We shed 50-100 strands a day, but you may find that number increasing drastically when you wear tight hairstyles.
This begs the question: Do ponytails cause hair loss?
Well, you may be onto something. Ponytails and other taut coiffures like buns, braids, and cornrows can cause a type of hair loss known as traction alopecia.
Not familiar with the term? Allow us to explain.
Understanding Traction Alopecia
This condition is caused by cornrows, dreadlocks, braids, buns, ponytails, and other similar hairstyles. It commonly affects African-American women but is not restricted by ethnicity or gender. So, it can happen to anyone.
When you opt for these hairstyles, the pressure they apply to your hair’s roots will cause its shaft to loosen from the follicle. Hair products and tools like weaves, extensions, rollers, and chemical treatments can also cause you to develop this kind of hair loss.
In essence, traction alopecia can lead to your hair entering the resting phase of its growth cycle prematurely. In turn, it results in your strands shedding around the temple and side of your head before they have the chance to grow fully.
What Symptoms Should You Look Out For?
Loss of hair is the most common symptom of traction alopecia. You may notice your hair beginning to thin around your hairline and in areas where it’s under stress. Sometimes, your scalp may have white or flesh-colored bumps which appear like wrinkles.
That’s not all.
Traction alopecia can also bring about redness, soreness, itching, or stinging of your scalp. Over time, it could lead to folliculitis, a skin condition where hair follicles become inflamed.
Without proper care and treatment, those hair follicles can become damaged beyond repair. That’s why it is advised that you begin damage control as soon as you see changes in the health and condition of your scalp and hair.
How To Treat Traction Alopecia?
Fortunately, this problem is often reversible, especially when caught early. Treatment depends on the level of impact and severity of your hair loss.
Here’s how you can remedy different levels of traction alopecia:
Treatment For Mild Traction Alopecia
If the condition is just making itself known, something as simple as changes in your hairstyles and hair care regimen will give your scalp a chance to heal.
Choose hairstyles that won’t put pressure on your hair follicles. Ponytails, braids, and cornrows are a big no-no, but if you still want to wear them, make sure to loosen the style so it does not pull on your hair roots. Also, take a break from heat and chemical styling techniques, at least until your strands recover from the trauma.
Treatment For Severe Traction Alopecia
When you notice bumps or experience skin irritation, tenderness, or inflammation on your scalp, it would be best to see a dermatologist. They will examine it and take a sample of tissue via biopsy, if necessary, to find the root cause. Depending on the results, they might prescribe medication to regrow hair in affected areas.
Prescriptions may include:
Treatment For Advanced Traction Alopecia
This hair loss issue can worsen with time, especially when left untreated. It can cause permanent scarring, which can stop your hair from growing back naturally, leading to bald patches on the affected areas. In such a case, over-the-counter medications, hairstyle changes, and medication will no longer help to stimulate hair growth, and you might have to resort to surgery.
That’s why we say —
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
To prevent traction alopecia, avoid putting excess pressure on your hair.
- Try wearing your hair down instead.
- Refrain from tying your hair when it's wet to avert dents and snags.
- Never use rubber or plastic bands to hold your hair, as they can cause more pulling and hair loss. Use fabric hair ties such as silk scrunchies instead.
- Apply styling products only when absolutely necessary.
- Pass on, or minimize, using heat-based tools and hair care products.
- Eat right. A diet rich in proteins and other nutrients will give your hair strands a better chance of winning the hair loss fight.
If you still notice hair loss developing, consider seeing a board-certified dermatologist to prevent it from worsening.
Ponytails and other tight hairstyles can lead to traction alopecia, which can cause temporary or permanent hair loss. This is why it is advised that you avoid wearing them altogether. If that’s not possible, limit the number of times you do so to prevent hairstyle-related loss.
You can still rock a sleek ponytail look like our gal Miss Grande does. Just make sure to let your hair down when you get home to give your scalp plenty of time to recover.