How to Prevent Traction Alopecia

Trac­tion alope­cia is a form of hair loss caused by phys­i­cal trac­tion stress on Braiding hair tightly will lead to traction alopeciahair fol­li­cles related to high-tension hair­styles. It is com­mon among, but not exclu­sive to black women. Black women tend to wear hair exten­sions and treat their hair with chem­i­cals more often than other groups of women. Trac­tion alope­cia usu­ally starts at the front hair­line, and then reced­ing occurs with a gen­eral thin­ning all over, which makes it appear like male pat­tern bald­ness. Peo­ple often under­es­ti­mate or mis­take hair loss in African Amer­i­can women related to trac­tion alope­cia for other types of hair loss.

African Amer­i­can women tend to use hair exten­sions. The exten­sions give women ver­sa­til­ity in their hair­style choices. For black women in par­tic­u­lar, hair exten­sions make man­ag­ing their nat­ural tightly curled hair eas­ier. It also pro­vides length to their hair, which tends not to grow very long. Many tabloids men­tion hair loss con­di­tions for celebri­ties who over use hair exten­sions and have dam­aged their hair follicles.

The hair shaft of African Amer­i­can hair tends to be flat shaped, with a twisted con­fig­u­ra­tion and a thin diam­e­ter. There are inter­mit­tent vari­a­tions in diam­e­ter based on the amount of curl. The curls cause recur­rent weak­ness along each hair shaft. Because their curls are so tight, the hairs wrap around each other, which often results in seri­ous tan­gles. Try­ing to detan­gle this type of hair can break it at it its weak point. Hair pulling adds stress to the fol­li­cles and leads to trac­tion alope­cia.

To avoid this con­stant cycle of hav­ing to detan­gle the hair, many African Amer­i­can women have their hair straight­ened using chem­i­cal relax­ers. They also use rollers, blow dry, hot comb or oil press their hair. Each of these meth­ods of straight­en­ing the hair invari­ably leads to trac­tion alope­cia and severe break­age of the hair.

Another form of trac­tion alope­cia occurs when the hair comes out in clumps. Hair rollers can cause hair to fall out in clumpsThe main cause of this form of hair loss occurs from sleep­ing in hair rollers, and braid­ing the hair too tightly, par­tic­u­larly in chil­dren. Con­stantly wear­ing hair exten­sions in the form of weaves both sewed-in and bonded or glued-in exten­sions, draw­string pony­tails and clip in hair exten­sions add to trac­tion alopecia.

In order to pre­vent trac­tion alopecia:

  1. Use a rep­utable and qual­i­fied styl­ist. A qual­i­fied styl­ist will know what styles your type of hair will sup­port, and will avoid styles that pull your hair too tightly. Your cho­sen styl­ist should also be qual­i­fied to per­form any chem­i­cal pro­ce­dures, like hair colour­ing or straight­en­ing. Your styl­ist should be trained in fit­ting hair exten­sions. Unfor­tu­nately, many untrained and unqual­i­fied styl­ists exist, who inad­ver­tently cause dam­age to the hair because their lack of train­ing means they do not know the con­se­quences of their actions.
  2. Limit the length of time of wear­ing hair exten­sions. You should not exceed the length of time you wear hair exten­sions. The time period depends on the attach­ment method. You should remove clip on hair exten­sions at the end of the night. For the glued-in method where a styl­ist Clip on hair extensions should be removed at the end of the day glues each hair strand, strand-by-strand, you should only wear it for a few months at a time. If you do have to get bonded hair exten­sions, make sure you use a trained and qual­i­fied styl­ists that under­stands fit­ting your cho­sen method of attach­ment. In addi­tion, you should visit your styl­ist on a weekly basis to have your hair washed. Wash­ing it at home, by your­self, may lead to tan­gling, and addi­tional pulling which causes stress to the fol­li­cle and begins the trac­tion alope­cia cycle.
  3. Avoid using large amounts of hair in weaves and other forms of hair exten­sions. The weight causes stress to the hair fol­li­cles. Regard­less of what method of attach­ment you wear, your nat­ural hair (and fol­li­cles) has to carry the weight of any exten­sion used. The more weight your hair has to carry, the more stress it will be under. The extra weight will grad­u­ally pull the hair out of its follicle.
  4. Avoid apply­ing chem­i­cals too often. Do not apply harsh chem­i­cals like relax­ers and col­orants to the hair more often than every 4 months. These harsh chem­i­cals irri­tate the skin but also dam­age the struc­ture of your hair by mak­ing it porous and weak. When you apply ten­sion to the hair, porous and weak hair tends to fall out easier.
  5. Limit the use of tight pony­tails or updos. Save the updos for spe­cial occa­sions. Addi­tion­ally, tight pony­tails apply pres­sure to the hair fol­li­cles around the hair­line and the crown of the head. This con­stant pulling adds to trac­tion alopecia.
  6. Use a hair con­di­tioner before comb­ing tightly curled hair. When you sat­u­rate the hair with con­di­tioner, it acts as a lubri­cant and eases the untan­gling process. Use your fin­gers first to loosen any tan­gles and knots before fol­low­ing with a wide-tooth comb.
  7. Never wear hair rollers to bed. Your part­ner and hair will thank you. Hair rollers add con­tin­u­ous ten­sion to the hair dur­ing the night. This con­stant pulling stresses the hair.

If you keep in mind these sug­ges­tions, you will limit the dam­age to your hair and slow down or elim­i­nate the cycle of trac­tion alopecia.

If you’re already expe­ri­enc­ing thin­ning hair due to the way you style your hair, see the side­bar for our 10-Step Pre­scrip­tion for Re-Growing Healthy Hair at no charge. Rest assured that your infor­ma­tion will not be shared with anyone.

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