Traction Alopecia Is a Fully Preventable Hair Loss Condition




Doctors and hair loss experts agree that you can cause irreparable damage if you ignore the signs and symptoms of traction alopecia. According to dermatologists, traction alopecia happens over time and is caused by wearing a hairstyle that is simply too tight, which puts stress on the hair follicle at the root. Women usually notice something is wrong when hair begins to thin around the hairline or when their hairline has actually receded. “The reason for that is these hairs are the weakest and are prone to easily being pulled out when stressed by a tight hairstyle, especially over a long period of time,” explains Dr. Valerie Callender, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, a specialist in African-American skin and hair disorders and director of the Callender Skin and Laser Center in Washington, D.C. So how do you know if your current hairstyle is too tight? Pain, hair loss, and secondary infection are all good indicators, especially if you wear a weave, extensions or braids, or cornrows.

Could you have traction alopecia?

By examining your styling routine, you can catch patterns that may lead to traction alopecia.

  • Do you wear your hair in tight cornrows or braids every day?
  • Do you participate in sports that require a tight bun, ponytail, or braid every day?
  • Do you wear your hair pulled back in exactly the same spot every day?
  • Do you have any pain around your temples or at the crown of your head that you think may be due to the tight nature of your hairstyle?
  • Do you notice any hair loss or thinning around your hairline?
  • Do you have any tiny pimples or a rash around your hairline?

If you become aware of any of these indicators of traction alopecia, change your hairstyle as soon as possible and make an appointment with a dermatologist to examine your scalp, check for any secondary infections, and advise you on how to prevent hair loss from traction alopecia.

Sports hairstyles also can cause traction alopecia

According to Dr. Eric Schweiger, New York City dermatologist at Bernstein Medical — Center for Hair Restoration, “Traction alopecia might not even be caused by braids but could be caused by sports that are tough on your hair, causing hair loss, breakage, and damage. [It could be caused by] a tight ponytail during tennis, a taut bun for dance or even the swim cap you pull on and off every day at the pool that puts undue pressure and stress on your hair follicles.” He cautions that helmets, hats, and swim caps also pull out and damage hairs every time you wear them, leaving you with broken, flyaway, frizzy hair. Smart swimmers wet and pretreat hair with conditioner and wear the newest silicone caps, which slip on and off easily.

Let your hair down to prevent and treat traction alopecia

Schweiger says that once you have a diagnosis of traction alopecia, the first thing you have to do is immediately let your hair down. “Treat your hair gently no matter what,” he advises. For more prolonged cases of hair loss, a scalp or hair follicle biopsy performed by a dermatologist can determine if hair loss is permanent. Steroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, and antibiotics may be prescribed to treat any pimples, pustules, or secondary infections. These treatments allow hair follicles to regain health and hopefully revert back to an active growth phase once the pulling and stress on the hair follicle have been removed.

Cover your hair gently or cut it short to hide traction alopecia

Hair replacement specialists find that some women’s hair can be so damaged they just need to start all over with a short haircut to remove all the damage and weight of the hair. These women may choose to wear their hair naturally or cover it up with a hair replacement, a full wig or even a cloth head wrap while they give hair follicles a rest and let it regrow.” Experts agree that a synthetic wig is not the best choice for this purpose because it is not as breathable as a lace cap wig. Keep follicles as healthy as possible by keeping any head coverings or hairstyles loose.