Traction Alopecia Causes and Remedies to Prevent that Five-head

Woman with curly hair

We love a high pony. Those tight cornrows? Love to see it. Freshly laid frontal? *Chef’s Kiss*

But let’s get real for a second—all that tight brushing and protective styling is doing the opposite of protecting your coils. It’s ripping out your edges. Turning your forehead into a five-head. Pushing your hairline back like it’s running from your eyebrows. Joke all you want, hair loss from tight, tension styling—especially on kinky coily hair—is a major issue for Black women. High-textured, 3b-4c, coarse hair tends to be extremely sensitive to pulling, tugging, chemical processes, and dryness. And when all of these combine, hair loss and follicle damage soon follow.

Hair loss caused by tension styling has a name, Traction Alopecia, and it disproportionately affects Black women. Here is everything you need to know about the causes, treatments, and some tips for prevention of traction alopecia, so you can take full control of your own mane and crown.

Traction Alopecia: What is it?
Hair follicles are delicate organs of the skin, and while they may grow long, strong, heavy hair, they are not structurally intended to withstand repeated harsh styling. Also referred to as “chignon alopecia,” on ballerinas whose hair is whipped and slicked into tight buns, traction alopecia is hair loss that’s caused from pulling the hair in the same areas over time. Too-tight twisted hairstyles weaken the hair follicles over time, leading to patchiness, bald-spots, or fast-receding hairlines at the forehead and around the ears. Braids, twists, heavy extensions, improper glue removal (wigs and frontals), or brushed-tight ponys or up-dos can all lead to traction alopecia.

How do I fix it?
Luckily for those who’ve suffered hairline loss from traction alopecia, it is completely reversible. Permanent hair loss from traction alopecia is rare and tends to last if harsh styling continues, or if severe trauma to the hair follicles has occurred, causing scarring. Otherwise, there is a solution:

1. Let your hair down once in a while
Letting your hair recover starts with letting it breathe. Release the tension. If hair loss is caused by over-wearing a particular style, avoid that style for a while and try something less tight and restrictive.

2. Go easy on your locks
Clarifying shampoo, deep conditioners, leave-in conditioners, and scalp treatments are your best friends right now. While tight protective styles may feel more secure, your best bet will be loose twist-outs, stylish scarves, and wash n’ go’s. It’s not forever, just until the scalp begins to heal.

3. Enhance your follicles
Treating hair thinning and loss isn’t rocket science, but it does take dedication. Twice daily use of a scalp treatment like Edge Naturale Follicle Enhancer is a perfect way to get growing. While conditioning the scalp with ingredients like coconut milk and avocado oil, it’s important to incorporate stimulating herbs to increase circulation to the hair follicles. Increased circulation delivers vital vitamins and nutrients from the blood into the skin and hair, creating a healthy environment for hair growth. Massage can increase this stimulant effect.

4. Heal from the inside out
It’s not just what you put on your skin, but what you put IN your body that counts. While many important vitamins and minerals for hair growth come from a healthy diet, vitamin deficiencies too often lead to hair thinning and loss. Supplementing your diet with vitamins and minerals for hair growth will help boost the health of your follicles from the inside out. Key vitamins A, C, D, and E, and minerals like zinc, iron, and biotin, help tackle common deficiencies and have been proven to assist in restoring thinning hairlines.
Collage of three women with curly hair

How can I prevent traction alopecia?

The key to maintaining healthy hair and preventing tension hair loss is being gentle with your hair. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite styles! The key to keeping your hair growing strong is changing up your styles and allow plenty of time for your hair to rest in between long-wear do’s. For example, box braids are a fun and sexy way protect your coils, but heavy, waist-length braids (snatched so tight you get that “face-lift” look) don’t just make your scalp sore, they’re putting extra tension on your follicles. Extended wear or repeated touch ups of tight or heavy protective styles over time can weaken your hair and cause hair thinning and loss. A great rule of thumb is that if your style hurts, it’s hurting your roots. Go easy. And lastly, for wearers of hair pieces and weaves, check your glue and use a remover. Pulling at glued pieces or scrubbing at sticky edges creates unnecessary tension on delicate baby hairs. Professional installation and removal of long-wear hair extensions and weaves by someone dedicated to healthy hair is key to protecting your luscious crown.

Traction alopecia isn’t a life sentence, but it is a sign that your hair needs some TLC. Treat your scalp, go easy, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Restoring thinning hair caused by traction alopecia doesn’t happen overnight, but with a little bit of daily care, a fresh, fuller hairline is within your reach. Before you know it, you’ll be rocking that high pony again and snatching those edges— in the best way.