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Can Traction Alopecia Be Reversed?

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on February 16, 2021
Wearing your hair in tight hairstyles over a long period of time can lead to hair loss due to traction alopecia. Early management is a must if you want to reverse its effects and keep the hair on your head.

There are several reasons that cause you to lose your hair. Traction alopecia is one of them. If your doctor tells you that you have traction alopecia, it means that you are losing hair because you are frequently wearing it in repetitive hairstyles that are too tight. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, in most cases, traction alopecia can be reversed, but only if your hair follicles have not yet been permanently damaged.

What Causes Traction Alopecia?

Traction means “to pull” and alopecia refers to hair loss. Traction alopecia quite literally means hair loss caused due to excessive pulling of hair on the scalp. According to The Skin of Color Society, this kind of hair loss is caused by regularly wearing your hair in tight hairstyles. These include hairstyles that tug the hair such as braids, buns, weaves, cornrows, tight pony-tails, or attachments like hair rollers or extensions.

When your hair is pulled for prolonged periods it starts getting loose from the follicles and eventually breaks and falls off. As the condition progresses and the hair follicles are subjected to constant pulling, they get more and more damaged until they are no longer able to produce any new hair.

According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, frequent use of chemical relaxants on hair can also lead to traction alopecia. In the initial stages, you may notice hair loss on the sides and front of the scalp. The condition also leads to bald patches as some hairs that get pulled more than the others depending on the hairstyle, fall off first.

Can Traction Alopecia Be Reversed?

You can reverse traction alopecia if you start taking preventive measures early on, according to The Skin of Color Society. These include: 

  • No more tight hairdos The most important prevention is to not tie your hair into tight hairstyles. This will give your damaged hair follicles a chance to recover. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, hair generally starts growing back around three months after you stop wearing your hair in tight hairstyles. Your doctor will advise you to stop using heat or chemical styling treatments in the affected area to prevent further damage.
  • Topical medication “Minoxidil could be effective in re-growing some of the lost hair,” Aaron Emmel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS in Florida tells WebMD Connect to Care. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, application of minoxidil foam or solution to the affected areas on the scalp can encourage hair growth.
  • Use of steroids Your doctor may prescribe steroids in the form of topical gels or injections. According to Emmel, it is not proven that this will change hair loss patterns but it may help to limit the damage, provided safe hair care practices are followed.

Traction alopecia can affect anyone and does not run in families, according to the British Association of Dermatologists. The best way to manage this condition is “early intervention” Emmel says “that would increase your chance of success.”

Don’t Wait. Get Help Today.

The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.