Braided hairstyles offer a timeless way for African American women to keep cool and look attractive during the warmer months of summer, but these often wreak havoc on the hair in the form of a condition called traction alopecia. Traction Alopecia is the leading cause of hair loss among African American women, affecting as many as one in three. Researchers have found that the primary cause of this condition is hairstyles that pull at the scalp, such as tight braids and ponytails.
Hair loss occurs as a result of the hair follicle being damaged from the constant tension involved in wearing these styles. The good news, however, is that strategies exist for minimizing traction alopecia, and that treatments are available for those who develop it.
Keep the Braids Loose
Loose braids have far less tension than their tight counterparts, so keep them as loose as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your stylist to reduce the tension during the braiding process — you should feel only a minimal amount of pulling or none at all.
Keep Hair Strong
Strong, well-conditioned hair is far less likely to break off, even at the follicle level. Applying one or two intensive protein treatments followed by a heavy moisturizer prior to having your hair braided can help lessen its vulnerability to developing Traction Alopecia.
You should also ask your stylist to apply a good leave-in conditioner before beginning the braiding process. However, don’t let these measures act as a go-ahead for tight styling — it’s very important to keep tension to a minimum no matter what other safeguards are taken.
Avoid Chemical Straightening
Those who have undergone chemical straightening may be more vulnerable to developing Traction Alopecia than their counterparts who haven’t had this procedure done. Chemical straightening weakens the hair shaft, so let your stylist know if you’ve had this done so he or she can take appropriate precautions.
Alternate Hair Styles
Braids should be left in for no longer than six weeks. After that period of time, give your follicles a rest and wear your hair another way for six weeks or so. Keep in mind that even if you’ve taken every precaution and haven’t felt the slightest bit of tugging or tightness while wearing braids, your follicles may have nonetheless been affected.
Avoid Braiding the Edges Altogether
Traction Alopecia is most noticeable in the edges of your hair, so avoid braiding them at all if possible, and simply smooth the area with a good styling product instead. If you must have them braided, ask your stylist to braid larger sections of hair in this area in order to help distribute the tension among more strands of hair.
Help with Hair Loss
Fortunately, traction alopecia is highly treatable when in the hands of a physician with expertise and experience regarding the condition. Please feel free to schedule a consultation with us today to discover how we can help reverse the effects of Traction Alopecia.
If you start noticing any hair loss, you better tell the problem early enough to your doctor to avoid damaging the hair follicles. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, visit our website today.