Frequently Asked Questions About Traction Alopecia


Traction-Alopecia--An-FAQ (1)


Q. Can my ponytail or braids really cause hair loss?

Everyone has different hair root tolerance. Some scalps can accommodate the tension of a hairstyle, and others can’t. Some people’s hair follicles will react negatively right away, but for others this will happen gradually over time. It’s not the actual style of the braid that causes the hair loss, but rather it’s the tension used by the person doing the braiding — if this individual pulls too tightly for the roots’ tolerance and the style is worn that way for an extended period of time, stress on the hair follicles is produced.

Q. Why is traction alopecia an ethnic or African-American affliction?

It has been proven that certain hair care practices and styling techniques — such as the cornrows and braiding patterns of certain African-American woman — put them at risk. All women, however, are subject to experiencing hair loss from traction alopecia if they wear tight hairstyles of any kind, such as a tight bun or ponytail every day.

Q. Is hair loss from traction alopecia permanent?

Doctors and hair loss experts agree that you can cause irreparable damage if you ignore the signs and symptoms of traction alopecia, which is pain at the site of the pulling from the root, hair loss and thinning and even some pustules or pimples where hairs have been pulled out of the follicles. Traction alopecia is one of those hair loss problems where the sooner you address the problem, the easier and faster the treatment.

Q. Does hair loss from traction alopecia occur all over the head or just in certain places?

The hair loss typically occurs around the hairline as the tight hairstyle puts tension on the roots. Hair loss can also occur at the crown of the head, and in women wearing cornrows, hair loss and pain can occur in between the rows as the braids are pulled tightly.

Q. Why is it called a “traumatic” form of hair loss when I might not know it’s happening?

It is called traumatic because it is caused by the physical trauma of the constant tension on the root, which puts stress on the hair follicles, causing breakage and hair fall-out. To reverse traction alopecia and allow hair to regrow, you’ll need to remove the source of the trauma — the constant pulling from the tight hairstyle.

Q. What can I do to reverse traction alopecia?

Loosen up your hairstyle, let your hair down, cut your hair short or cover up the damage with a wig or a head wrap. Simply changing the type, position or location of any braids or buns so that they are not pulling on the same follicles in the same way every day can provide relief.

Q. Should I see a doctor if I suspect I might have traction alopecia?

Yes, you should see a dermatologist, who specializes in diseases of the scalp and skin, for confirmation if your hair is thinning or if you are experiencing scalp pain or hair loss. This doctor can also prescribe antibiotics and other medications to ease inflammation and infection and provide some relief to stressed hair follicles.

Q. What are the little pimples around my hairline?

Pimples and pustules are a secondary infection from the hairs being pulled out at the roots. A dermatologist will prescribe antibiotics and steroids to clear up any infection and help with the inflammation. It’s usually the inflammation that throws the hair follicle into the telogen, or resting, phase, causing hairs to fall out and not regrow. Once the inflammation subsides, the follicle may revert to the normal growth phase (anagen).

Q. What am I supposed to do while I wait to see if my hair will regrow?

This process of hair regrowth can take anywhere from three to six months or even longer, and you will need to work with your hairstylist to determine some new styles to wear. Be very gentle with your hair; avoid rubbing excessively or reverting to any tight hairstyles. Many hair loss experts also advise using topical minoxidil and even laser hair therapy to jumpstart follicles into the active growth phase.

Q. What if my hair loss is permanent?

You will need to have this diagnosis from a dermatologist. This doctor can discuss your options with you, such as a hair transplant, which can be successful in replacing a receding hairline in cases of traction alopecia.

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