Some forms of alopecia are completely beyond your control, such as alopecia areata, which is a type of autoimmune disorder, or androgenetic alopecia, which is male or female pattern baldness. Other types of alopecia, most notably traction alopecia, can be within your control or within your ability to put a stop to, since it is caused by an external force on your hair follicles. While there are cases when traction alopecia can reverse itself and your hair can grow back, in other instances, a more permanent solution might be needed.
Causes of Traction Alopecia
One of the main causes of traction alopecia is simply putting too much tension or stress on the hair follicle. When you wear your hair in a tight bun or ponytail day in and day out, or when your hair is in braids or cornrows almost all of the time, the style can put a lot of stress on your follicles, causing damage. The weight of the hair and the tautness of the style can pull the strands out.
Style choices that put weight on the hair can cause traction alopecia. A person might decide to get hair extensions to create a fuller or more voluminous look. But, those extensions can ultimately cause the hair to fall out in the long run, by putting a lot of pressure on the follicles.
Tight hairstyles and heavy hair extensions aren’t the only cause of traction alopecia, though. A number of other styling choices can also cause it, such as using tools such as straightening or curling irons or put a lot of chemicals in the hair to dye it, curl it or straighten it.
It’s important to understand that in order for traction alopecia to occur, there has to be constant stress on the hair follicles. Dying your hair once or getting the occasional perm or relaxer probably won’t cause traction alopecia. But, constant chemical treatments, such as on a weekly or even more frequent basis, can have a negative impact on the health of your hair follicles.
Hair styling isn’t the only thing behind traction alopecia. In some cases, it can be related to trichotillomania, a disorder that causes a person to continually pull on his or her hair. The force of pulling on the strands of hair can cause them to fall out, creating bald patches or areas of thinning on the scalp.
Temporary vs. Permanent Traction Alopecia
Traction alopecia can cause either temporary or permanent hair loss. If the damage to the hair follicles isn’t too bad, and if a person changes his or her hair style or grooming habits immediately after finding out that they are causing hair loss, it’s likely that the hair will grow back on its own. A person can also try using a medication such as minoxidil or a treatment such as platelet rich plasma therapy to encourage the growth of new hair.
Some patience is required when waiting for hair lost due to traction alopecia to grow back. In many cases, if the hair is able to return on its own, it will begin to grow back in within a year, after a person has changed his or her style or stopped using the chemicals or styling tools associated with the hair loss. If the hair loss was related to trichotillomania, a person can work with a therapist to begin to manage the urge to pull on the hair.
If, after about a year, there are no signs of regrowth, the hair loss related to traction alopecia is most likely permanent. A person suffering from permanent hair loss doesn’t have to live his or her life with bald patches, though. Although it might be more commonly associated with male or female pattern baldness, hair restoration surgery can also be helpful for people suffering from permanent traction alopecia.
During the procedure, the surgeon first takes hair from a donor area. The donor area can be on the sides or back of the scalp, as long as there is an adequate amount of hair there. If there isn’t, the surgeon might take hair from another area of the body, such as the chest. The donor hair is then transplanted to the area of hair loss. After several months, the new hair will begin growing in the recipient site, and should continue to grow there for the rest of the person’s life.
With practices in Miami and New York City, Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a board certified facial plastic surgeon and hair restoration specialist, regularly performs hair transplants for a number of reasons. If you believe you are suffering from traction alopecia and are worried that your hair won’t return on its own, contact Dr. Epstein for more information today. Call (305) 666-1774 for a consultation in Miami or (212) 759-3484 for an appointment in New York today.