they’ve personally seen a couple of cases. However, Slaughter said there are no known cases of a clip actually penetrating the skull. (Some TikTok commenters have said that some people have died because of a claw clip wound, but there’s no evidence to validate those claims.)
“It would take a lot of force for it to penetrate the skull, which is so strong that these plastic claw clips would be much more likely to break before that would happen, although some with those really thick teeth make me wonder,” said Slaughter, who also spoke to several neurosurgeons who said they haven’t treated anyone after a claw clip accident because cases weren’t severe enough to warrant their care.
“If we’re talking about life-threatening injuries, my suspicion for that is pretty low,” Slaughter said. “Fortunately, it’s not an injury that would land you in the intensive care unit for a month or anything. As long as there’s not an associated fracture of the neck or spine, then it’s something we usually can fix in the ER and send the patient home.”
Claw clips that have metal pieces could pose greater injury risks, but the plastic ones are enough to cause some damage. In many cases, the clip won’t even break upon impact (Jurkowski’s didn’t), but you may actually be better off if it does, Slaughter said.
“It’s better for the force to be absorbed by the clip itself and then it shatters,” Slaughter said, “rather than the clip maintaining its integrity and then exerting all that force directly into your scalp.”
It’s possible too that in some circumstances, your claw clip can protect you from more serious head injuries like a concussion, but that depends on the shape and rigidity of the clip’s material, Slaughter said.
“If it’s thinner, rounded, and more flexible, it could end up absorbing or displacing some of the force of impact, which could potentially be protective against more serious head trauma,” Slaughter said. “But if it’s a thick and rigid linear clip, it would simply transmit the force directly to the head, which, especially if said clip has sharp points, could definitely cause more damage.”
Wounds from claw clips after a car crash can look pretty gruesome, though, because any injury to the head or face results in a lot of bleeding, often making it look much worse than it really is.
“It just bleeds and bleeds and bleeds because it's overcompensating to make sure that there's always enough blood flow to the brain; without blood flow, the brain dies rather quickly,” Slaughter said. “People come into the emergency room all the time with a very small laceration to their scalp, but in their minds it's like a fatal wound because it's just bleeding everywhere, their hair is drenched, their faces are caked in dried blood, but then we find the cut and it's like an inch.”
That said, the best way to avoid this kind of injury is to remove your claw clip — and just anything that’s sharp or pointy from behind your head — while in a car, or use a scrunchie or other accessory to hold your hair back instead.
And while you’re practicing safe driving etiquette, Slaughter said to remember to keep your feet off the dashboard. If a car stops abruptly or an airbag deploys, it can put you at risk for serious injury, such as a hip fracture.
Slaughter offered this bonus tip for people concerned about car accidents: Attach a seatbelt cutter and window puncher to your keychain, because they could help you get out of a car if involved in a serious crash.