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Traction Alopecia Hair Loss Information, by Dr. Shelly Friedman, DO

Traction Alopecia

Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss in which certain hair styles, harsh chemicals (for hair straightening and styling), and thermal styling tools cause significant damage to hair follicles that leads to hair loss. This damage can be severe enough to pull the hair root out completely or effectively destroy the root to the point where the hair falls out.

Tight Hair Styles like Cornrows can lead to traction alopecia & permanent hair lossTraction alopecia hair loss can affect both men and women of all ages. The hair loss usually occurs in patches adjacent or along the area in which the offending cause occurred.

The leading cause of traction alopecia is tight hair styles that constantly pull on the hair shaft. The longer the tight hair style is worn and the hair is pulled, the more damage is caused to the follicle which could lead to permanent hair loss.

Besides tight hairstyles, traction alopecia can also be caused by chemical and thermal treatments. For instance, dyes, bleaches, and straightening products have been known to severely damage hair follicles to the point where they fall out. These products contain harsh chemicals that are not healthy for a full head of hair and if used consistently over a long period of time, can lead to permanent hair loss. Thermal styling tools and straightening irons may also lead to traction alopecia by damaging hair follicles to the point they break and fall out.

Temporary vs. Permanent Traction Alopecia

Before a person suffering from traction alopecia can be treated, Dr. Friedman must first determine if the hair loss is:

  1.  Temporary or permanent.
  2. The hair style, thermal styling tool, or harsh chemical that is causing the hair loss is completely halted.

Hair styles, such as corn rows, weaves, or the use of tight rollers, where the hair is being pulled tight for long periods of time, may cause permanent hair loss. Prolonged, slow pressure will pull the hair out by the root. If it is pulled from the subcutaneous layer, where the blood supply exists, to the outer dermal papilla, the hair follicle can die and fall out. Depending on the length of time and severity, the hair may never grow back.

If the offending cause has been long-term, year in and year out, the hair loss is probably going to be permanent. Furthermore, patients that only suffer from temporary traction alopecia may not know if the hair loss is temporary or permanent since it is necessary to wait 9 to 12 months to see if the hair grows back. No hair growth after one year would indicate the hair loss is permanent.

Dr. Friedman emphasizes that traction alopecia can and should be prevented by completely halting the use of hot styling tools, harsh chemicals, and hair styles that pull the hair tight for long periods of time.

Hair Transplants for Traction Alopecia

Unfortunately, the use of minoxidil, propecia, and low-level light therapy (cold lasers), are ineffective in restoring lost hair to patients with traction alopecia. The causes of prolonged traction alopecia are severe and violent enough to the hair root that the follicle will not regrow on its own, even with the assistance of medications and laser treatment.

Hair transplant surgery that uses follicular unit hair grafts will provide new hair growth to those areas affected by traction alopecia. The hair transplant surgical methods Dr. Friedman uses for traction alopecia patients is similar to other types of hair loss patients. Donor hair is removed from the back and sides of the head and transplanted to areas where there is hair loss. The result is new hair growth that is both permanent, and natural looking.

Although Dr. Friedman can give traction alopecia patients their hair back, they cannot go back to the hair styles and treatments they were doing before which caused the hair loss in the first place. Transplanted hair is just as vulnerable to the damage caused by certain hair styles, harsh chemicals and hot styling tools as one’s natural hair.

 See Also:
Intro to Hair Loss
Hair Loss, Self-Image, & Society
Hair Anatomy
How Hair Grows
How Hair is Lost
Hair Loss in Women
Traction Alopecia
Hair Loss in Men
Norwood Hair Loss Chart
Frontal Hair Loss
How to Stop Hair Loss