Traction Alopecia -- What You Need to Know

Having snatched hair might not be a good thing.
Of course, when you're rocking a snatched style, you know you're looking good, but snatching your hair -- wearing super-tight hairstyles like slick ponytails and buns -- is one of the worst styling habits you can have. It can lead to traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia differs from other types of alopecia because it has an entirely mechanical cause. This means that it isn’t an illness -- you can only get traction alopecia from repeatedly pulling your hair and damaging the follicles. Anyone, regardless of hair color, type, or texture, can suffer from traction alopecia. However, it is a preventable condition, and can even be treated successfully if caught early enough. Let's take a closer look at the issue.
Simply put, traction alopecia is a condition that results in hair loss due to the scarring that forms from consistent tension and pulling of the hair. It is most typically caused by excessively tight hairstyles like ponytails, braided extensions, and poorly installed and maintained weaves. It can also occur when the weight of the hair causes excess stress on the follicle, such as the weight of extremely long and heavy locs.
Traction alopecia generally doesn’t occur when the hair is pulled suddenly (unless it is pulled very violently), but the act of wearing a style where the tension is continual – for hours or even days at a time – causes damage that isn’t given time to heal properly. If you’ve ever gotten braids or extensions that were so tight that your scalp stung for days, you were experiencing the exact conditions where traction alopecia occurs.
The hairline, also known as our edges, is especially vulnerable traction alopecia. This is because the hair in this area is finer, and it also tends to be manipulated more aggressively.
Avoiding aggressively tight hairstyles should be enough to avoid traction alopecia. However, if you can't resist that's super cute high bun or those braids, you can minimize the damage by making sure your hair is properly moisturized and that your scalp is healthy.
Keeping a clean scalp is important, but regular scalp stimulation is key. Massage your scalp daily using the tips of your fingers or a gentle scalp massaging tool. This action will help stimulate blood flow and help keep your hair follicles healthy.
If traction alopecia is caught early, hair growth can be restored naturally over time, or with the help of topical hair growth products and even laser therapy. When addressed quickly, treatments that stimulate follicle activation, can help to restore hair growth and even reverse the condition. Targeted laser therapy has proven to be highly effective in treating moderate hair loss due to traction alopecia.
However, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Constant tension and stress on the hair follicles will eventually lead to scarring, which renders the hair follicles incapable of producing new growth. Generally, the areas where the follicles have scarred are very smooth and even shiny. In the areas where the follicles have completely degenerated, hair transplants may be used to achieve growth.
If you think you have traction alopecia, it's a good idea to see a trichology specialist to check the severity of the condition. From there, the clinician can suggest strategies, treatments, and products that can help you manage and possibly reverse your hair loss.
You shouldn't have to struggle with hair loss, whether it's from traction alopecia, a hereditary condition, or from stress. AK Hair and Healing offers hair loss consultations and treatments for numerous hair loss causes, including traction alopecia. To learn more about our programs and products for addressing hair loss, please visit our hair loss clinic information page for additional details.
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