Traction Alopecia

Traction Alopecia: A Complete Hair Loss Guide

Alopecia is a medical word for hair loss and is common among many people. If you are suffering from Traction Alopecia, you are not alone. Having a better understanding of its causes can set you up for success in a healthy hair journey.

Repeatedly pulling on one's hair causes a condition known as traction alopecia. Keeping your hair in a tight ponytail or bun, improper fitting wig, or heavy braids frequently can cause this problem, as can using chemicals or excessive heat on your hair.

If you want to treat traction alopecia, you will need to change your methods of styling your hair. However, if you do nothing, hair loss might become irreversible. In the early 1900s, traction alopecia was diagnosed by doctors in Greenland. Research showed that women who regularly wore tight ponytails experienced thinning hair near their hairline.

The Link Between Hair Extensions and Traction Alopecia

Many people use hair extensions to achieve their desired results of longer or thicker hair.

Human or synthetic hair is used to create the desired look. Several varieties exist, each of which uses a different attachment method to the natural hair. Clip-ins, sew-in (stitched to a braided cornrow), pre-bonded KTips (connected with heat), tape-ins, wigs (glueless or bonded), and micro-links (I-Tips) are some examples.

itip hair extensions

Friction caused by tangles and inappropriate materials to wrap hair, such as cotton, and extra weight adds excessive hair extensions compared to the natural hair ratio. Wet hair extensions also can be cumbersome and should be dried promptly and adequately, are two ways in which hair extensions can damage you're natural strands and lead to breakage.

Traction alopecia can develop from constantly pulling on hair extensions. Constant stress from styles like tight ponytails, braids, corn rows, buns, wigs, and tightly fitted bonnets can also contribute to traction alopecia. Little bumps on the scalp are a common symptom of traction alopecia in its first stages.

Hair breakage is another symptom of a worsening condition. Either the roots will pull the hair out, or the inflammation of the hair follicles will weaken them to the point where they will cease generating hair. When hair thinning occurs in a pattern parallel to the tension, we know traction alopecia is to blame.

If you think you are suffering from Traction Alopecia you may reach out to one of our Cranial Prosthesis Specialists that have been certified with our Cranial Prosthesis Specialist Course from Wig Medical.

Other Causes of Traction Alopecia

There are many things that can cause traction alopecia that you might not be aware of due to them being part of many people's everyday life.


Pressure on the hair follicles is caused by headgear, such as tight elastic bands or sports helmets. This pressure on the hair follicles is widespread among athletes who must wear helmets for extended periods.

Improper Use of Chemicals

Toxic substances like ammonium thioglycolate, sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, and hydrogen peroxide are found in chemical hair enhancers such as permanent hair color and relaxers.

Chemical enhancers have compounds that break down the hair follicles, which makes the hair stands fragile( in some cases brittle). Therefore tight hairstyles ( such as buns and ponytails), heavy hair extensions, and improperly fitting wigs, bonnets, etc., can cause the hair to snap very easily and elevate the risk of producing traction alopecia.

Always consult with a professional for any chemical service.

Electrical Hair Styling Products

Using heated styling tools like blow dryers and curling irons can cause permanent damage to the hair shaft. This damage does not happen instantly, but your hair may get damaged with continued use.

In addition, a loss of hair might occur if other mechanical force is applied.

hot tools

Hair Products

Some ingredients in hair products have been linked to traction alopecia. Check the ingredients of your favorite shampoo, conditioner, and styling products.

Here's a list of ingredients you want to avoid.

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Laureth Sulfate.
  • Sodium Chloride.
  • Parabens.
  • Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)
  • Alcohol.

How To Treat Traction Alopecia?

Awareness is just the beginning for treating Traction Alopecia. Here are some additional action items you can consider.

Change Your Hairstyle

Now that we know, heavy, tight, and improper fitting styles help create traction alopecia. So we have to change the scenario directly. You are changing your hairstyle once every few days is also recommended.

This hairstyle change will alleviate pressure from building up in one area of your scalp.

The steps below can also aid in the prevention of traction alopecia.

  • Loose ponytails and buns.
  • Wear wigs with satin wig caps and get them fitted adequately with head measurements.
  • Loose braids that are not heavy.
  • Take breaks between hair extensions.
  • Ensure braids, cornrows, or weaves are not too tight.
Your style should not hurt during or after the process. Pain can equal damage.

Decrease Toxic Chemicals

Avoid harsh chemicals as much as possible, significantly if your hair is already damaged. Instead, look for alternative styles that will allow you to use fewer chemicals to protect your hair from potentially damaging substances while producing noticeable positive effects.

Hair Growth Supplements

There are products available to aid hair growth that might be useful here.

According to the research, nearly 40% of adults use minoxidil to help regrow hair. Another helpful remedy is biotin.

For some, a top-quality hair growth oil will work miracles for your scalp and hair.

Many dermatologists recommend biotin for many hair disorders, including traction alopecia. After discussing the matter with your physician, give one of these options a try to cure traction alopecia.

hair growth suppliments

Use Anti-Inflammatories

Swelling of the scalp from traction alopecia can be pretty uncomfortable. Redness and discomfort may also accompany the swelling.

Using a topical anti-inflammatory cream can help lessen the associated pain and swelling. However, before taking any drug, you should consult your doctor.  

Seek Medical Help

After a few months of using preventative measures, medical treatment should be sought if no new hair has grown. Hair loss is possible due to damaged follicles and possible scarring.

See a doctor straight away so you can obtain the correct medicine. Transplanting hair may be an option in extreme cases of traction alopecia.

You may also want to reach out to a Cranial Prosthesis Specialist with additional medical wig solutions.

There is also support available from the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

alopecia areata foundation

More Thoughts on Traction Alopecia

Good News! Traction alopecia can be reversed when caught in the early stage (within six months for best reversal).

Let's get started by changing your hair regimen. Leave the tightly pulled, heavy extensions, improperly fitted wigs, and anything that pulled on the hair in an unhealthy manner in the past. However, hair loss may be permanent if you don't intervene promptly.

Both preventing and treat traction alopecia can be straightforward if caught early. Do not ignore hair loss, swelling of the scalp, hair bumps, or any other uncomfortable irritation of the scalp. These can all be early signs of traction alopecia or any other scalp disorder.

In most cases, the damaged areas will appear on the top and sides of the head initially. However, depending on your typical hairstyle, you may also experience thinning hair in other areas of your scalp.

About the Author ~ Alicia Franklin

Running the daily operations in the Salon for 11 years now, I make sure each customer receives an absolutely glamorous experience. Having more than 20 years of experience, finishing multiple training programs, and winning many awards, I have found my passion in making people feel beautiful inside and out. Besides providing training and sharing my knowledge, I also work behind the chair specializing in alopecia and healthy hair regimens.

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