Traction alopecia is hair loss due to traction or pulling and it happens over time and its as a result of putting the hair under constant strain or tension. The constant tension in the affected area either pulls out the hairs’ roots completely, or causes the follicles to become inflamed. As time goes by, the damage to the follicles causes them to become atrophied (wasted away)… and if you don’t put a stop to the cause of the problem, they will reach the point where they no longer produce hair at all.
if you have a habit of doing something on a frequent basis that puts your hair under some sort of strain, then you are a candidate for traction alopecia.
- Very tight ponytails or pigtails
- Tight braids or cornrows
- Extension (single) braids
- Hair weaves or wigs attached with glue, clips or tape
- Certain hair clips, Headbands, Tight hairpieces, Tight headgear like cycling helmets that are worn frequently or for long stretches of time tend to rub or pull repeatedly on the same area of hair
- Repeated use of hair rollers
- Repeated pulling of the hair with the hands (this is an emotional condition called trichotillomania)
Traction Alopecia Symptoms
~ Sensitive scalp
~ Itchy scalp
~ Scalp blisters sometimes filled with pus or papules (little pimples) at the site of tension
NB. All of these are warning signs that your hair is under way too much tension. If not, the next thing you’ll notice is that sections of your hair are actually missing, or worryingly sparse. You can often see this more clearly around the hairline or behind the ears, but it can often happen around the crown, too. It really depends on what was causing the tension in the first place.
Traction Alopecia Treatment
As discussed above, ‘treatment’ for traction alopecia is only effective before you’ve arrived at the stage of permanent damage.
But the good news is that ‘treatment’ – if you’ve caught the condition early enough – can be as simple as changing whatever hair styling and hair care practices you were using and really learning to CARE for this precious asset… your hair!
- Wearing a weave
Weaves are generally applied through braiding, fusion, netting or bonding – and the sad fact is that any or all of these methods can lead to traction alopecia if used extensively, over long periods of time.
To minimize the risk of traction alopecia, or to try to prevent further damage and encourage regrowth, have your weave fitted by a state licensed professional. Someone properly trained in hair care will keep damage to a minimum and will be able to spot potential problems and nip them in the bud.
- When chemicals are the culprits
A mixture of too much stress (traction) on the hair along with the use of harsh chemicals like dyes, relaxers and bleaches. The chemicals actually damage the keratin structure of the follicle itself, causing hair LOSS, not just hair damage.
If you suspect this is a condition that’s affecting you, speak to your dermatologist. In addition to removing the cause of the traction and stopping the use of chemicals in your hair, you may be tested for any bacterial or viral infection and possibly be prescribed topical steroids, antibiotics or topical minoxidil to encourage regrowth.
NOTE: If you must use a relaxer on your hair, have it done professionally.
- Braiding, ponytails, pigtails and locs
Constant, tight braiding – or other styles like ponytails that place hair under chronic tension – can affect any ethnic group. So it’s very important to take a new approach to styling hair that doesn’t rely on placing the hair under extreme tension.
The ideal solution, of course, is to allow the hair to be completely natural, without using any kind of clips, slides or ties. If you cant do without clios and ties, you MUST change the way you do it from one week to the next.
- Hold back the hair with a wide, fabric hair band. Make sure it’s not too tight, find one just stretchy enough to stay on, but gentle enough not to feel as if it’s squeezing your head!
- Braid hair loosely – you should be able to get your finger under the base of the braid. Opt for bigger braids, rather than creating lots of little ones (which put the hair under too much tension). After braiding or tying your hair in any way, slowly rotate your head. Do you feel any tugging/pulling anywhere? If so, loosen your hair..
- Always use fabric covered hair bands – avoid bare rubber bands like the plague! And remove bands, clips and ponytail holders from the hair at night – this is when you may be putting your hair under tension without even realizing it.
- Invest in silk or satin pillowcases. They cause less friction on your hair than cotton or nylon ones – and, as an added bonus, they’re believed to help reduce wrinkles too!
- Choose a satin wig cap (if you use one), rather than a nylon or cotton one. Again, this will reduce friction on your hair.
- Change the location of your part as often as you can. Even a simple part in the hair can trigger a problem when worn in the same position day after day.
- Change a braided hair style after 3-4 weeks
- Don’t retwist the roots of dreadlocks
- Remove weaves/extensions after 3-4 weeks and give the hair some time to recover before using them again.
- If you use hairspray or hair gel, wash it out before you next brush your hair. Brushing dried hairspray and gels out of your hair is damaging to the shaft and may cause further hair loss.
- Make sure your hair is hydrated. If you’re in a dry climate – or you use air conditioning or central heating – the lack of moisture in the air can make your hair brittle and more likely to break. A humidifier can make a huge difference.
Other Remedies for Traction Alopecia
As described earlier, the main remedy for this condition is simply to remove the source of the tension. As long as you do this BEFORE the follicles are permanently damaged, then you should see your hair begin to grow back.
However, some women swear by the effectiveness of scalp massage to encourage regrowth and it certainly can’t do any harm to give it a try!
Popular products you can use in conjunction with scalp massage include
Jamaican Black Castor Oil
regular Castor Oil
pure, unrefined coconut oil (has a fantastic aroma too!)
raw, organic apple cider vinegar (we buy Bragg Apple Cider with the ‘mother’ and dilute 1/3 cup of it in 1 quart of water, then use it as a final rinse to strengthen hair)
Shea Moisture Thickening Growth Milk line.