The hairline has some of the finest, shortest, most fragile hairs—they don’t call them baby hairs for nothing—yet it’s also where many women do the most damaging styling. We slick our edges down with gel, braid them back, flatiron them into submission, and brush the hell out of them. All of this heavy-handed styling puts the hairline at risk for traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia is hair loss caused by tightly pulled hairstyles. Caught early, it is fully reversible and the hair can regrow. Over time, however, hair follicles can become irreversibly damaged so that the hair does not regrow.
Traction alopecia can happen to anyone who wears their hair pulled back tightly, whether in braids, dreadlocks, or a ponytail. It can also occur when tight headwear is used in the same way every day. Repeated strain on the hair follicles can pull out strands of hair and even damage the follicles. This causes redness, itching, and even pus-producing ulcers or infections.
Signs of traction alopecia include:
- A receding hairline typically around the forehead, temples, or nape
- Small pimples appear on the scalp or at the base of braids
- Redness, itching, and ulcers on the scalp
- The hair parting widens
- Patches of thin or broken hair in places where the hair has been under strain
- Patches of shiny, scarred skin in more advanced cases
- Regularly wearing tight chignon, cornrows, dreadlocks, weaves and braids
- Using hair extensions
- Using chemical relaxers and rollers
- Minoxidil: The most common treatment for traction alopecia, Minoxidil is a topical solution that works by strengthening weakened hair. While it’s worth a try regardless of stage, this is typically most effective in minor to moderate cases.
- Change Your Style: Somewhere between treatment and preventative method, changing your style is a mild approach to the task of stopping traction alopecia from spreading. If you’ve been wearing hair in a way that’s painful to touch, such as samurai hair knots or dreads, it’s time to change things for one of many hairstyles for hair loss prevention.
- Use anti-inflammatories. Steroid creams can reduce swelling on the scalp caused by traction alopecia.