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The #1 Cause of Thinning Hair in Black Women

Woman closing her eyes

Natural hair is beautiful. There are so many ways to style it, different thicknesses, textures, and lengths. But one concern all women, especially women of color, contend with is thinning hair— especially the delicate hair at the hairline.

Baby hairs shape the face, are a sign of youth, and also make for a stunning addition to any protective or natural hair style. For those whose edges are full and intact, you may not even notice them. But for those whose edges have thinned or receded over time, you know how valuable your edges are to your confidence, your self-image, and your self-esteem.

While protective styles can be a great way to keep naturally high-textured hair from damage or matting, or serve as low-maintenance styles while letting your hair grow, many protective styles can cause more damage than they prevent. Braiding or twisting the hair too tight, pulling hair with too much tension with high-heat tools, or using harsh glues and removing hair pieces without properly removing residue can compromise hair follicles. This damage is called Traction Alopecia, and it affects women of color at an alarming rate.

Collage of three women looking at different directions

Traction alopecia is medically described as “hair loss due to repetitive tension on the hair.” The reason women of color, specifically Black and African or Afro-Caribbean women, are disproportionately affected by traction alopecia is due to the traditional—and honestly most effective—kinds of styling. Traction alopecia is most commonly caused by styles like high tight ponies, tight buns, cornrows, box braids, passion twists, locks, weaves, wigs, and frequent use of curlers. (So…basically everything but a wash n go, right?)

While this list may look daunting, luckily, the damage caused by protective styling can be prevented. The Practice of styling the hair is not necessarily what causes traction alopecia, it’s how the hair is treated before, during, and after the hair is placed.

To make it easy for you, here are a list of do’s and don’t’s for how to prevent traction alopecia:


Pull the hair too tightly from the scalp when braiding, twisting, or gathering hair for a high-pony

•  If it hurts or leads to a headache, your follicles are suffering, too. Headache from tight hair styles is an early symptom of traction alopecia.

Style dry, unconditioned hair
•  Hair should be clean, but make sure to deep condition the hair before beginning any protective style.

Let the scalp dry out during long-wear styles
•  Moisturizing oils like argan, jojoba, coconut, and avocado are nourishing and moisturizing for the scalp. When the scalp becomes dry, hair follicles become fragile and sensitive.

Sacrifice quality for a cheaper products
•  Quality ingredients in your styling products is key to keeping hair and scalp healthy. Look for natural active ingredients, read reviews, and do your research before you buy!

Leave your edges out
•  Whether styling with box braids, cornrows, twists, or a top-knot, whenever tension is involved, leave the edges out. Thin baby hairs are far too fragile to withstand any kind of tensions style.
•  Even if your hairline has receded or thinned, do not attempt to pull edge hairs into tension styles. Comb them down with some gel instead.

Mind your bonnet
•  Rough or too-tight elastic bands or ties on satin bonnets and night-scarves can either snag or rub against fragile edges, causing repeated tension and potentially causing hair thinning along the sensitive hairline.

Switch it up
•  Repetitive styling and tension in the same areas is one of the leading causes of traction alopecia, so don’t be afraid to mix it up! Try to avoid parting hair in the same spots and giving the scalp a break if you’re a big fan of high tight ponytails by trying a gentle twist out in between.

Nourish your scalp and edges every day
•  Adding a nourishing scalp cream to your daily beauty ritual will keep your hair healthy and moisturized. Edge Naturale Follicle Enhancer, for example, is a twice-daily treatment for prevention of hair loss and helps restore thinning edges when used as directed.
Two women with long curly hair

Traction alopecia is no joke, and anyone who has experienced hair thinning and loss from repeated tight hairstyling can testify. Long-term damage can be permanent, but arming yourself with the knowledge of what causes traction alopecia and how to keep your hair healthy, strong, and full is the first step to preventing it.