Traction alopecia is a form of gradual, non-genetic hair loss that is the result of continuously wearing the hair in styles that are too tight. Below you’ll find the top ten causes of traction alopecia.
1. Drawstring ponytails
These hair pieces have a comb and drawstring to secure them on top of the head. Drawstring ponytails are attached to the hair after the hair has been pulled back into a tight bun. Hair gel is sometimes applied to achieve a sleek and smooth finish to the natural hair that is held in a bun. The drawstring ponytail is then attached by pinning it in place with the comb and using the drawstring to secure it. Although they are a convenient way to style your hair, frequent and constant use can cause traction alopecia, particularly in the area where the ponytail is attached.
2. Tight buns
The hair is twisted, rolled tightly and then fastened with pins or ties. The continuous effect of twisting and rolling the hair can weaken the strands and damage the follicles, resulting in traction alopecia.
This is a style very popular among black women, but is not restricted to them. It involves human or synthetic hair wefts being attached to natural hair, often sewing it on to corn-rowed tracks. Wefts are sometimes also attached by using an anti fungus adhesive called bonding glue. Weaving is often used to stop the appearance of thinning hair, but unfortunately it can also cause thinning and hair loss itself, as the cornrows the extensions are attached to are very tight to make the weave last longer. Bonding glue can also cause hair loss when a proper remover isn’t used to break the glue’s bond completely before removal.
Hair is braided into thin, tight braids, sometimes with the addition of decorative items or with hair extensions braided into the hair (remember Brandy’s signature braids?). Apart from the pulling action caused by the tight braid, the hair line suffers because the hairs the extensions are attached to are usually weak and not able to cope with the weight of the additional hair.
These are a type of braid where the hair is braided close to the scalp. This style is favoured for being a low-maintenance, aesthetic hairstyle, but can lead to traction alopecia if the cornrows are too tight because they place undue pull on the hair, especially around the hairline.
6. Clip-on hair extensions
These hair extensions are made by cutting machine-made hair wefts into different lengths and attaching clips to each piece. They can be clipped onto the natural hair in various places, including the back and the sides of the face, etc.. They are commonly used to add colour to the hair or to give the appearance of fuller hair. Improper application, by clipping the extensions too tightly or allowing the clips to dig into your scalp constantly, can lead to traction alopecia.
7. Weight of hair extensions
Hair extensions can be glued or woven onto the hair, but either method will increase tension of the natural hair because of the weight of the hair extension. It’s important to avoid using too much hair because it will lead to thinning hair and hair loss.
8. Tight sleeping caps and scarves
Often worn to maintain hairstyles while sleeping, tight sleeping caps and scarves can restrict blood flow to the area they are tied around, thereby depriving the hair of essential nutrients and slowly suffocating the follicles.
9. Sleeping in rollers
Rollers are used for curling the hair, and many women wear them in bed, as the curling process can take a significant amount of time to work. Tight rollers can cause the hair to fall out in clumps.
This is a cause that mostly affects Sikh men. When the turban is worn too tightly, it can cut off the blood supply to the follicles, resulting in hair thinning and hair loss.
The first step in treating traction alopecia is to stop the cause of tension or pulling on the hair and healing the scalp in order to grow new, strong hair.