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What is Traction Alopecia? - Alopecia Series (Pt. 2)

Welcome back to the second installment of the alopecia series! In this post, the main focus is a very common type of alopecia that affects mainly women, particularly black women.

Traction alopecia is one of the most avoidable types of hair loss since it is not a result of genetics, hormonal changes, or a direct result of any internal imbalance within the body but is solely a direct result of manipulating hair into high tension styles such as ponytails, braids, cornrows etc. over a prolonged period of time.

Samrao et al., 2011

What does it look like?

As pictured above, traction alopecia is typically observed in the front and back hairline. The hairline is most susceptible to this type of hair loss but traction alopecia can occur in other parts of the head that experience excessive tension repeatedly.

In the early stages, inflammation can be observed in pustules around the hair follicles on the scalp, proceeded by thinning of the stressed area over time. Once the hair is continuously styled or or manipulated with excess tension, eventually the hair follicle openings on the scalp get smaller and the affected area begins to look smooth with only light hairs or no hair growing in.

Picture courtesy -</a>

What causes traction alopecia?

Researchers have determined that traction alopecia affects women of African ethnicity more than their Caucasian counterparts because women of African ethnicity have fewer elastic fibers attaching the hair follicles to the dermis (the inner layer of the two main layers of the skin.) This results in less flexibility of the hair follicle and leads to hairs being removed more easily with high tension manipulation and hairstyles such as tightly styled braids, cornrow and ponytails. With repeated high tension styling, the hair begins to thin and eventually leads to recession of the hairline or affected area.

Chemical relaxers, can weaken the structure of the hair and if the hair is styled into tight ponytails or buns, this can also lead to the development of traction alopecia most times concentrated in the temple areas.

How can I treat my traction alopecia?

Once measures are taken early on to reduce tension to the areas affected by hair loss, the hairs eventually start growing back in naturally. However, with continued stress and tension on the hair follicles due to high tension hairstyles, your traction alopecia can progress to the point where the affected area becomes smooth and shiny. At this point your hair may no longer be able to regrow due to permanent damage to the hair follicle resulting in permanent hair loss, or your hair follicles may just be in the resting phase.

I highly recommend that you visit a dermatologist or trichologist so that a proper analysis of your scalp can be done, so that the severity of your condition can be professionally diagnosed.

In some instances, hair restoration can be done via application of a topical cream or foam, or a hair transplant can be done to regrow hair in the affected areas. Other methods such as laser therapy or micro shading are also available options. Again, your dermatologist or trichologist will be able to determine the best method of treatments for you based on their professional diagnosis.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series!

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