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Tractional alopecia and the hairstyles that can contribute to it

Dr. Ngai has already written a comprehensive overview about alopecia in a previous post, but did you know your hairstyle could also contribute to hair loss?

Traction alopecia is a form of alopecia, or hair loss, that results from constant tension being applied to the hair. The chronic traction (hence the name), or hair pulling, applied to the hair ultimately damages the follicles. Due to it's mechanical nature, treatment for this traction alopecia is generally not pharmaceutical, but more of a change in hairstyling habits. There have been instances when it's led to scarring and permanent hair loss, but if caught early, is entirely reversible.

The best way to deal with this is prevention, including keeping your hair in looser hairstyles (ie - looser braids, particularly around the hairline), letting your hair down as often as possible after tight, "snatched" styles, or even avoiding wearing hairstyles that apply constant tension to your hair. Signs of Traction alopecia can include patchy hair loss, or broken strands of hair - particularly around the hairline. Some of these hairstyles that can contribute to this condition include:

Tight buns, ponytails and updos

Tight braids and pigtails

Cornrows and dreadlocks

Weaves and frequent use of rollers (especially wearing them to bed)

For cultural and personal reasons, if you must wear your hair up, try to do so as loosely as the style will allow, or only wear that for special occasions. The American Academy of Dermatology Association also advises this, as well as changing your braids every 2-3 months, or opting for thicker braids or dreadlocks. And, of course, since it took time for the traction alopecia to set in, it will likewise take time for your hair to regrow - usually months. In the meantime, to speed up the growth progress, there are a variety of treatment options outlined in the previous post Dr. Ngai wrote, mentioned in the beginning of this post.


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