Alopecia is often described as a naturally occurring phenomenon based on biological or genetic factors. Unlike other forms of alopecia (such as Alopecia Areata), Traction Alopecia, however, is a serious form of hair loss that typically occurs with women as a result of hair maintenance and styling. There is good news and bad news concerning traction alopecia. The good news is that it is a preventable and treatable condition. Modifying the ways in which you style your hair or your child’s is one of several solutions to the problem. The bad news about traction alopecia, though, is that hair thinning and balding may have already occurred. In that case, some preventative steps are in order to ensure that no more damage is done.
Anyone can develop traction alopecia. The condition is caused by tightly pulling hair into a ponytail or braids on a consistent basis. Brushing your hair while it is wet and unconditioned can damage your hair, causing traction alopecia. Pulling the hair damages the hair follicle. The hair will re-grow. However, if you continue to damage the follicle over long periods of time, the hair may not re-grow. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, reports that 17% of African girls and almost 32% of African women develop Traction Alopecia.
Knowing you need to prevent something is the first step to making a change. The repercussions of styling your hair in particular ways are not frequently discussed. However, there are some hairstyles that are harmful to the integrity of your hair. Many people style their hair in tight ponytails or braids to ensure that they stay in place throughout the day and night. Rather than pulling your hair into the same tight styles every day, consider varying the way that you wear your hair. Stop braiding your hair daily and wearing tight ponytails! At least a few times per week wear your hair down.
For most women, traction alopecia occurs in the temporal region of the hair. This is often where the hair is pulled tightest, causing damage to the follicles. There are several treatment options that are available for traction alopecia. You can use creams and ointments to soothe affected parts of the scalp and facilitate hair growth. Although creams may be helpful in the short-term, the most important change you can make is how you’re caring for your hair and styling it. Changing your styling routine is the way to make long-lasting change.
Stopping traction alopecia before it begins is crucial. If thinning or baldness has already begun, consider purchasing a wig. A hair system is a way to have a thick, full head of hair while your natural hair is growing in. Purchasing a hair system is a decision that requires planning and consideration. Traction alopecia may be occurring because of your preference for a particular hairstyle that causes unnecessary tension on your hair. Purchasing a wig will allow you to have the style you want without sacrificing the health of your hair.
References: Khumalo NP, Jessop S, Gumedze F, Ehrlich R. “Determinants of marginal traction alopecia in African girls and women.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2008 Sep;59(3):432-8.