Naomi Campbell Traction Alopecia

What Causes Traction Alopecia & Is It Reversible?

What causes traction alopecia and is it reversible?

Do you wear your hair in braids, dreadlocks, weaves or even ponytails?  Did you know that pulling your hair back tightly in any one of these styles on a daily basis can lead to traction alopecia?

Repeated strain on the hair follicles can pull out hair strands and even damage the follicles.  Signs that your hair follicles are falling out include itching, redness and even pus-producing ulcers or infections.

Signs of traction alopecia include:

  • hairline receding around the forehead, temples, or nape
  • small pimples on your scalp or at the base of braids
  • scalp that is inflamed can be itchy, and red
  • wider than usual hair parts
  • patches of hair missing

Traction Alopecia is very common in the black community due to the types of hairstyles that are worn. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 33.5% of patients in the study were pediatric and had a history of tight braid use. Proper counseling is in important factor in the prevention of traction alopecia.

However, traction alopecia affects all races. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology examples of behaviors that cause traction alopecia “include young Sikh men with tight knots beneath their turbans, a Caucasian ballerina wearing tight buns for 13 years and Hispanic women with tight ponytails.” [1]

Is Traction Alopecia Reversible?

Traction alopecia is reversible if detected in its early stages.  In most cases, recognizing the problem and avoiding tight hairstyles will result in a full restoration of the hair. In the later stages, damaged follicles will cause the hair not to re-grow.  In these cases, a healthcare professional might recommend hair transplants.

Here are some steps one should take to avoid or reverse traction alopecia.

  • Stop wearing hairstyles that are too tight. You know if it’s too tight when you can’t relax your face or have to take a painkiller to make it through the day. If you are in pain while your hair being styled, do not be afraid to ask the stylist to stop and redo it. Speak up for yourself because pain equals damage. 
  • If you have to wear it a tight hairstyle for work or for religious reasons make sure to take it down when you get home.
  • Switch up your hair styles every couple of weeks. This helps to prevent strain on your scalp in the same area.
  • Limit or avoid chemical relaxers. If you must relax your hair, then focus only on touching up new growth. Some relaxers are formulated to minimize hair breakage.
  • Try hair growth products. Essential oils are my all-time favorite for regrowing hair. Oils such as castor oil, coconut oil, neem, rosemary oil, grapeseed oil and almond oil are great to promote hair growth.  They also help to simulate collagen production and blood circulation when massaged into scalp.  This results in stronger follicles and less hair loss. Oils are a great option for those who cannot use conventional treatments or worry about side-effects.
  • Always use a conditioner after shampooing. Conditioners help to keep the hair soft and manageable making it easier to detangle and less likely to break.
  • Consult a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologists give you a proper diagnosis and suggest the best course of treatment.

Not getting the proper treatment for traction alopecia or any form of hair loss can lead to anxiety, depression and social phobia. Besides traction alopecia there are other forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata which is genetic, alopecia universalis, central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) can also occur when hair loss starts on the crown and moves outwards. This type of alopecia is likely to cause scarring.



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