What is Traction Alopecia and how can I avoid it?
We’re going to talk about a hair condition that many women and men experience, in particular, 1 in 3 women of colour will face in their life-time: traction alopecia. You may know someone who has suffered from traction alopecia. Traction alopecia is hair loss, predominately around the hairline. This condition is caused by prolonged stress on the hair cuticle by either wearing tight braids or extensions, putting significant heat on the hairline, getting chemical relaxers, repeatably installing a weave, using tight sponge rollers and brushing already fragile hairs roughly with the incorrect brush. Usually, people with curlier hair suffer more due to more stress being put on the curls. There is a silver lining however, traction alopecia is preventable. So how can you avoid it? What you need to know, is the signs of hair loss, so that you can prevent it happening to you before any permanent damage occurs.
Most of the time, getting Traction Alopecia is unintentional… So what causes it?
Hair loss is most commonly caused by tight hairstyles like braids, buns, weaves and locs. This is especially prevalent for people with afro hair. Most women don’t even know that they are doing their hair a disservice when they are constantly getting these hairstyles done. There is a common misconception that these hairstyles are good for the hair because they’re not using heat to style the hair. There’s nothing wrong with these hairstyles every now and then but it is the act of constant pulling on the hair which causes the damage.
Hair loss is greatest where the hairstyle is pulled the tightest. For many people, this is around the “edges” or the hairline. Combining these tight hairstyles with chemical procedures like relaxing or bleaching of the hair also causes hair follicles to weaken and break. Those with long hair who constantly wear their hair up may also contribute to hair loss due to the sheer weight of the hair pulling on the scalp.
What does Traction Alopecia look like?
Traction alopecia is usually hair loss, more predominately around the hair-line but can be elsewhere too. A person may experience some redness and irritation to the area where hair is being pulled due to hair follicle inflammation. Traction or “too tight” hairstyles will often see the scalp being taught. Skin will then be pulled upwards with the hair. This hair loss can take years to form. When it forms, it can take a long time for your hair to return back to normal.
(image of woman with traction alopecia on the hairline)
Can Traction Alopecia be cured?
The good news is that this condition can be reversed, however, it is important to note that there could be a point where the condition becomes irreversible. If you identify it early, then the hair can completely regrow if the actions causing the traction alopecia are ceased. However, longstanding traction alopecia can cause permanent destruction of the hair follicle; in this situation, the hair loss is permanent.
How do I stop it from happening?
First things first, you need to take a break from the tight hairstyles you’ve been wearing. It is okay to do your hair in braids, however, it is important to give your hair and scalp a rest. Switch up your hairstyles!
If you do have severe traction alopecia, then we suggest speaking to your hairdresser or dermatologist, as there are a number of medications that can be used to help your scalp repair itself. Enjoy your natural hair and give the tight hairstyles a rest. Rubbing soothing oils onto the scalp like our range of hair butter can help to soothe the scalp and promote new follicle generation.
Traction alopecia, when recognised early, is reversible. Unfortunately, its one of those conditions that don’t get talked about enough. Women (and some men) have to deal with the consequences later in life. Implementing looser hairstyles, giving your hair a break from the styles and using natural products and less chemicals will get you on the right path to healthier hair.