Traction Alopecia: When is it too late?
4th September 2023
Traction alopecia can be a distressing condition, especially in the later stages when the hair loss and scarring become more noticeable. Many of the people we speak to are understandably concerned that they won’t be able to fix the damage and regrow healthy hair. So, is it ever too late to treat traction alopecia?
The good news is it’s never too late to treat traction alopecia. That being said, the earlier you seek help the more likely you are to recover healthy hair. Even when traction alopecia is advanced, surgical treatment is often still possible.
In this post, we’ll explain more about traction alopecia and whether it’s ever too late to rectify the damage.
When is it too late to fix traction alopecia?
Generally speaking, it’s never too late to fix traction alopecia. The condition can be treated at any point – whether you’re in the early stages or a more advanced phase. However, while there’s no specific timeframe, treating the condition early means you have a better chance of repairing the hair follicles and regrowing healthy hair.
In the earlier stages, you can usually stop traction alopecia from progressing by making a few simple changes such as wearing a different hairstyle. Medication or topical solutions like minoxidil can also help you regrow healthy hair if the condition isn’t too advanced.
However, if the hair follicles are badly damaged and there’s extensive scarring, it may be harder to fix traction alopecia through lifestyle changes and medication alone. Shiny or smooth skin where there was once hair can often be a sign of permanent damage. In advanced cases like this, the best course of action may be a hair transplant.
At The Maitland Clinic, we can assess your condition and recommend the most suitable hair treatment plan for you.
What is traction alopecia and what causes it?
Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that occurs when the hair is under constant and excessive tension, often as a result of tight hairstyles. Unlike some other types of alopecia, it’s not caused by immune or genetic factors but by repeated strain or prolonged pulling on the hair. Over time, this tension can damage the scalp and lead to broken hairs and bald spots, particularly around the hairline and temples.
Anyone who regularly wears restrictive hairstyles such as braids, cornrows or a tight ponytail is potentially at risk of traction alopecia. When worn repeatedly, even headwear like cycle helmets can exert pressure on the hair and scalp. Hair extensions and chemical treatments may also weaken hair follicles, making your hair more prone to tension-related damage.
Although traction alopecia can affect people from different races, research suggests that it’s more common in women of African descent.
Spotting the signs of traction alopecia
When caught early, the effects of traction alopecia can usually be fixed. The signs aren’t always obvious so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms so you can take remedial action and avoid permanent hair loss.
The first signs of traction alopecia can include:
- Redness or soreness around the hairline or scalp
- An itching or stinging sensation
- Pimples, small bumps or ulcers on the scalp or around the hairline
- Areas of thin or broken hair, especially where the hair has been under particular strain
If traction alopecia is left untreated, the hair follicles may eventually become so damaged that they’re no longer able to grow new hair. Signs of advanced traction alopecia include:
- Extensive hair loss and bald patches
- Irreversible scarring – the scalp may appear smooth and shiny
- A tender and inflamed scalp
- Frequent headaches.
During the later stages of traction alopecia, you may be prescribed medication to help manage the condition. In some cases, however, the damage is irreversible and a hair transplant may then be the only viable option.
How to prevent traction alopecia
Unlike some other forms of hair loss, traction alopecia is usually avoidable. The following tips can help to prevent the condition and keep your hair looking its best.
- Avoid wearing tight hairstyles – If possible, avoid regularly wearing hairstyles that put pressure on the hair follicles such as braids, cornrows and tight ponytails and buns
- Give your hair a break – If you do regularly wear tight hairstyles, consider alternating them with looser styles or, better still, wear your hair down. This will give it a chance to rest and recover from the excessive tension
- Be gentle – When styling your hair, avoid pulling it too tightly or brushing too vigorously
- Use a moisturising product – Dry hair is more prone to damage so consider investing in a good-quality moisturising spray to keep it in tip-top condition
- Avoid using heat and chemicals on your hair – Heat and strong chemicals can weaken and damage the hair, making you more susceptible to traction alopecia. Try to keep your use of hair dyes and styling tools like straighteners to a minimum
- Consult a hair loss professional – If you’re worried about traction alopecia, contact a hair professional for advice. The team at The Maitland Clinic has a wealth of experience in managing hair loss conditions like traction alopecia and will be happy to answer any queries or concerns you may have.
Get help for traction alopecia
Whether you’ve just spotted the early signs of traction alopecia or your condition is more advanced, we can help. Led by world-renowned hair restoration expert, Dr Edward Ball, our experienced team can assess the extent of your hair loss and put together a personalised treatment plan. Depending on your condition, this might include behavioural changes, medication or a hair transplant.
The Maitland Clinic has an excellent record of performing successful FUT and FUE hair transplants. Dr Ball’s technical skill, experience and artistry means he can create a natural look that blends seamlessly with the rest of your hair. And as a patient of The Maitland Clinic, you will also benefit from an exceptional aftercare service.