Braids to Bald – How to Prevent Traction Alopecia

A person of color showing their scalp.


We’ve all been a victim of having our edges “snatched” at one time or another, whether it be from shock or sheer awe from an amazing Beyonce performance. But what happens when your edges are actually threatened in real life? Traction Alopecia can jeopardize your hairline. Chronic redness, soreness, irritation, tenderness, bumps and blisters are all signs that you may be experiencing Traction Alopecia. Broken hairs and receding hairline are more extreme indicators.

Traction Alopecia is caused by anything that pulls the hair and damages it by the root; causing scarring or worse, permanent hair loss. Traction Alopecia typically happens slowly and gradually over a number of years. Wearing braids or ponytails too tight can pull hair. It’s important to keep track of how much hair you have and monitor it between styles so that you can prevent substantial hair loss before it occurs.

We often use braids, extensions, wigs and similar styles as protection. Protective styles are used to prevent stress on the scalp that could lead to Traction Alopecia. Here are a few different tactics and treatments to prevent, reverse and even retore hair back to its original healthy state.

  • If you’re a person that likes to change your hairstyle every other week, be sure to alternate styles. For instance, if you had braids for a while, switch it up and give your hair a break by letting your hair down free for a bit.
  • When wearing a ponytail, don’t use rubber bands or elastic bands. Use cloth or fabric-based ponytail holders.
  • If you plan on getting a sew-in or weave, then that is a few weeks that you can skip chemically processing your hair. A relaxer in addition to braids can make your hair brittle, weak and more likely to break off.  
  • Only wear weave and extensions for short periods of time and take breaks between each use.
  • If doing a braided or loc style, make them on the thicker side as thinner braids and locs tend to pull hair too tight.
  • When drying or flat ironing your hair, keep the heat setting on low.
  • Choose wigs with satin wig caps.
  • Wear a silk or satin bonnet, durag, scarf or other hair covering when going to sleep. If you don’t like wearing things on your head, you can always use a satin pillow case.

For more ways to combat and treat stress alopecia, consult a licensed physician.

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