Are you losing more hair each time you comb or wash your hair than you have in the past? Are you noticing more hair on your pillow in the morning when you awaken from your night’s sleep? Are there thin areas or patches in your hair that haven’t been there before? Do you wear hair styles that pull tightly on the hair shaft? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then your hair loss issues could have their root in a hair loss condition called “traction alopecia”.
What is Traction Alopecia?
The term “alopecia” is simply defined as baldness or hair loss. The term “traction” in this case refers to stress placed on the hair shaft and the scalp — so, the definition of traction alopecia is quite simply stress hair loss. This occurs when the hair shaft is pulled tightly and secured tightly for extended periods of time. There are a number of hair styling techniques that produce conditions that can lead to traction alopecia.
More about the Causes
There are many types of hair loss and, for the most part, we really don’t have much control over the causes of them. Traction alopecia is not one of the types of hair loss over which we have no control. Quite the contrary, the primary cause of this type of thinning hair condition is caused by how the hair is styled or cared for. If you are a person of color, whether male or female, it is likely that a cultural tradition that involves styles that require the hair be pulled back tightly in corn row braids, or pigtails or tightly knit buns for example, is the primary cause of your thinning hair issues.
How Does Traction Cause Hair Loss?
The hair shaft is made up of completely dead cells and is rooted into the hair follicle which contains a bulb at the base. The bulb at the base of the hair shaft contains derma papilla cells that are responsible for growing the hair shaft. The hair strand is securely held by the follicle during the first phase of the growing cycle, called the Anagen phase. As the growth cycle of the hair shaft progresses through the Catagen and Telogen cycles, the hair follicle begins to lessen the grip it has on the hair strand. The total growth cycle can last several years before the hair shaft is finally released from the hair follicle and is shed. During this cycle of hair growth, if you place large amounts of stress or traction on the hair strand, it will be shed prematurely.
The Normal Growth Cycle of Hair
To understand the importance of preventing premature shedding of hair, it is vital to understand, first, how the normal cycle of hair progresses. The hair follicle is loaded with those derma papilla cells which are responsible for growing the hair shaft. The derma papilla cells are pre-programmed to begin to grow the hair strand and move through the entire cycle over a specific period of time. The cells determine what the hair strand will look like in terms of color, texture and whether it is straight or curly. It determines if the hair is to be like that of “peach fuzz” or the thicker strand that grows on various parts of our bodies. The cells are also programmed to begin and complete this cycle a specific number of times throughout our lifetime. If we do something that causes the hair shaft to be shed before it is programmed to do so, then we hasten the end of hair production by the follicle.
Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that we can control. By modifying the hair styling techniques and controlling the dyes and bleaches that we use to color, straighten and curl, you can control the thinning hair issues caused by stress hair loss.
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