What is Traction Alopecia?

Trac­tion alope­cia is a form of grad­ual hair loss or thin­ning of the hair that hap­pens because of con­tin­u­ous pulling on hair over time, usu­ally as the result traction alopecia caused by hair extensionsof par­tic­u­lar types of hair­styling. Com­monly, this con­di­tion is caused by hair­styles such as dread­locks, braids, corn­rows, weaves, clip-on pieces, tight tur­bans and high, tight pony­tails or pigtails.

There are dif­fer­ent forms of hair loss that affect both men and women. The most com­mon is andro­ge­netic alope­cia, which is respon­si­ble for over 95% of hair loss cases.

What is alopecia?

Los­ing a cer­tain amount of hair a day is nor­mal. Most peo­ple shed between 20 to 50 hairs a day. Some sources cite 100 hairs as the norm, but that has been found to be an over­es­ti­ma­tion. These hairs are “ter­mi­nal hairs” – those that have reached the end of their growth cycle and rest (tel­o­gen) cycle, usu­ally at the end of 5–6 years on your head. All hairs go through three phases of growth – ana­gen, cata­gen and tel­o­gen. Even hairs of those suf­fer­ing from alope­cia (hair loss) go through these phases. The dif­fer­ence is that in those suf­fer­ing from alope­cia, a new hair does not replace the old one, result­ing in vis­i­ble hair loss.

With trac­tion alope­cia, there is a sim­ple cause for the hair loss. What we know as a human hair can be divided into two parts: The fol­li­cle and the hair shaft. The fol­li­cle is the skin organ that pro­duces the hair and resides in the der­mis layer of the skin. The hair shaft is the vis­i­ble hair that extrudes from the skin and can be pulled out. When too much pres­sure is put on the hair over time, it can speed up the hair shed­ding process, result­ing in the loss of hairs already in the tel­o­gen phase. It can also have a neg­a­tive effect on the fol­li­cles them­selves, result­ing in trau­ma­tised fol­li­cles that do not pro­duce hairs to replace those that were shed.

Is trac­tion alope­cia reversible?

Unlike some other forms of alope­cia, trac­tion alope­cia is usu­ally reversible, as long as the pulling and tug­ging that has caused it is stopped and the scalp is allowed to heal. Repeat­edly sub­ject­ing the same hair fol­li­cles to pulling may result in per­ma­nent hair loss in the affected area. It can take time for the hair to recover from the dam­age of over-pulling. Often, it can take up to six months before an improve­ment can be seen and felt by the suf­ferer. Top­i­cal hair loss prod­ucts can often speed up the process as well as revive hairs in the tel­o­gen phase.

Trac­tion alope­cia in black women

Trac­tion alope­cia is com­mon among black women, because of their choice of hair­styles, like weaves which involve tight pulling of the hair. It can often be mis­taken for other types of hair loss, so pro­fes­sional assess­ment is often Naomi Campbell's traction alopecia hair loss is a result of wearing weaves continuouslynec­es­sary to see what the prob­lem is.

Trac­tion alope­cia often starts with a reced­ing of the front hair­line, and it often con­tin­ues with a gen­eral thin­ning of the hair all over the head. Another form is when the loss occurs around the scalp edges. This type of hair loss is called banded trac­tion alope­cia. With another type of trac­tion alope­cia the hair comes out in clumps as the result of sleep­ing in rollers or hav­ing braids or tight weaves. Chil­dren can also be affected.

The good news is that the con­di­tion is not genetic and can be reversed if diag­nosed and treated in time.

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