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Traction alopecia: treatment, symptoms and causes

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What is traction alopecia?

Traction alopecia (or tension alopecia) is when excessive tension on the hair shafts causes hair loss. When the hair is pulled, there is tension on the follicles, which means damage can occur to the follicle. Over prolonged time periods, traction alopecia will cause the production of hair to slow down and finally stop. 

Typically, traction alopecia affects the hairline, causing hair loss around the front of the scalp and at the temples. This hair loss condition is predominantly seen in women. However, men who wear their hair in tight braids, dreadlocks or sport hair extensions are at risk of traction alopecia.

What causes traction alopecia?

The main causes of traction alopecia are hairstyles that place the roots of the hair under constant pressure, e.g. tightly-fitting hair extensions, weaves, hairpieces and tautly woven styles like braids and cornrows.

What are the signs of traction alopecia?

As well as hair loss, traction alopecia can also cause:

  • Redness and stinging on the scalp
  • Itchy scalp
  • Bumps on the scalp
  • Dry or scaly skin
  • Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles)
  • Blisters on the scalp

Traction alopecia treatment

The first thing you should do if you have traction alopecia is take away what is causing strain on the hair. This could mean taking out extensions or stopping using chemical hair treatments. This will give your hair the break it needs to regrow and get healthy.

Medication for traction alopecia

There are also treatments available which can help support hair regrowth. Minoxidil, the Active ingredient in Regaine, is available over the counter as a foam or liquid solution. It’s rubbed into the scalp to help stimulate hair growth. If you’re experiencing an itchy or red scalp you may want to try a topical corticosteroid to help reduce inflammation and pain. A pharmacist or doctor will be able to recommend the right treatment for you.

Supplements for traction alopecia

To help keep hair healthy it’s important to eat a varied and balanced diet. The vitamins we get form the foods we eat support hair and nail health, as well as other vital functions in the body. If you think you’re not getting all the nutrients you need from your diet, there are vitamin supplements you can take. These can also help support hair growth and strength.

Brands including Hairbust and Nourkrin use ingredients like Biotin to help support health hair growth.

Can traction alopecia be reversed?

Traction alopecia occurs when the hair is being pulled too hard from the follicle. By giving your hair and scalp a break from tight hairstyles, weaves and heavy or poorly fitted extensions, you are more likely to give your hair a chance to grow and make regrowth possible.

If you are in the early stages and there are still signs of thin hair and follicles, minoxidil (found in Regaine for men and women may help with regrowth. It is an over the counter product which you can ask a Pharmacist about before deciding if it will work for you.

    What are hair fibres and how could they help traction alopecia?

    If you are experiencing bald spots as a result of traction alopecia, hair fibres may be a good natural solution to conceal them. Hair fibres work by using static to attach themselves to your own hair to make it look thicker and fuller. Coming in a range of colours and shades, they also help to hide any visible areas of scalp. Simply lock them in place with hairspray and be confident they will last all day, whatever the weather.

    Can minoxidil help with traction alopecia?

    If you are in the early stages of traction alopecia and you can see that your hair follicles are still alive and attempting to grow hair, minoxidil may be able to help. You should still stop the action that is causing the traction alopecia.

    Minoxidil increases blood flow which stimulates hair follicles, promoting hair regrowth by:

    • Reversing shrinkage of hair follicles
    • Increasing blood flow to follicles
    • Stimulating follicles to the hair growth phase
    • Extending each follicle’s life span

    If you think minoxidil may be for you, an in store LloydsPharmacy pharmacist would be happy to talk you through your options. You can also buy minoxidil (Regaine) without talking to a medical professional, though you should ensure you always read the label and consult your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any allergies.

    Can wearing your hair in a bun cause alopecia?

    Traction alopecia is caused by consistently tight hair styles, weaves, corn rows and extensions. If you are just wearing your hair in a bun now and again, you should not experience any resulting hair loss. Heavy or poorly fitted hair extensions tend to pull on the hair and can damage the follicles with continuous use. Similarly, close-fitting plaits and weaved wigs can damage the scalp if they are too tight.