Traction alopecia is the result of several factors, each causing significant damage to the scalp. The most effective way to avoid the risk of traction alopecia is to know what these factors are and how to minimise them, or even eliminate them entirely. This will lead to less scalp stress and stronger, healthier hair.
Avoid Tight Hairstyles
It may seem a little silly but tight hairstyles mean your hair is put under a lot of tension. Essentially, the hairstyle is continually pulling on hair and this leads to damage to the hair follicles. When hair is pulled, the follicles get pulled too.
Over time, this pulling causes the follicles to deform; which causes the follicle to enter the telogen (“rest”) phase of its growth cycle. When the damage is extensive enough, the follicle does not come back out of the telogen phase. After enough hair follicles have been damages in this way, the pattern baldness of traction alopecia appears.
Tight braiding of the hair, especially the sew-in weave method of attaching hair extensions, is a notorious cause of traction alopecia. Braiding the hair tight enough for sew-in weaves causes scalp stress on its own but when it is combined with the extra weight added by the extensions, and the tension added to the braids when the wearer’s hair grows naturally, the result is devastating.
Ponytails are less harmful but the tight pull on the hair can leave follicles on the crown damaged, causing pattern baldness where the hair is pulled the most tightly.
Avoid Tight Hats
Tight-fitting hats pull the hair that is caught between hat and scalp, adding pressure to the scalp in a similar manner to a ponytail. The hat will rub against the hair and the scalp continuously, irritating the scalp and leading to inflammation. Pulling on hair and irritating the scalp both lead to damage to the hair follicles, which results in traction alopecia.
The easiest way to avoid hats stressing the hair is to not wear a hat. This removes all the pulling and rubbing in one go. Of course it is not always possible to avoid wearing a tight hat. Safety helmets that must be worn at work, such as on a building site or in many factories, are a necessity and hard to avoid. Nevertheless, when you are not in an area where wearing a safety hat is necessary, consider carrying it rather than leaving it on your head.
Avoid Harsh Hair Products
Many hair care products, especially hair relaxants, cause damage to the hair. Hair relaxants work by breaking down the bonds between keratin molecules in the hair; as these cause the hair to curl and become frizzy.
Unfortunately keratin is also the main provider of your hair’s strength, so when the bonds between keratin molecules are broken down, the hair is permanently weakened. This leads to hair snapping, and weak roots that allow the hair to be simply pulled out when you brush it.
The lye contained in many hair relaxants also causes inflammation of the scalp, which leads to itching. Scratching at an itch further damages the scalp and inflames the area. When you scratch your scalp, you aren’t just causing damage to the follicles directly, you’re also pulling on hair; which adds to the damage.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Not all hair damage can be avoided. Brushing your hair every day is essential if you want to look good and, as mentioned above, wearing a hat is not always avoidable. The best course of action is therefore to plan for some harm to come to your scalp, and work to repair the damage as quickly as possible.
You can do this by making sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals and protein. Protein is essential to both growth and repair in the body. It is also a primary component in keratin, the material that gives hair its strength. By eating a protein-rich diet with plenty of iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium, you will ensure that any damage done to cause traction alopecia can be fought off fairly quickly. Alternatively take good quality supplements that contain the right balance of amino acids and vitamins required for healthy hair growth.
That’s not to say that you can wear tight hairstyles all the time, of course. Also, hair loss through traction alopecia takes time to recover from when the damage is extensive, so don’t expect miracles. A good diet will ensure that minor damage caused by the occasionally pulling on hair when wearing a particularly tight or complex hairstyle is dealt with quickly. Extensive damage will always take longer to repair.
Hair loss due to traction alopecia can be regrown by following our 10-Step Prescription for Re-Growing Healthy Hair. See sidebar on how to get the full program in our new e-book at no charge. Rest assured that your information will not be shared with anyone