While some women subscribe to the motto of “anything for beauty,” when it comes to maintaining your hair, the price you pay for beauty may be more than you bargained for. From weaves and braids to heating tools and harsh chemicals, the products you use on your hair may not only cause hair breakage, but may also result in a type of hair loss called traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia generally develops when hair is pulled tightly for an extended period of time, such as in tight ponytails, braids, dreadlocks or weaves. It usually affects the hairline, but may also affect any area of the scalp that experiences excessive tension or pulling.
If you’ve ever seen someone who’s hairline is thinning or starts farther back than it should (e.g. supermodel Naomi Campbell), it is likely that they suffer from traction alopecia. Before you start panicking (I’ve seen some of the pictures too, trust me, I don’t blame you), there are ways to prevent this type of hair loss and keep your hairline from thinning.
Give your hair a rest! No matter what type of hairstyle you typically wear, your hair will benefit greatly from low-manipulation styling. Resist the urge to continuously wear hairstyles that put a constant strain on your hairline and scalp. Although pulling your hair as tight as you can into a ponytail or bun may tame the frizz and lay down your edges for the moment, the damage you’re doing can last forever. Opt for a loose ponytail, and use bobby pins, banana clips, claw clips and “ouchless” ponytail holders instead of rubber bands, elastics and metal barrettes.
If you love to wear braids and weaves, switch your style often. Simply getting your hair braided or styled in a different direction can minimize the stress on your hairline. If you have dreadlocks, it may be a good idea to re-twist your hair less often. Many people I know with dreadlocks choose to re-twist at the sight of new growth. Waiting an extra week or so can give your edges a much needed break.
Excessive use of perms, relaxers and heating tools can also cause traction alopecia. Keep in mind that traction alopecia does not develop overnight. Occasionally wearing tight braids, weaves and ponytails will not make your hairline disappear. Just be mindful of how your hair is being manipulated. Hair is extremely fragile and easily damaged.