If you keep your hair tightly pulled, as in a tight ponytail or a tight braid, chances are that your hair follicles are under stress and that you are suffering from traction Alopecia, a condition in which the tight hair causes tension to the hair follicles and their subsequent demise. Hairstyles that pull the hair, such as ponytails and braids put pressure on the hair and the scalp. If these hairstyles are habitual and long term, there is regular pressure on the hair follicles which may get damaged as a result, leading to their weakening and consequent hair loss. In this condition, the hair loss is caused by the constant pull and is not caused by genetics, disease or body dysfunction.
The condition may appear in children and adults – that is anyone who puts pressure on their hair. People in the hospitality industry, ballet dancers, people who braid their hair for style or those wearing headdresses and turbans, and sports players, are at risk of traction alopecia. Gymnasts, African women and security personnel are at greater risk of Traction Alopecia than others. The condition is curable if the hair is loosened after a while, but if it is regularly kept tight, the damage will start showing and the hair follicles will become weak and fall out, causing permanent damage. One will feel this damage as one grows older.
When people who support tight hair styles start noticing hair loss around the forehead or while bathing, signs of traction alopecia become evident. The head starts showing small pimples where hair has been pulled which may pain and itch. Patients will also notice that their hair parting begins to widen and there is general thinning of hair.
Occasional tight hairstyles do not cause lasting damage, and people lose some hair every day. But if it is more than normal, it should be treated immediately because hair loss spoils one’s appearance and causes loss of confidence.
Traction alopecia affects people wearing helmets that cause stress, headbands that keep the hair tight and certain hairstyles such as braids and tight ponytails. People wearing hair extensions and wigs that are glued or tied tightly too cause a pull on the hair follicles. Wearing hair accessories that hang too cause tension in the same way. Sometimes sporting very long hair also cause stress on the follicles because of its weight. If you notice a stress in your hair, you must seek medical help immediately, because if not corrected, it may lead permanent hair loss.
If the hair is pulled due to an accident or an injury it is called acute Traction Alopecia and the damage may be quite big as to cause permanent hair loss.
As I have mentioned earlier, if the damage is noticed early, Traction Alopecia can be cured. If one changes the hair style and remove other causes of hair stress, the hair will re-grow even if some hair loss has occurred. But if the hair follicles are permanently damages due to constant stress, the hair loss cannot be reversed.
The first step of treatment consists of changing to a loose hair style. If there is an infection on the scalp, it can be cured by prescribing medicines. But if the hair loss is permanent, the doctor can only advise hair transplant. Patients then have to use the follicular transplantation.
The most common sense thing to do is to sport loose hair styles so that stress to the hair and scalp is avoided. Tight hairstyles should be avoided, and if the job demands those, the pulling force must be comfortable and the first thing that a person should do is to loosen the hair immediately after duty.
If you like your hair styled, then avoid styling products such as hair relaxers, hot irons and curlers. Such things that cause stress to the hair should be used only when absolutely necessary. We recommend that you alternate your hair style, including hair partition.
If Traction Alopecia is noticed early, the hair growth medicine minoxidil works quite well. However, seek medical care first before you apply any medicine.
Continued stress on the hair will take its toll in the form of hair loss. One must avoid all factors that cause stress on the hair and scalp. Give relief to your hair by alternating hair styles and generally supporting loose styles. Seek medical advice immediately should you notice hair loss symptoms. With luck, your traction alopecia will be a thing of the past.