Traction Alopecia: Causes & Treatment Options
It might be strange
to think of a 19 year-old female getting a hair transplant, but
some hair transplant doctors report seeing an increase in the number
of young women seeking hair transplants, most of them African-American.
The reason for the increase is Traction Alopecia,
a hair loss condition caused by damage to the dermal papilla and
hair follicle by constant pulling or tension over a long period.
It often occurs in persons who wears tight braids, especially "cornrows"
that lead to high tension, pulling and breakage of hair.
This condition is most common
in African-American women and men who braid their hair too
tightly. It is also common in Sikh men of India and Japanese
women whose traditional hair styles also pull and damage hair.
Traction alopecia occurs more frequently in children, teenagers
and young adults then it does in older women and men.
Traction alopecia is reversible if diagnosed
early, but may lead to permanent hair loss if it is undetected
for a protracted period. Hair loss is often in the frontal
and temporal regions, but also depends on the hair style.
With those who wear cornrows, the area most commonly affected
is that adjacent to the region that is braided.
Traction Alopecia can also occur due to overprocessing
of the hair. Chemical treatment of hair with dyes, bleaches,
or straighteners disrupts the keratin structure in a manner
that reduces its tensile strength. The hair can become
fragile and heavy fall out can occur with brushing or combing.
The use of thermal or chemical hair straightening,
and hair braiding or weaving are examples of styling techniques
that place African American women at high risk for various
The key to stopping traction alopecia is detecting
it early. Hair styles that put unnecessary strain on the hair root
must be changed for "looser, more gentle hair style. Women,
African-American women, who suspect they may be vulnerable to traction
alopecia should take action immediately to change their hair style
or treatment methods and by all means, take the time to see a dermatologist.
Professional hair stylists specializing in braids, cornrows, weaving
and chemical processing should warn their clients about traction
Unfortunately, no medical treatment is available to
reverse late-stage traction alopecia. Hair grafts have been identified
as the only practical solution.
"We're seeing an increase in the number
of young women who are coming to us for a hair transplant,"
said Dr. Shelly Friedman. "Recently we did a hair transplant
for a young African-American girl. It's a shame really because she
didn't have to lose her hair."
Friedman said he's had good success in treating traction
alopecia with hair transplants.
"Women and men with permanent traction alopecia make
good candidates for hair transplants," he said.
"Many of them are treated with hair transplant results I'd
rate from Good to Excellent."
In the USA, traction alopecia is most common in
African-American women due to their hair styles. Can also occur
in men who use hair weaving to conceal bald areas.
More common in children and young adults and less
common in older adults.
Traction Alopecia is reversible if detected early
but can lead to permanent hair loss. Early detection is the
For women, no medical treatment exists and hair
grafts are their only option.
Traction alopecia is more common in the frontal
and temporal regions, but also depends on the hair style. With
cornrows, hair loss is adjacent to the rows.
Women and men who suspect they might be vulnerable
to traction alopecia should change their hair style and/or reduce
usage of hair chemicals, and consult their dermatologists.
, Emedicine.com, Basil M
Hantash, MD, PhD, Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH, Updated February
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