What is Traction Alopecia?

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Traction Alopecia in Women

Traction Alopecia is a form of gradual hair loss that is caused by tension, stress, and pulling on the scalp and hair fibers. Though it can occur in any race, it is most common among women of color who wear their hair pulled back in braids, or in other tight styles, away from the face. It is usually occurs as a result of our desire to get that sleek, super neat hair appearance around the hairline. Both children and adults battle with traction alopecia, but the condition is most prevalent in children and young adults.

Traction Alopecia does not occur when the hair is worn in a sleek, stressful, pulling style only occasionally. It only results when there has been regular pulling stress over several months or years. It is most commonly affects the frontal hairline, especially the temple area and parts just above the ears. Occasionally, traction alopecia will affect the nape area.

What causes Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia is caused by cosmetic hair stress. Styles that frequently pull the hair back tightly in one direction, such as braids, twists, locs, weaves, and cornrows, are the most common traction alopecia instigators. Hair accessories like headbands are also major traction alopecia culprits. Chemical relaxer products and excessive heat use can also encourage the disease. Individuals who frequently part their hair in the same orientation can also trigger a widening of the part which is related to it.

Symptoms and Course of Traction Alopecia

Traction alopecia begins with mild scalp irritation and swelling in the area of tension. A common, early sign of traction alopecia is the formation of tiny bumps or even scabs on the scalp. Hair breakage in the area then becomes apparent. If this strain continues over the next few months or years, scarring may occur to and around the hair follicles. Hair loss is gradual, with a thinning of the actual hair fibers occurring first until total hair loss takes place. Once scarring to the follicles has taken place, and hair loss has occurred, neither follicles nor hair will ever grow again.

Can Traction Alopecia be Reversed?

Yes and No.

If you spot the warning signs of traction alopecia early enough and you put a stop to whatever’s causing it, then your hair will stop falling out and should – with time, patience and loving care – be completely restored to its former glory.

But if the hair follicles have been so badly traumatized for such a long period of time that they have scarred over, then the hair will not grow back by itself. Areas of the scalp where this is the case will likely look shiny.

How to Avoid Traction Alopecia?

Hold back the hair with a wide, fabric hair band. Make sure it’s not too tight – some of the really elasticated ones can be damaging in themselves. The key is to find one just stretchy enough to stay on, but gentle enough not to feel as if it’s squeezing your head!

Use hair slides, either one big one at the back or smaller ones at the sides. Change the position of the slides as often as you can.

Braid hair loosely, you should be able to get your finger under the base of the braid. Opt for bigger braids, rather than creating lots of little ones (which put the hair under too much tension). After braiding or tying your hair in any way, slowly rotate your head. Do you feel any tugging/pulling anywhere? If so, loosen your hair.

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