Traction Alopecia is a form of hair loss that is caused by hair pulling or any manner of physical traction. The name is quite literal since alopecia means hair loss.
Unlike most cases of hair loss, traction alopecia is preventable and controllable. You don’t need to worry about balding permanently, which what happens to most people suffering from alopecia.
That is, of course if you know how to prevent traction alopecia from worsening in the first place.
How to Tell If You Have Traction Alopecia?
It’s easy to determine if you are suffering from any form of hair loss.
You’ll see that you are losing more hair than normal and may start seeing some small bald spots on your head because of that. You can also easily notice it when one side of your hair is thicker than the other, or when the gaps of your hair lines are getting wider than before.
Aside from losing hair, your scalp will often feel either itchy or painful or both.
If you have ever undone your hair and felt extreme relief in doing so or have suffered from soreness on your scalp after braiding, it’s highly likely you have some degree of traction alopecia. In more severe cases, your scalp may be quite red or become inflamed which can be very painful.
How Do People Get Traction Alopecia?
It is not a condition that is passed down through genes. In fact, anyone can develop traction alopecia, especially if you put a lot of tension to your hair. It’s not the same as other types of hair loss linked to genetics, stress, medication or lack of nutrients.
People develop traction alopecia when they have a habit of pulling the hair, or wearing tight weaves, braids and similar hairstyles on a regular basis.
The traction stresses the skin on the scalp and causes it to stop producing hair altogether. Understanding this will help you learn how to prevent traction alopecia.
How Does Traction or Tension Cause Hair Loss?
Pulling will cause some of your hair strands to break off, causing split ends, which greatly encourages hair loss. It also causes your hair follicles, the point where the strands sprout from, to become inflamed.
It happens when your hair regularly experience traction and the scalp gets pulled at as well. You are damaging the follicles of your hair in this way, and the more often you do that, the more likely that the follicles can get inflamed or infected in extreme cases.
Does Traction Alopecia Cause Permanent Damage?
Yes, when the scalp is repeatedly inflamed the surface where the follicles are supposed to be will turn into blisters instead. The skin then may scar first before healing.
Unfortunately, after healing, the skin’s surface won’t return to its normal state. It will become shiny, and the follicles will be missing so that part or spot will become bald.
Is Traction Alopecia Preventable?
Yes, it is. If you can avoid pulling at your hair or styling it in ways that use a lot of tensions, you won’t have to suffer from traction alopecia.
You don’t necessarily have to stop styling your hair. What you can do to prevent this type of hair loss is to control how often you wear tight hairstyles that give traction to the hair.
Remember, it’s not just traction but the consistent friction that causes this type of hair loss. When it comes to braiding you can choose to braid your hair loosely. You can also avoid tugging your hair too much by using a wider hair band for tying your hair.
Hairstyles to Avoid
There are a lot of hairstyles that require you to tug, pull and put traction on your hair, and the ones mentioned below are the most responsible for traction alopecia:
- Hair Weaves
Even simple hairstyles like a ponytail or a bun can cause alopecia if you do it often and too tightly.
Other Causes of Traction Alopecia to Avoid
Wearing hair accessories on a daily basis also contributes to the likeliness of hair loss. Hair pins, hair bands and clips often snag on your hair and cause breaks in the strands.
When this happens, the broken hair strands get so damaged they typically fall off. Hair extensions that are glued to the ends are also culprits for this type of hair loss. Even headgears like helmets and swim caps can cause traction alopecia.
Seek a Dermatologist for Proper Treatment
Traction alopecia is easiest to treat when given attention the soonest. By stopping your hair pulling and intense hair styling, you are taking the first step to curing traction alopecia and preventing it from happening again. There are ointments and medication for traction alopecia and damaged and itchy scalp.
A dermatologist will be able to help you determine how to prevent traction alopecia with the right kind of medication.
Don’t let this condition grow severe because in some cases the scalp gets so scarred and damaged that it won’t produce hair anymore, even after healing.
You should ask a dermatologist whether your scalp is too damaged for medication.
Oftentimes you can tell if parts of it already appear flat and shiny with no hair growth at all. In this case, the dermatologist may suggest a different kind of treatment, possibly surgical depending on how severe the skin damage is.
If treated earlier, it’s possible that the scalp can be healed through a combination of antibiotics and an injection that induces regrowth.
Let Your Hair and Scalp Recover
Recovery from traction alopecia can take up to 8 months on average. It can take at least 6 months or less if you are able to treat it early. For severe cases, it’s possible to take almost up to a year for the damaged scalp to be able to regrow hair. At this point, you may not be able to weave or braid your hair yet, just to prevent the rest of your hair from falling off.