Traction Alopecia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Traction alopecia is one of the lesser known forms of alopecia-related hair loss, but it’s also arguably one of the most easily treatable types as well. Unlike alopecia areata, androgenic alopecia, alopecia totalis, or alopecia universalis, traction alopecia is caused by external forces and it can easily be reversed with a few simple lifestyle changes and topical treatments. However, in particularly severe cases where the effects of the condition are too far-gone for topical treatments to make a sizeable impact, it might be necessary to undergo a hair transplant procedure in Toronto.

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What Is Traction Alopecia?

Traction is the result of habitual stress and trauma being applied to the hair shafts located on the scalp. It usually results from people constantly styling their hair in tight ponytails, braids, or even clips that forcefully pull their hair back, which is why in this type of alopecia, it’s often the hairs located on the sides and top frontal lobes that are pulled out. Certain cultures and even employment positions dictate that people wear their hair a certain way either as a form of religious observance or to depict professionalism. However, placing prolonged pressure on the hair shafts by continuously pulling back the hair strands can have a detrimental impact on the total amount of hair strands that fall out as well as on the reproduction of hair strands. The longer you wear your hair in tight hairstyles the more pressure you put on the hair shafts and eventually, your hair will become so weak and brittle that the hair shafts will die off and fall out along with the strands. Unlike hair strands, hair shafts can’t be replaced and at that point, drastic traction alopecia treatment may be required.

Symptoms of Traction Alopecia

There are a few different telltale symptoms associated with traction alopecia. These symptoms include the following:

  • Bumps and redness on the scalp: If you notice tiny, red bumps that resemble pimples forming in areas of your scalp where you’ve recently experienced either mild or severe hair loss, then this is a good indication that you might be suffering from traction alopecia. These are generally markers of where your hair follicles and shafts have become detached from the scalp and fallen out.
  • Soreness or stinging sensation on your scalp: This is often affiliated with the pimple-like bumps that appear on your scalp when your hair falls out as a result of traction alopecia. It usually means that the affected area may have become infected.
  • Itching and scaling: This is another symptom that’s affiliated with the red bumps that form on your scalp if you suffer from traction alopecia. The itchiness is a direct result of the large amount of pressure that’s placed on the scalp from external factors. When you continuously and aggressively scratch any part of your skin, it’ll eventually start to scale and peel, which results in a great deal of visible dandruff and oiliness of the scalp and hair.

Causes of Traction Alopecia

As mentioned, the causes of traction alopecia are primarily related to external factors and they’re not necessarily associated with poor physical health or specific physical conditions. Although, there are certain psychological conditions that can also contribute to the onset of traction alopecia. Below, you’ll find detailed explanations of some of the more common things that can lead to traction alopecia, which will also give you a good idea on how to prevent this from happening to you.

Cosmetic Hair Stress
At this point, it’s already common knowledge that putting too much pressure on your hair by over-styling it can lead to breakage and ultimately, hair loss. Tight ponytails, braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, curlers, and straightening devices can all put added pressure on your hair follicles by aggressively pulling them back or downwards. Over time, this kind of stressor can cause hair follicles to become totally weakened and malnourished. If you tie your hair in tight ponytails for long periods of time on a daily basis, this can actually suffocate the hair strands and prevent them from receiving the proper nutrients and proteins they need to survive.

Tight Ponytails
Wearing your hair in tight ponytails on a regular basis is quite possibly one of the worst offenders when it comes to damaging and killing off your hair shafts. If you’re in a situation where you absolutely have to tie your hair back, make sure you only use cloth hair ties as opposed to elastic bands that tend to shred your hair and pull out more strands. Also, tie the ponytail loosely and at a lower angle to reduce the amount of pressure placed on your hair shafts. One of the major signs of traction alopecia is a receding hairline on the top of your head and on the sides. This is often characterized by always tying your hair in a tight ponytail or braid.

Trichotillomania is a physical condition that’s often rooted in psychological and emotional problems such as stress or depression. People who are diagnosed with trichotillomania have the chronic tendency to actively pull out hair from their heads or other parts of their bodies. Hence, this condition is also associated with other forms of alopecia and is often treated through talk therapy and physical treatments. Before treating the physical repercussions of the condition, it’s important to get to the root of the problem first, which is the psychological component.

Compression Helmets
Certain types of headgear such as motorcycle helmets, construction hats, cycling helmets, religious headdresses or tightly bound turbans can cause a tremendous amount of friction between the materials and the scalp, especially in high temperatures. The constant rubbing on the scalp can create a lot of tension between the scalp and the headwear, causing the hair strands to loosen and weaken.

Hairpieces and Weaves
The clips and glues that are used to hold hairpieces in place are often toxic to hair strands. Combined with the additional weight and pressure these pieces place on the head, the hair follicles have very little chance of survival. For people who are already suffering from hair loss, resorting to hairpieces and weaves is almost like a catch-22. The purpose of doing so is to cover up the pre-existing hair loss, but the remedy is also part of the problem in this case because it could result in more severe hair loss.

Highly Effective Traction Alopecia Treatment in Toronto

The hair loss experts at the Canadian Institute of Hair and Scalp Specialists have dealt with every form of hair loss imaginable whether it’s from alopecia, cancer radiation treatments, or even hereditary causes. We have over 30 years of experience working in the hair loss field and have participated in countless studies on the subject and helped patients coming from all walks of life when it comes to providing appropriate treatments and offering tips on how to prevent traction alopecia hair loss. To schedule a free consultation with one of our hair loss experts, please contact us.

by Ken Robson

In business since August 1, 1986, I am the president and also a client at The Canadian Institute of Hair & Scalp Specialists. Having worked with a team of Doctors and Chemists over the years I have compiled a great deal of knowledge in this area, originally involved with a Pharmaceutical company manufacturing vitamins for the hair loss industry. Years ago I was fascinated by the new developments in this area as my own hair was beginning to thin. Studying Trichology at the Toronto clinic I then opened my own office and have enjoyed it ever since.