“According to a research conducted by John Hopkins Medicine there is a strong association between certain tension creating styles and the development of Traction Alopecia.”
But we are well aware of that! As a matter of fact black women are the main group that suffers from this condition.
What is Traction Alopecia?
Traction Alopecia is a form of acquired hair loss that results from prolonged or repetitive tension on the hair and scalp. This condition was first described in 1907 in subjects from Greenland who had developed hair loss along the hairline due to prolonged wearing of tight ponytails. Unfortunately many of our black sisters have been victim to this condition, and according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, an estimated 1/3 of African-American women suffer from Traction Alopecia making it one of the most common form of hair loss among this group. While the sound of hair loss is scary and intimidating, the good news about traction alopecia is that it is solely within your control whether or not you live with it.
What causes Traction Alopecia?
Like the name indicates traction alopecia is caused by prolonged and repetitive tension/traction and pulling on the scalp and hair. This is usually a result of tight styles commonly worn by afro-textured hair women. These styles are usually very hard on the hair and scalp and include:
- Tight braids
- Tight ponytails and pigtails
- Weaves (sew-ins)
- Lace front wigs
- Tight Dreads
- Tight Headbands
- Repeated use of hair rollers/curlformers
- Wearing buns in the same spot everyday
- Any style that creates tension on the hair and scalp
- Trichotillomania (an emotional condition of repeated pulling of the hair with hands)
The not so good thing about traction alopecia is that if left unchecked it can get to the point of no return. There’s more to the condition that just losing hair and hoping it will grow back; there’s the creation of damaged follicles which will not grow back thus resulting in permanent bald spots. Constant tension in an affected area either pulls the hair out completely or causes the follicles to become inflamed and over time waste away (preventing future hair growth).
Are African-American Women the only candidates for Traction Alopecia?
Women of color are not the only ones who can be affected by this condition. As a matter of fact women and men of other races suffer from traction alopecia; it’s just simply a matter of using styles that create tension on the hair. This condition is more common among black women because we tend to wear tight styles such as buns, braids, wigs, and weaves and more often than not that result in damage at the hairline.
Signs Traction Alopecia Might be in your future
While there isn’t necessarily a crystal ball to tell you that you are developing traction alopecia, there might be some simple signs that your hair might be in distress.
- Sensitive scalp after removing your braids or wig
- This is a sign that your style was too tight and/or that your scalp is inflamed. This may lead to damaged hair follicles if you continue creating tension on your scalp.
- Your hair is so tight that you have to take painkillers to calm down your headache.
- This is a very common thing among us black women. We go to get a cute hairdo and then come home and our scalps are on fire because it was done too tightly. Ladies you will lose your hair if you keep doing this.
- You have to put water on your hair to loosen the style
- If you have to do this then I don’t have to tell you that the style is entirely too tight to be wearing around for weeks. My advice to you is to remove it as quickly as possible if you want your curls to stay intact.
- You feel extreme relief after removing your style
- Girl, if you feel like the world has been lifted off your shoulders when you remove that style then that is a sign from the heavenly host that you shouldn’t be doing that to your hair. Either try asking your stylist to do it more loosely or simply try another style if you want to avoid traction alopecia.
- Some of your hair falls out after removing a style
- This is probably a more advanced consequence, but if you have strands or clumps of hair falling out after removing a style then it might be possible that traction alopecia might be in your near future.
Signs You are Suffering from Traction Alopecia
While it seem to many like it would be obvious that you are suffering from Traction Alopecia, I would like to list some telltale signs that you can use to identify the condition.
- Hair loss and hair thinning
- Redness of the scalp
- Multiple short broken hairs
Traction Alopecia mostly affect the sides and front of the hair, but in reality it all depends on an individual’s hair care practices and techniques, and the type of styles that are worn.
Can Traction Alopecia Be Reversed?
The scary part about hair loss is wondering if the hair will grow back over time. Our hair is linked to our self-esteem, and does play a role in how we feel about our selves. This is why many women feel beautiful wearing long hair and may feel uncomfortable or self-conscious when the are rocking short hair. So is this condition reversible? Yes and no!
Yes it can be if the condition has not progressed far enough, and no if the hair follicles are beyond damaged. It varies for everyone because as I said it depends on which stage the condition is in. If you happen to notice that your hair/scalp is sensitive and your hairline is thinning then its time to stop doing styles that create tension on your hair. If this continues then over time you will suffer from traction alopecia which you may or may not be able to reverse.
But if the follicles are so damaged that you have scarring and a desensitized scalp then there is a very good chance that your hair will not grow back on its own. In this case you will need to see a dermatologist to discuss your options.
Traction Alopecia Treatment
- Visit a dermatologist
There are some types and stages of alopecia that can be cured with homemade natural remedies, but if hair loss has progressed far enough then your best option is to see a dermatologist. There are medicinal treatments available such as corticosteroid shots that are very effective in regrowing the hair, but you must see a doctor in order to start any of this treatments.
2. Natural Homemade Remedies
Natural remedies such as essential oils, herbal oils, onion juice, etc can work wonders if your hair loss in its beginning stages, but if it has progressed beyond that then you might have to find other options. If you are just experiencing hair loss then try to experiment with natural oils and ‘juices’ to see if it works for you. Give it a few months and if it gets worse then go see doctor right away.
3. Stay away from tight styles
Weaves and other tight styles are usually what cause our hair to be damaged in the first place yet we wear them to cover any hair loss. Opt for looser styles that will allow your hair to regrow without further adding tension to the scalp.
4. Avoid heat and chemicals
If you are experiencing traction alopecia then this isn’t the time to worry about flat-ironing or trying to achieve a cute hair style. You should be focusing on regrowing your hair by being very gentle with it, using all natural products on your hair, and avoiding any chemicals such as dyes.
Here’s a video addressing traction alopecia and the hairstyles that causes it.
What’s your tip/advice on dealing with traction alopecia? I would really appreciate the comments!
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