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3 Traction Alopecia Treatment Options You Should Know

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Tight ponytails, braids, hair extensions, and chemical relaxers cause tension on the scalp that leads to hair loss.

There are many types of hair loss, medically known as alopecia. Traction alopecia is caused by repeated trauma to hair follicles or from pulling your hair back into tight hairstyles. But there are treatment options available to help you. 

If you have traction alopecia, you may have some of these common symptoms:

It’s important to act quickly to avoid further damage to your hair. Although there is no cure, hair can regrow if treated early. Treatments include behavioral modification, topical applications, and injectables.

Behavioral Modification Hairstyles that cause traction alopecia include:

  • Braiding
  • Cornrows
  • Tight ponytails or buns
  • Hair extensions 

“Hairstyles should be changed regularly to avoid strain on any area of the scalp. Chemicals such as relaxers may contribute as well and should be limited as much as possible,” Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist in New York tells WebMD’s Connect to Care. 

According to a 2019 article in theInternational Journal of Women’s Dermatology, breakage increases when traction is applied to chemically-treated hair, such as with relaxers or dyes. Dancers who often wear their hair in tight buns may also experience traction alopecia.

“Our hair was not evolutionarily meant to be pulled tightly, so do whatever you can to avoid that,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist at the Skin and Laser Center at Mount Sinai in New York tells WebMD’s Connect to Care. “Braids should be loose, ponytails not pulled tight, and I do not recommend long term woven-in extensions. Clip-in extensions are a great option instead,” Zeichner says. You can also use shampoos for hair loss that can help.

Topical Applications According to the Skin of Color Society, scalp tenderness, bumps, or inflammation can be treated with topical antibiotics or topical corticosteroids. 

According to a 2019 study in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, there is support for using minoxidil to treat traction alopecia. “Topical minoxidil can be helpful for promoting regrowth, but don't apply if the scalp is inflamed,” King says. 

Injectable Medications —  According to a 2020 study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, patients given intralesional triamcinolone acetonide injections (ILK) showed hair growth after one or two treatments, and no severe adverse effects were observed or reported. 

Other injectable treatments may be helpful. “PRP (platelet-rich plasma) is a treatment where your blood is drawn and processed in the office to isolate growth factors. These growth factors are then injected back into the areas of hair thinning and act as fertilizer for your hair follicles,” Zeichner says. 

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.