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Traction Alopecia: What Is It And How To Prevent It

girl getting scalp checked by doctor traction alopecia
We’ve all described our hairstyles as “snatched” at one point or another. Whether you’re wearing a ponytail or an updo, snatched is one of the highest compliments someone can call a style. Unfortunately, having snatched hair isn’t always a good thing. The excessive pulling, brushing, and tugging required to create some of our favorite hairstyles could lead some of us to experience a type of hair loss known as traction alopecia.

Unlike other common types of alopecia, traction alopecia is solely caused by the way you treat your hair. It can affect anyone, whether you have dark brown hair or ash blonde locks. Fortunately, traction alopecia is easily preventable if you have the right information. We teamed up with Dr. Kari Williams, a licensed trichologist, celebrity stylist, creator of the goddess locs technique, and owner of Mahogany Hair Revolution salon in Los Angeles, to explain everything you’ve ever wanted to know about traction alopecia and how can help to prevent it.

 

What is traction alopecia?

Traction alopecia is a scarring form of hair loss caused by repeated or excessive pulling and weight on the hair strands.

“Excessive stress and tension on the follicle when the hair is repeatedly pulled prematurely from the root causes damage to the hair follicle,” Dr. Kari explains.

Traction alopecia can be caused by a multitude of stressors including rough styling and tight hairstyles like ponytails, braids, locs, and extensions.

“Any style that pulls the hair around the hairline as a result of weight or force can lead to traction alopecia,” Dr. Kari says.

It’s most common to see scarring from traction alopecia around your edges and hairline, but excessive pulling and stress can affect your entire scalp and cause the hair loss to spread.

 

Can you prevent traction alopecia?

Yes! With the right hair care routine, traction alopecia is easily preventable but you may have to give some of your favorite hairstyles and tools a break. Because traction alopecia is caused by excessive pulling and tension, the best way to prevent it is to skip any hairstyles that create unnecessary stress on your strands.

“Avoid hairstyles that create weight, stress or tension around the hairline,” Dr. Kari explains. “Keep hair hydrated with a moisturizing shampoo and deep conditioner on a regular basis.”

You don’t have to get rid of tight hairstyles altogether, just cut back on how often you wear them. If a sky-high ponytail is your go-to hairstyle, try switching things up with an easy, wash-and-go or sleek blowout. The no-tension styles look just as snatched without actually snatching your edges.

 

Can traction alopecia be reversed?

Unfortunately, this answer isn’t as simple. Traction alopecia is a scarring form of hair loss, but it can take years to see the effects clearly. If you catch the hair loss early enough, Dr. Kari says you may be able to help stimulate hair growth with topical products such as minoxidil. Once your scalp scars, however, the hair loss is permanent and you may not be able to grow your hair back.

“You can tell if follicles are scarred if the area where hair should be growing is smooth and shiny in appearance,” Dr. Kari explains. “Depending on the level of trauma, there may sometimes be dark or light spots on the scalp where follicles were once located...Once the follicles degenerate, hair will not grow back.”

According to Dr. Kari, hair transplant surgery has become a popular option to minimize the look of hair loss for those who've experienced scarring.

 

What is a hair care routine for someone dealing with traction alopecia?

If you believe you’re dealing with traction alopecia, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with a trichologist, a dermatologist that specializes in hair loss, or a professional stylist.

“Consult with a professional who is familiar with hair and scalp disorders who can help determine how severe the traction alopecia is and can recommend products and treatments that could help soothe areas where you are experiencing the hair loss,” Dr. Kari says.

If your local hair care professional has a long waiting list, Dr. Kari suggests investing in moisturizing hair products to care for your strands while you wait to quench dry hair and attract moisture for a natural looking softness and shine.

All you have to do is follow Dr. Kari’s simple steps and your edges will look snatched and intact for years to come.

Interested in learning more about traction alopecia? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

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