While most forms of alopecia strike without warning, leaving the sufferer completely at the whim of fate and genetics, there is one form of alopecia that is completely man made and 100% preventable. We’re talking of course, about traction alopecia, something that affects mostly African American and Hispanic women. Outside of America, Sikh men of India and Japanese women are also prone to traction alopecia. Why such a stark ethnic demographic? That’s because traction alopecia has to do with hair styles.
What is Traction Alopecia?
Traction alopecia is a small area of hair loss that is caused by the consistent and repetitive pulling on hairs. This is mostly caused by tight ponytails, braids, weaves and cornrows. Due to the hairstyles needing to be “tight” down close to the scalp, the hairdresser will often pull or yank on these hairs very hard. Over time, these areas of the scalp become weak and the hairs fall out.
When this happens, there is one simple solution: stop choosing these hairstyles. If you are experiencing hair loss from pulling hair, simply stop pulling the hair and you will be okay. If not, the damage will become permanent and your traction alopecia will be with you for life.
It should be mentioned that other people can get traction alopecia for other reasons such as wearing tight-fitting safety helmets such as in sports, cycling or other activities where cranial protection is essential. The helmet will rub up on certain spots of the scalp over and over, thus causing traction alopecia. This can be prevented by wearing a looser fitting helmet or a skull cap to create a layer of protection between your hair and your helmet.
Early Detection is Key for Traction Alopecia
The sooner you realize that your own actions are causing your hair to fall out, you can stop those actions, thus increasing the chances that your hair follicles aren’t too damaged and your hair will grow back. Unfortunately, many people see their receding hairline as natural and not a result of their hairstyle.
This is common in men who have braids or dreadlocks that are always pulled back—eventually, the hairline can go all the way to the middle of the head, but the typical male pattern baldness isn’t present. That’s because these men aren’t balding, they are suffering from traction alopecia.
With that said, traction alopecia is more common on the top of the forehead in the temporal and frontal regions of the scalp. Depending on the cause, traction alopecia can also occur where the pads of a helmet contact your scalp or in rows if you are constantly getting cornrows.
How to Treat Traction Alopecia?
In the early stages of traction alopecia, treatment is simple: stop using tight helmets and pulling on your hair. You should also avoid using chemicals on your hair and possibly consult a dermatologist. Over-processed hair can also worsen or cause traction alopecia. The advanced stages of traction alopecia have no cure or medical treatment. Wigs and hair grafts are the best solution to cover up the bald spots caused by tight hairdos, hair pulling and tight helmets.
Still, the best method for treating traction alopecia is going to be opting for a looser hair style that requires only gentle handling of the hair. For example, instead of pulling a pony tail back so tightly that the hair plasters from your forehead to the rubber band, keep it loose and free, so that you can put a finger or two between your hair and the scalp.
Try to avoid hairstyles that rely heavily on machinery such as curling irons and tongs or hair straighteners. Perms and weaves also cause undue stress on your scalp and hair. Instead, opt for more natural hairstyles and don’t be afraid to let it all hang out—the alternative is having it all fall out! Use shampoos and conditioners with fortifying properties such as Copper and other vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are key for healthy hair growth and to help prevent further damage from occurring while giving your scalp and hair time to heal. If you have very long, heavy hair, consider cutting it short and regrowing it out so it grows healthy.
How Long Before Traction Alopecia Reverses?
After you change your hairstyle and hair treatment routine, you can expect about a six month period of healing where you should be doing nothing to put stress or strain on your hair. If your dermatologist deems it necessary, he or she might also prescribe antibiotics to aid in the healing of the scalp and hair follicles which may have become inflamed and infected.
At Q Esthetics, we use laser hair loss treatment in conjunction with other techs effectively treat a wide variety of alopecia, contact us to learn more.