Tying Hair Too Tightly Leads to Hair Loss that Can Be Permanent (Traction Alopecia)

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Everyone has their own favorite hairstyle. From braids to top knots, you always find yourself going back to the same style, whether you’re in a hurry and want something familiar, or just relaxing around the house.

Traction alopecia happens when hair is pulled too tightly for prolonged periods in a repeated manner. Certain hairstyles, such as braids, ponytails, or cornrow braids, and even the weight of extensions, can all pull on hair roots and put hair follicles under continuous stress. Over time the follicles weaken, producing progressively smaller and finer hairs, until they are eventually lost completely.

notice the red line where the hair is parted (first source in list)

The process can also be associated with inflammation and redness of the scalp that can either be painful or symptomless. Hair follicles might actually experience scarring and be replaced by fibrous tissue, making the hair loss permanent over time.

This problem is especially seen in little children when their parents unintentionally tie the child’s hair in a very tight ponytail or braid, but it is also seen in adults who prefer tighter knots.

Hair loss in traction alopecia can be transient. If the excessive stress on the hair is stopped in time, the hairs can go back to normal eventually. But continuing this abuse would mean scarring of the hair follicles and permanent hair loss.

How to manage traction alopecia? Do these three important steps:

Parents can cause their children to lose hair by styling their hair too tightly.

First: Do not apply too much force while brushing your (or your child’s) hair. Start detangling your hair from the tips and work your way upwards. Start out with a wide tooth comb. Always use a conditioner to make brushing easier.

Second: Avoid tying your hair too tightly.

Third: Adjust your hair styling mind set. Avoid hairstyles that put a lot of stress on hair roots, such as cornrow braids or dreadlocks. Change the area where you part your hair often, so as not to put the same stress on the same area repeatedly. Traction alopecia usually happens in hair margins, but can occur anywhere on the scalp where your specific hair style pulls the most on your hair follicles.

If traction alopecia is at the outset, it might be reversed. However, if scarring has set in, then the hair that was lost cannot be re-grown. In such cases, a hair transplant might help.

Tight hair styles can cause traction alopecia/

Trying to tame your hair excessively will make you lose it. Give in to its wildness and learn to love it. Remember, unmanageable hair is better than no hair at all!

Thank you for reading!


F. Urbina et al. Traction Folliculitis: 6 Cases Caused by Different Types of Hair Styles that Pull on the Hair. Actas Dermo-Sifiliograficas 2009; 100 (6): 503-5.

V. Mendiratta, M. Jabeen. Hair Loss and its Management in Children. Expert Review of Dermatology 2011; 6 (6): 581-90.

NP. Khumalo et al. Dertimenants of Marginal Traction Alopecia in African Girls and Women. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2008; 59 (3): 432-8.

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