Traction alopecia is a very common type of hair loss often experienced by African women. It occurs when we literally pull our hair out through tension by repeatedly wearing our hair in tight weaves, braids and extensions. You can still develop this condition even if you don’t wear hair extensions by wearing your hair in tight ponytails and buns. It can also occur in people who sleep in rollers and those with very long hair that can be heavy thereby causing tension.
Before we delve into the details of traction alopecia lets begin by understanding hair loss and hair shedding as a whole.
Typically, human beings shed between 75 to 100 strands of hair each day. This means that is is quite normal to see shed strands of hair on your comb or even on your collar/pillow as the day goes by. A typical hair growth cycle can last between 2 to 6 years with every strand shed regrowing in approximately twelve weeks.
Hair loss should only become a concern when you start to shed more than your average 75-100 strands of hair per day. This usually presents itself in the form of bald spots, or larger chunks of shed hair in your comb than you would have on a typical day. To learn more about hair loss, head on over to our friends over at Hair Theme who have this wonderful article on hair shedding.
The term alopecia refers to all forms of hair loss that is over and above everyday shedding. Some are reversible while others are not. We will briefly discuss three of the most common types of hair loss with links for further reading :).
Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss where hair falls off in round patches leaving noticeable round bald patches on your scalp. This form of hair loss occurs most often on the scalp but can affect other parts of the body as well. Hair usually grows back in the bald patches and it is not uncommon for it to re-occur.
Androgenic Alopecia commonly referred to as male pattern baldness is another very common type of hair loss. It begins with a receding hairline and eventually forms a characteristic M shape or complete balding. It is mostly associated with men but also occurs in women. For women, it mainly involves hair thinning and will not necessarily result in an M shape bald spot or total balding.
Postpartum hair loss is a normal – and temporary – change that is not related to breastfeeding. Many women experience this form of hair loss after having a baby as their hormone levels change back to their normal state. Most women will return to their usual hair growth cycle between 6 and 12 months after birth
Traction alopecia, our main focus, as described above is a form of hair loss caused by repeated and excessive pulling on your hair. Due to its weak state, hair that is chemically treated (relaxers/colour) is more prone to this form of hair loss.
Traction Alopecia can be reversible if you notice the hair loss early and stop whatever is causing the tension. It can however also be permanent if damage to the hair follicle has been caused. Understanding when and where you have it is the most effective way of avoiding permanent hair loss.
Traction alopecia begins to show itself in the form of a rash or little bumps on your scalp. As the condition progresses, the main symptom quickly becomes bald patches and broken hair with the hairs along the hairline and sides of your scalp being the most affected although you may notice hair loss on other areas of your scalp, depending on your hairstyle.
Aside from the rash, traction alopecia can show itself through other symptoms like:
Eventually, the hair follicles can become so damaged and scarred that they can’t produce new hair. At this point, the damage is permanent and may never heal to resolve itself.
Traction alopecia differs from other forms of alopecia in that hair loss will occur in patches all over the scalp while in traction alopecia, only the hair that has been pulled will be affected.
You develop traction alopecia from wearing your hair pulled too tight. Pulling on the hair repeatedly loosens the hair shaft in its follicle.
To prevent traction alopecia, wear your hair down every so often. If you have to pull it up into a ponytail or bun for work, for example, keep it loose and as low on your head as you can.
Some more tips to prevent this condition:
To treat traction alopecia, see a dermatologist. The doctor will examine your scalp and may perform several tests to confirm what is causing the hair loss. He or she might also recommend: –
If you’ve lost a lot of hair and it’s not growing back, a hair replacement procedure may be an option.
The main treatment for traction alopecia is to change your hairstyle regularly and avoiding tight hairstyles. You can tell a style is too tight if it hurts. Remove such braids, cornrows, or dreadlocks immediately.
When wearing your hair up in ponytail or bun, make sure to tight it as loose as possible.
If your hair is too long and heavy, trim it down to reasonable length.
Minimize the use of chemicals and heat, which can damage your hair.
Traction alopecia is reversible if treated quickly. There are no quick fixes. You must be consistent in staying away from what is causing it. Once the damage-causing style is taken down, let your hair rest and give your follicles time to recover. Your hair will grow back in normally. But if you continue styling your hair the same way, the hair loss can become permanent.
Having healthy natural hair is easy if you follow our simple guide. Once you grow your hairline back you will love it even more.