Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss in a certain area that is caused by applying constant tension and pulling to the hair in that area. Unlike other types of hair loss, traction alopecia is completely behavioral, and is not caused by diet, genetics, or any other source. The damage is reversible, but can become permanent if the tension is continued.
What causes traction alopecia?
Excessive styling, harsh twisting, tugging, and pulling of the hair all can cause traction alopecia. For example:
- Wearing tight ponytails, braids, and/or twists, (especially for long periods of time)
- Wearing braid extensions that are too long and/or heavy for the hairline
- Installing braids that are too small (and therefore pull hair out upon takedown)
- Wearing tight headbands and/or puffs
- Wearing a bun in the same location repeatedly without changing the position, (especially if the bun is tight)
- Improper/excessive installation of wigs, weaves, extensions, and/or clip-ins
Traction alopecia can also be caused by trichotillomania, which is a mental disorder that causes one to continuously (and sometimes absentmindedly) pluck and/or pull out hair.
How do I know if I have traction alopecia?
Examine your hair. Look for any areas that are thinning and/or balding, as these can be indicators of traction alopecia. Next, think about your regimen and styling habits. If you find yourself doing some of the things mentioned above that cause traction alopecia, then there is a strong possibility that your hair loss could be a result of the way you’ve handled your hair.
For example, when I first when natural, I used to wear puffs all of the time. I loved a super tight, “sleek” puff, so I would use either an elastic headband that I wrapped around my head twice to ensure it was tight, or a stocking that I wrapped around my head multiple times to achieve the same result. After a few months, I noticed I had two bald spots in my head, and guess where they were? Right along the line where I wore the headband for my puff.
I hated knowing that my hair loss was caused by something I had done, but I stopped the habit immediately and it didn’t take long at all for my hair to grow back. Traction alopecia can definitely be avoided altogether if you maintain proper and healthy hair habits.
How can I prevent traction alopecia?
1. Don’t sacrifice the health of your hair for a style. If a style is too tight and causes tension on your hair, don’t do it: no matter how good the style looks. It may be a beautiful style, but long term damage on your hair isn’t worth the risk. Never leave protective styles in too long, wear them too frequently, or get them installed so tightly that they hurt your hair. Also, when pulling your hair back, do so very loosely.
2. Don’t harshly manipulate the hair. Always be sure to baby your hair as much as possible, especially since Type 4 hair is particularly fragile and prone to damage. Try not to style your hair if you’re short on time or tired because it can cause you to become less careful. Whenever possible, finger comb instead of using combs and brushes.
3. Know your hair. Listen to your hair and pay close attention to the way it responds to certain styles, tools, and products. For example, I’ve discovered that the front of my hair is very sensitive and I have to be extra careful not to do any styles that will cause breakage in that area.
How can I recover from traction alopecia?
You can grow your hair back from traction alopecia by:
- Stopping all habits that have caused damaged
- Incorporating scalp massages into your routine, using your favorite oil
- Giving your hair a break by wearing low manipulation styles like loose twists
Regrowing your hair from traction alopecia won’t happen overnight, but with the proper regimen and techniques, you can definitely bounce back from the damage. Develop a regimen that gives you the ability to style your hair in a way that doesn’t put any stress on your hair and it will thank you for it.
For more information about traction alopecia, here are some very informative videos from AlopeciaFreeWithJass: