What You Need to Know About Traction Alopecia
By Nomali Cele
Hair loss is a discussion that’s as old as the invention of beauty itself, even in ancient times they were sharing “cures” for baldness. Did you know that the ancient Egyptians are said to have believed in a simple recipe (a mixture from various animals including snakes, lions and hippos) to fight baldness? But in the last two decades, a different kind of baldness has taken centre stage. Known as traction alopecia, this strain of balding involves (primarily) women losing their hairlines and balding. But what is traction alopecia, what causes it and can it be prevented or cured?
What is traction alopecia?
Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss that occurs over time. “Alopecia” is the medical term for hair loss or balding and “traction” refers to pulling. Traction alopecia tends to occur around the hair line, on the temples and nape.
What causes traction alopecia?
The other key term of this condition, “traction,” points to the primary cause. Traction alopecia is balding that’s is primarily caused by pulling of the hair. It seems obvious that traction alopecia would be popular among black women as it is characterised by pulling hair and most of our hair styling begins with pulling. Over the last decade or so, traction alopecia has also been strongly associated with weaves.
There are a few reasons why weaves cause traction alopecia. For one, while most weave techniques don’t pull hair as much as other styles, such as braiding, do weaves put pressure on the hairline. Wearing a weave that’s placed tightly on the hairline will cause damage. Another reason weaves can lead to traction alopecia is due to the techniques used. Glues and heavy hair pieces will put a strain on your hair’s roots. Lace front weaves look beautiful, but they will likely leave your hairline damaged.
Although getting weave hairstyles is has largely been made the villain when it comes to traction alopecia, a fair amount of “natural” hairstyles and use of accessories such as tight headbands has been proven as also causing traction alopecia.
Other hairstyles and styling methods that can cause traction alopecia:
- Long dreadlocks as they can get heavy and put pressure on the follicles
- Frequent and tight ponytails
- Frequent use of tight headbands
- Frequent use of glue and tape to attach weaves
- Tight wigs
- Frequently wearing a tight helmet for extended periods
- Heavy braids
If you have experienced irritation, swelling and developed bumps on your hairline and nape, that is the very beginning of traction alopecia and a sign that your hair is taking strain from the style it’s in at that moment.
Even kids can get traction alopecia. Those cute bantu knots you give them as babies or the Benny and Betty throwback hairstyle will lead to traction alopecia if you pull too hard.
Can traction alopecia be reversed?
The good news is that most cases of traction alopecia are temporary and can be remedied with the right kind of care, hair therapy and treatments. However, continued strain on an area already suffering traction alopecia can cause severe damage to the hair follicles around the hairline and temples. If your follicles are stressed and damaged, it’s hard for them to produce hair, which can lead to permanent hair loss.
What can I do to relieve traction alopecia?
On the onset, traction alopecia is just a signal that your hair is taking strain due to a hairstyle. The best way you can offer both your hairline and hair relief is by giving your hair a break. Don’t do a style you know pulls your hair too much of is too tight around your hairline too often, don’t wear that headband daily and do speak up when the hairstylist is pulling too tightly.
Later this week we will share at-home remedies that will help you heal your hairline and other hair struggles.