Most people with medium-length to long hair have a “go-to,” everyday hairstyle. To make life simpler when getting ready in the morning, you might throw your hair up into a high ponytail, a French braid or plait or a classy bun at the nape of your neck. This style works on you, you feel stylish and it’s easy to accomplish…but it might also be causing problems.
After some time, you might begin to notice that the hairs at the very front of your hairline or near your ears are damaged or simply non-existent. The rest of your hair might be fine—albeit a little stressed or frizzy due to occasional breakage—but does this change in your hairline mean you’re starting to go bald? Is it genetic?
The answer is no—female pattern hair loss doesn’t occur at the hairline like it does with men. Instead, this hair loss might actually be caused by that favorite hairstyle of yours!
Hair pulling might cause hair loss
One common mistake most people make when styling their hair is tightening the style too much. After all, you don’t want your ponytail or braid to slip and come loose, right? Unfortunately, when you pull on your locks to tighten your hairstyle and keep it just so, you may be contributing to your hair loss problem.
When tight hairstyles are worn often, they can lead to a dermatological problem called traction alopecia. This form of hair loss is caused by the constant pulling of the hair strands in one direction.
When your strands are stressed all day, every day, they weaken at the scalp and fall out. In time, a new hair will begin to grow, but it could take years for it to catch up with the length of the rest of your hair!
What’s even worse is that persistent stress on the scalp—caused by months or years of persistent pulling—can lead to inflammation, scarring and damage within the follicles. If this happens, the follicle might stop producing new hairs entirely.
Traction alopecia most often occurs along the hairline, since those strands are the ones that handle the bulk of the stress caused by hairstyles like ponytails, buns and other up-dos. However, hair loss might occur in other areas, depending on how you wear your hair. People who wear cornrows or other tight braids across the head, dreadlocks and even hair extensions might experience hair loss across the crown of the head, where tension on the strands and follicles is the greatest.
Even some hair accessories can cause traction alopecia! Tight elastic headbands, pins or hair grips that are worn in the same place every day can rub on the scalp and pull hair out.
Can you stop style-related hair loss?
Traction alopecia can cause major problems with your hair’s appearance and the health of your scalp. Fortunately, once you notice the problem, it’s very easy to stop it and restore the growth and health of your hair.
Here are a few tips for preventing and alleviating hair loss due to your ‘do:
- Stop if you feel pain: The first, most important rule when it comes to avoiding traction alopecia is to stop wearing a particular hairstyle if it causes you pain. Your scalp should not be stinging or physically damaged due to a tight ponytail or cornrows. If you’re feeling pain, your strands are under significant stress, so you should loosen the style or switch to a different one entirely.
- Change your style regularly: Even if you’re not subjected to scalp pain, your hairstyle might still cause hair loss over time. An easy way to avoid this is to switch up your hairstyle every so often. Rotate between a few easy hairstyles, like a ponytail, French braid and pigtails, to distribute tension more evenly across the scalp. If you prefer styles like cornrows or tight braids, only wear them for around two months; after that, take a break and let your scalp rest for a few weeks. Then, place braids in a different direction.
- Loosen your hairstyle: Another simple way to avoid traction alopecia is to merely loosen your hair style. Let your hairline breathe a little by wearing a looser, more relaxed version of your favorite bun or ponytail.
- Take care of your scalp: The health of your scalp is important for keeping a strong hold on your hair strands and preventing inflammation and scarring near your follicles. Use gentle, nourishing hair products like shampoos and conditioners, avoid chemical treatments and strengthen your scalp from the inside out through good nutrition and hair-healthy supplementation.
- Let your hair rest at night: If you wear a specific style during the day, take it down in the evening and let your scalp rest while you sleep. Sleeping in braids, buns and ponytails can pull on your strands even more, exacerbating the problem.
- Use gentle hair ties and pins: Hairstyle tightness might occur in part due to the accessories you use to keep them in place. Small elastic bands and heavy clips might put even more pressure on your strands. Switch to gentler hair accessories like thick scrunchies and loose bobby pins.
Rocking a sleek hairstyle doesn’t have to come at the cost of hair loss. By paying attention to the way you wear your hair each day and being mindful of how tightly you pull your strands, you can still enjoy simple, easy styles and thick, healthy hair!