If you’ve noticed that your hair is thinning or bald in some places, you might be concerned about traction alopecia on natural hair.
Any balding or thinning can be devastating, especially if you’re female. It may seem like you’re the only one with the problem, but it is quite common.
It’s a good idea to research this type of hair loss and know the facts so you can determine whether you have this medical condition and what to do about it.
In this post, you’ll find out about traction alopecia symptoms, causes, and treatment options. If you want to know more information about this particular type of hair loss, keep reading.
What is Traction Alopecia?
Traction alopecia is a hair loss condition where the follicles have been strained from wearing tight braids, locs, weaves, wigs, and ponytails. Burning the scalp with chemical relaxers can also contribute to traction alopecia.
The condition is common in black females, occurring to almost one-third of African-American women and more than 17 percent of African-American girls ages 6-21, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Traction alopecia in children is a huge concern, and it happens for the same reasons that adults get it.
It’s the constant tension that causes the kind of follicle damage that can lead to permanent hair loss. However, this type of hair loss can be reversed in some cases, especially if caught early. Read more to find out about traction alopecia treatments.
Traction Alopecia Symptoms
Use the following symptom guide to determine if you have traction alopecia:
- Sore, Inflamed Scalp. Do some areas of your scalp feel swollen or inflamed? Prolonged inflammation and soreness can lead to hair loss.
- Small, Pus-Filled Bumps or Blisters. If you feel several bumps along your scalp, you may have traction alopecia.
- Itching. Wondering if traction alopecia and itchy scalp are related? If your scalp is itchy or painful in certain spots or all over, it could be folliculitis or inflamed follicles. This is a sure sign of traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia commonly affects the hairline, but it can also occur at the crown of the head, the back of the scalp, or it can cover the entire head.
Traction Alopecia and Hair Extensions
Traction alopecia from braids and other extensions is common. When all follicles are pulled tight into braids or different extension styles, eventual hair loss can occur.
Have you ever had braids that were so tight that you needed to take ibuprofen or Tylenol to ease the pain? Over-zealous hair braiders are notorious for pulling the hair too taught to do a good job.
However, the tighter the job, the more you’re at risk for thinning and bald spots. The alopecia is further worsened by placing the already tight extensions into a ponytail. This double-action often causes the follicles along the hairline edges to suffer.
This type of hair loss can be tough to reverse. Once a style like braids is installed, it’s likely that the wearer will continue with the pain, itching, and irritation, until their hair grows out and the problem lessens.
Repeated tight extension styles will likely cause permanent damage to the follicles. Try to avoid the temptation of wearing tight extensions to cover a bald spot.
Extension styles like crochet braids tend to be less damaging to follicles because the extension hair is attached to cornrows. But make sure the hair is not cornrowed too tight, as these can also be the source of traction alopecia.
Traction Alopecia from Wigs
Is it possible to get traction alopecia from wigs? Yes, wigs can cause traction alopecia if the clips are too tight, or if the wig has been glued or bonded onto the hairline.
If you need to wear a wig, be sure to avoid glue and tight clips. Also, consider purchasing silk or satin-lined wig that will be gentler on your scalp.
Prevention and Treatment of Traction Alopecia
By now, you’re probably wondering how to prevent and treat this type of hair loss. Traction alopecia does not have a quick and easy cure, but you may be able to reverse it by experimenting with different remedies.
These treatments will also help people with trichotillomania, or the hair-pulling disorder.
Significant ways of stopping and reversing traction alopecia include:
Antibacterial and Cortisone Ointments. Traction alopecia often involves a bacterial or fungal infection that can be treated with a topical ointment. There are several products on the market you can purchase for a reasonable price that will help you manage both the infection and the accompanying inflammation.
Medicated Shampoos. In addition to the ointments, you can also use medicated shampoos that are formulated to stop fungus overgrowth. Most dandruff shampoos are medicated with 1% pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole 1%, or salicylic acid. You may want to try each one to see if it controls your hair loss and leads to regrowth.
However, most medicated shampoos contain sulfates, which are harmful to natural hair. If you’re looking for a sulfate-free medicated shampoo, try L’Oréal’s EverFresh Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. This shampoo contains 1% pyrithione zinc. This active ingredient is the same one that Head and Shoulders contain, but you’ll be able to avoid the sulfates.
If you’ve tried the medicated shampoos and haven’t had much luck, you may want to try Rogaine for Women. This product is much stronger than the conventional anti-dandruff shampoos and will require long-term use.
Rogaine is available without a prescription, but you should consult a dermatologist before going this route, because it is an expensive, long-term commitment that may have unwanted side effects. Rogaine for Women contains 2% Minoxidil. You can also purchase a generic version of this shampoo.
Surgery. Other medical treatments include hair transplants and flap surgery, but you should only consider these if you’ve tried all else.
If you’re looking for more non-invasive natural remedies you can try at home, keep reading.
How to Grow Edges Back from Traction Alopecia
Losing your edges to alopecia can be disheartening. The hairline often suffers from doing repetitive tight hairstyles like ponytails, braids, locs, and even from weaves. Chemical relaxers can also injure the scalp and cause hair strands to break.
The first step to growing your edges back is to avoid all tight hairstyles and to discontinue use of chemical relaxers.
Thinking about specific hairstyles for people with alopecia? Choose hairstyles that do not cause tension, like wash and go’s loose twists, or a low bun.
What about traction alopecia and dreadlocks? Hair loss can occur even when the hairstyle doesn’t involve added extension hair. It can happen even with natural loc styles. If the dreads are tightly formed and bound with a ponytail holder, they can still cause traction alopecia.
Massaging healing oils like castor and peppermint essential oil into your edges will help to stimulate the blood and promote hair growth. See the castor oil regimen below.
Castor Oil for Traction Alopecia
Castor oil is a remarkable oil, and you may be able to use it to heal your follicle cells. It is antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral. It contains vitamin E, protein, fatty acids, and several minerals that treat the follicles and promote hair growth.
It is widely used by naturals as an inexpensive, effective solution for hair loss and traction alopecia regrowth. The most potent castor oil on the market is Jamaican black castor oil. In the darker Jamaican version, castor bean seeds are roasted to make the oil stronger.
To use castor oil for traction alopecia, pour a small amount onto your fingertips, and massage into the affected area.
Castor oil is best applied 1-2 times per week, the day before you wash your hair. Massaging it into the balding spot in an inverted position will help to increase blood flow to the area.
Traction Alopecia Home Remedies
Luckily, there are several home remedies you can try for your alopecia. You may want to try them before the medicated treatments, or alongside them.
Here are four remedies that will help to stop your hair loss and promote growth:
Healing Oils. Applying oils on your scalp will help to disinfect and treat the affected areas. The best carrier oils for the scalp are castor and pumpkinseed oil. The best essential oils for the scalp are tea tree, peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender.
Use these oils to clear bacteria and fungus, and to begin the healing process. You can use any combination of the above oils or use them all. Mix a few drops of the essential oils into the castor or pumpkinseed oil, and then massage into the affected area 1-2 times per week.
Biotin. Also known as vitamin B7, these pills will help to promote healthy follicles. Biotin takes several weeks to begin working. Take 5000 mcg per day, and be sure to drink plenty of fresh, clean water.
Onion and Garlic Juice. Onion and garlic both come from the allium family and they are high in sulfuric compounds. Our hair is made of keratin, and this protein contains sulfur. Using onion or garlic juice on your scalp helps to repair tissue and will lead to hair regrowth. An easy way to do this is to simply rub onion or garlic slices on the scalp about 20 minutes before washing your hair.
Yoga. We spend much of our lives on our feet, sitting upright, or with our head elevated on a pillow. This medicinal exercise contains several inverted positions that send blood flow to the scalp.
Adequate scalp health is the key to healthy hair growth. It’s good to practice alopecia prevention even if you haven’t suffered from traction alopecia.
The key to stopping permanent hair loss is to catch it early. Be sure to consult with a professional if you don’t notice any improvement after 2-3 months of home treatments.
If your alopecia continues for an extended period of time and doesn’t go away with home treatments, you could be at risk for permanent hair loss. Seek a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss in your city.
Do you suffer from traction alopecia on natural hair, and if so, have you tried any home treatments?
Featured image: regionalderm.com