Traction Alopecia

Traction Alopecia means hair loss (alopecia) due to pulling on the hair (traction).  Itโ€™s caused by a variety of hair styles which require traction.  Itโ€™s much more common in women than men, and in adults than children, simply because itโ€™s adult women who tend to style their hair as such.

The first sign, usually before actual hair loss, may be red, inflamed hair follicles, the tiny pores from which hair grows.ย  This is sometimes referred to as โ€œscalp pimples,โ€ which they really arenโ€™t.ย  It could be confused with the skin infection Folliculitis, which wouldnโ€™t have a pattern to the locations.ย  Other skin diseases involve all the scalp in an area, not just the individual hair follicles.

Pony tails, buns, braids, weaves, and dreadlocks are some common causes.  Hair extenders, which attach to braids, can also be responsible (see bottom picture below).  Another common sign may be thin hairs growing at the margins of hair loss patches.

Treatment is obvious, namely leaving the hair to hang loose, avoiding any hair styles which require yanking.  This may feel harsh by those attached to their hair styles, but itโ€™s the only solution.  Itโ€™s also important to avoid chemicals and heat devices (e.g. curling irons) which can make hairs more vulnerable.  Hopefully the scalp wonโ€™t be permanently damaged.  Certain injected or applied medications might help, but wonโ€™t really be able to overcome the effect of traction.

Prevention is important.  Any hair styling which causes pain, redness, or hair loss should be stopped immediately.  For those who require traction hair styles, they should be used only for short periods, then taken down as soon as possible.

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