The term alopecia simply means loss of hair. Traction alopecia, therefore, means loss of hair due to repeated hair pulling. For example, if you regularly wear your hair in a bun, ponytail, or braids, you may end up with traction alopecia. This is more so when you constantly blow dry or use chemicals on your hair. The effects of traction alopecia are reversible when a person stops pulling the back of the hair early enough. But if hair pulling continues, the hair loss may be permanent, and you will be forced to opt for FUE Hair Transplant as a treatment option.
The condition was first discovered in Greenland in the early 1990s by doctors who noticed that women who wore tight ponytails had hair loss along their hairlines.
Symptoms of Traction Alopecia
When traction alopecia starts, the person will experience little pimple-like bumps on her scalp. As the condition enhances, other symptoms such as broken or missing hair will follow. The most affected areas of the hair are the sides and the front scalp. Other areas of the scalp may also be affected by traction alopecia. However, this will depend on the hairstyle.
Besides hair loss as a symptom, here are other signs that may occur due to traction alopecia:
- Redness of the scalp
- Scalp soreness or stinging
- Follicles inflammation (folliculitis)
- Blisters with pus on the scalp
If the person suffering from traction alopecia doesn’t stop the hair-pulling hairstyle, the hair follicles may become dormant and stop producing hair. If this happens, you need to seek treatment options such as PRP hair treatment to restore your hair. The signs and symptoms of reaction alopecia are not the same as those of other forms of alopecia. One of the symptoms evident in other forms of alopecia is patches that occur all over the scalp. Typically, only parts that are trained or pulled will be affected by hair loss.
Causes of Traction Alopecia
Traction alopecia causes by wearing a hairstyle that tightens by pulling it. When hair is pulled repeatedly, the hair shaft gets loose in its follicles. You may also lose hair when you do the following:
- Styling your hair with a ponytail or a bun that pulls your hair too tightly
- Wearing hairstyles such as cornrows, dreadlocks, or braids that pull hair from the back
- Using weaves or hair extensions to style your hair
- Using rollers to put up your hair overnight
Traction alopecia can also occur to people with very long hair from the weight of the hair that strains it by pulling it down. This type of hair loss can also happen to men who twist their beards too tightly. Although traction alopecia can affect anyone, it is rampant in women of African descent. Ballerinas and gymnasts are more susceptible to this hair loss condition since they frequently tie their hair tight up in a bun when performing. Older persons are also susceptible to this hair loss condition where their hair has been pulled for a long time.
How to Prevent Traction Alopecia
If you discover that you have symptoms related to traction alopecia, you need to avoid hairstyles that tend to pull the hair upwards or downwards: a ponytail or a bun. Instead, stick to hairstyles that don’t put a strain on your hair by pulling it. If you are going to use such hairstyles, don’t tighten them.
Other ways to prevent traction alopecia include:
Try switching to other types of hairstyles every couple of weeks. For example, you can do that by alternating wearing your hair down and wearing braids.
If you decide to style your hair using a ponytail or a bun, avoid plastic or rubber bands to hold your hair into place because they will strain your hair.
When styling your hair with braids or weaves, don’t use chemical processes since they can easily damage your hair.
While using hair extensions or weaves, wear them for a short period and take a break in between intervals.
While styling your hair with braids or dreadlocks, ensure that they are thick enough since thinner hair pulls hair more tightly.
Avoid using hair relaxers.
When using a hairdryer or flat iron, ensure that the heat is set to low.
Instead of sleeping with rollers, wrap your hair when you go to bed.
The best wig to use is one with a satin wig cap because they don’t pull hair tightly on your scalp.
Treating Traction Alopecia
If you suspect that you are suffering from traction alopecia, the best action to take is to seek medical advice from a dermatologist. To determine the real cause of your hair loss, the doctor will examine your scalp by taking a biopsy. If the hair loss condition has advanced to the extent that it has permanently damaged your hair follicles, available treatments include the FUE hair transplant procedure or PRP hair treatment.
If the condition has just begun, you need to avoid hair straightening hairstyles that we have just mentioned in this article, more so, throughout the night. If it hurts, it’s a clear indication that it is quite tight, and you need to loosen it. Shorten your hair if it’s too long.
The use of high heat when using a flat iron or a blow dryer or chemicals should be avoided as these processes tend to damage the hair.
Among the hair restoration testaments that your doctor may prescribe include:
- Medication such as antibiotics to stop infections from entering into the open sores
- If you have a swollen scalp, the doctor may recommend topical steroids to reduce it
- Antifungal shampoos
- Hair growing medication such as Minoxidil (Rogaine)
- Hair strengthening supplements such as biotin
- An FUE hair transplant procedure may be necessary if your hair reduces to grow back
- PRP hair treatment to stimulate hair follicles
Although the effects of traction alopecia can be reversed, it has to be done in its early stages. You can easily stop the condition by avoiding hairstyles that tend to pull your hair tightly upwards or downwards using a plastic or rubber band. However, failure to avoid such hairstyles may lead to permanent hair follicle damage that can’t be reversed, and you will need to get an FUE hair transplant procedure.