Causes & Symptoms

Causes of Trac­tion Alopecia

Any time con­tin­u­ous pull is exerted on hair, trac­tion alope­cia will be the result sooner or later. It can take some time to develop, so that you might not notice at first. But once you notice thin­ning patches, it is high time to start com­bat­ing trac­tion alope­cia. Let’s exam­ine what causes con­tin­u­ous pull on hair:

Do you wear a tight pony­tail or chignon, or any other types of tight hair­styles? Clip-on or glued-on hair exten­sions, or just wear­ing bar­rettes and hair clips also con­tribute to trac­tion alope­cia. Other causes of trac­tion alope­cia can be bicy­cle, motor­cy­cle or mil­i­tary hel­mets, as well as head cov­er­ings that are worn for cul­tural or reli­gious reasons.

There­fore, trac­tion alope­cia is wide-spread among cer­tain eth­nic groups, such as Sikhs and Arabs for their tur­bans and kef­fiyehs, as well as African Amer­i­cans who like to wear tight hair­styles, such as weaves, corn rows or braids. How­ever, it does not even take a tight hair­style to get in trou­ble. The sheer weight of long braids can cause stress hair loss because of dam­age to hair fol­li­cles. Hair exten­sions and orna­ments worn by tra­di­tional Japan­ese women also con­tribute to trac­tion alopecia.

Naomi Campbell's Traction alopecia

Naomi Campbell’s hair loss is a result of con­tin­u­ously wear­ing hair extensions

Trac­tion Alope­cia Self-Test

Have you expe­ri­enced local­ized hair loss or bald patches in a spe­cific region of your scalp, and do any of the fol­low­ing con­di­tions apply?

  • Have you pulled your nat­ural hair overly and severely into pony­tails and chignons on a daily basis for the last few years?
  • Do you wear tightly pulled braids?
  • Have you been attach­ing draw­string, comb, and clip-on hair pieces to your hair repeat­edly and attach­ing them tightly?
  • Have you worn exces­sively tight and/or weighty weaves, espe­cially for long peri­ods of time?
  • Do you wear a tight tur­ban (i.e. a Das­tar or Pagri) that may be restrict­ing the blood flow around the hairline?

If the answer is yes to one or more of the above, you likely have trac­tion alope­cia. A doc­tor can con-firm your con­di­tion by per­form­ing a hair pull test, skin biopsy, potas­sium hydrox­ide (KOH) or VDRL test to rule out other conditions.