For Prevention of Traction Alopecia, It's All About the Style




Since you now know that your hairstyle might be causing your hair loss, it’s time to make a style change … but to what? “That’s the most common fear women have who are suffering from traction alopecia,” says Diahna Husbands, hair replacement specialist and owner of Diahna Lynn Hair Studio in Maryland. “I had a client who wore this intricately braided style for years and years — it was her “signature style” but when she came to see me to ask why her hair line was receding around her face, I had to tell her it was her “signature style” that was causing hair loss! She was devastated!”

How does traction alopecia occur?

The hair loss and thinning from traction alopecia is a result of wearing your hair style too tight. While most commonly seen in African-American women who wear a full head of cornrows, the traction alopecia results from any hairstyle (like a simple daily ponytail) being worn so tight that it actually pulls out the hairs from the root and causes trauma to the follicles. This trauma throws the follicles into a resting state prematurely, so hair does not re-grow as long as the area is being pulled too tightly. You may see little red bumps in between braids or around your hairline, broken hairs, and a general thinning around your front hairline area or at the spot where you gather your ponytail. “Because your hair problems are caused by your hair style, you simply need to let your hair down…literally!” exclaims Husbands who says that is the quickest way to re-growth. Pop star Alicia Keys, who began her career with a full head of braids, is actually a great example of the many other styles you can wear instead of braids.

Do I have to cut my hair off?

“It depends on how much breakage or thinning has occurred. Sometimes if hair is too long the excessive weight itself puts stress on the follicles so hair should definitely be trimmed up shorter and lighter which can be done gradually. But if your hair has noticeable bald patches, breakage toward the upper half of the hair shafts, and severe thinning around the hairline, cutting short, chic and close to the head is the best way to maximize the style of curly hair, naturally. while letting hair follicles rest. “Many of my clients will opt for a wig during this time — if they really don’t want to deal with it or feel self-conscious in short hair.” If choosing a wig, Husbands steers her clients toward non-synthetic cap styles made from lace or hand-tied to let in oxygen and avoid the build-up of sebum and perspiration that can lead to further infections.

Styling tricks of the trade

While your hair is recovering from traction alopecia, which can take around six months or more, there are many styling tricks your hair stylist can use. If there is enough existing hair, Husbands will style the front toward the face to cover the hair loss in a fringe along the forehead and angled in face-framing layers. “I really encourage my clients NOT to straight-iron during this time, but if their damage was not caused by heat or processing they can iron it toward the face for a new soft, chic style, but definitely apply a heat protecting serum before you flat-iron!” cautions Husbands.
Some other alternatives to tight braiding and tight ponytails are soft twists on either side, attached in back with either soft elastic bands or a clip across the back of the head. The resulting style will be soft and full at the front and top to give your hair line a rest. Investigate new soft accessories like the fabric headband, scarves, and sparkling clips. “The most important thing to remember,” says Husbands, “is nothing tight!”
When it comes to going natural, use special “curly hair” conditioning styling products to bring out manageable curl and shine. Try switching your part to the other side or to the center and vice versa. You can sleek back a low gentle ponytail around the nape and gently tease the ends to show off the natural volume and texture of your hair. Again, investigate accessories that add a new “signature style.”

Traction alopecia: The bottom line

If you notice hair thinning around your hairline and you regularly wear tight hair styles, your hair is giving you a message loud and clear: Let your hair rest (the sooner the better) and it will regrow!