There are many signs that your thick curly hair might need a bit more attention than you have been giving it. If you’ve begun to notice your hair breaking off at different points on your head and are in the habit of styling your hair a lot, you could be experiencing traction alopecia. 

Traction alopecia can be caused by prolonged braiding of the hair or even just tight ponytails daily. There are many different forms of alopecia, and essentially they all cover one dreaded topic; hair loss. Traction alopecia, however, is the one form of alopecia that you might be accidentally causing yourself. 

Here we will learn how and what you can do to stop it.

What exactly is Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia can happen to absolutely anyone. It is more prominent in women with thick, curly hair though. This is because your hair is more fragile than you think, and it already struggles to retain moisture and disperse those healthy oils your scalp produces down to the ends of your hair.

It is not always an underlying health issue, nor is it something that should immediately send you to seek medical help. If you change your habits and nurture your hair and scalp, you can repair any damage when done promptly. 

Traction Alopecia is developed by prolonged friction and pulling on your hair that causes it to become so damaged it just starts breaking off at the point of stress. This repetitive tension becomes too much for your hair to handle, and it can potentially cause permanent damage when not addressed.

Causes of Traction Alopecia

● Consistently tight buns and ponytails

● Any type of tight braids

● Cornrows and French Braids

● Heavy Locs, unprofessional retightening 

● Sew-ins and other weaves

● Wigs

● Hair rollers (especially when you sleep with them in)

● Long, heavy hair

● Too much styling or detangling

● Improper hair tools

Signs You Might Be Experiencing Traction Alopecia 

Early signs of traction alopecia include small bumps that usually appear on the scalp where the hair is pulled too tight. They are almost like pimples, and they do cause noticeably minor irritation. Whether it’s one style that you know is just too tight or a style you keep returning to despite minor irritations of your scalp. 

More severe symptoms will begin to appear the longer you strain your hair. 

The irritation on your scalp will grow, and you might experience redness that will burn or sting. 

More bumps will appear, and the area will feel sore and irritated. 

Your scalp might start stripping as you experience this soreness. This is a sign that you may be experiencing inflammation of the scalp or even the hair follicles themselves. 

At this point you may notice more hair breakage at the root or another stress point, leading to receding hairlines, lots of broken/split hair strands, patches of broken hair, and in severe cases, bald spots.

traction alopecia: causes, symptoms, solutions holpura

Nurturing your Hair and Scalp Back to Health

Your scalp knows how to naturally heal itself and grow healthy hair again if you allow it the time and opportunity to do so. Here are some tips to stop traction alopecia from becoming permanent follicular damage:

  • Stop wearing tight hairstyles. 
  • Reserve your detangling to once per week, or however often you do wash day. 
  • Let your hair hang loose once in a while so that it can work its natural magic. 
  • When you decide to do a hairstyle that might cause some strain, make sure you are mindful about it. Encourage looser braids or keep them in for a shorter time. 
  • When you have styles in your hair, ensure you use healthy, naturally repairing oils and essential oils. Oils such as Castor oil are nourishing and strengthening, whilst essential oils such as tea tree oil contain naturally soothing properties that reduce inflammation and fight bacteria. 
  • Between styling, give your hair a break.
  • Massage the area at least once a day to help stimulate blood flow, which stimulates hair growth
  • Wrap your hair in a silk scarf every night. 

There are many ways to properly care for your afro curly hair while maintaining your creativity and uniqueness in how you choose to style it.

Allowing trends or fashion statements to damage one of the most defining features you possess doesn’t just damage your hair, it also damages your self esteem and costs a lot of money to remedy (if the damage isn’t already too far gone). Ask yourself, is that temporary hairstyle worth it?

For more tips on caring for your naturally curly hair, check out the articles in our blog.

Be well x

Photo credit:

Billero V, Miteva M. Traction alopecia: the root of the problem. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018;11:149-159 https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S137296

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