When you grandmother warned you not to wear your ponytail so tight, it turns out she may well have known what she was talking about.
A new report in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology confirms that constantly pulling hair into braids, cornrows, a ponytail or ballerina bun can actually cause something called traction alopecia, a type of hair loss that develops gradually as the follicles are damaged from tension.
It’s seen most commonly in black women who tend to keep their hair in tight, scalp-based braids as a matter of style and convenience in styling, but traction alopecia can affect anyone of any race whose hairstyle puts pressure on their scalp and hair follicles. It’s a common enough problem now that it’s even seeing ink in mainstream magazines like Women’s Health.
The report recognizes that the hairstyles in question are usually adopted because they make life easier, but women are unaware that many of the techniques involved have been implicated as risk factors for traction alopecia. As a result, the cycle never gets disrupted.
Hairstyles such as dreadlocks and extension braids can also have the same effect. Both men and women who have endured traction alopecia report that the hair loss occurs most noticeably at the hairline, particularly at the temples and the sides of their heads.
In the new JAAD report, researchers assigned risk grades to hairstyles and techniques, from low traction alopecia risk to high risk. High-risk styles include braids, dreadlocks, weaves and extensions – even more damaging when done on chemically straightened hair, which is already fragile. Those styles on untreated hair were assigned a moderate risk, and low-risk dos included loose upsweeps and messy, relaxed buns.
It seems that researchers agree with your grandmother’s advice, and urge women to change their hairstyles to relieve any stress that you might be putting on your healthy follicles. Have a look in the mirror and examine the stress points of your style. Are you seeing bare scalp or thinning areas? If you’re in the habit of wearing tight braids or a ponytail, why not do those follicles a favor and let your hair down!
Whether as a result of traction alopecia or any other condition, hair loss can be a challenge for any woman. At Hair by Janet, we understand and work with you to determine effective, comfortable solutions to combat your hair loss. With consultations available by appointment – both to ensure enough time to discuss your situation and offer you privacy – we’re happy to chat with you about your hair. Call us today at 650-592-3691 to learn more.