Did you know that there is a scientific term for hairline loss? It is called traction/tension alopecia. Loosely translated, it refers to baldness and hair loss caused by prolonged or repeated pulling of the hair.
Black and coloured women are most susceptible to this because of the fact that both groups usually have their hair braided or tied up in tight hairstyles. That doesn’t mean white and Asian women are completely exempt from this type of hair loss either.
The most common causes of tension alopecia include (as stated above) very tight ponytails or pigtails, tight braids or cornrows, dreadlocks, tight weaves, wigs attached with glue, clips or tape, certain hair clips (especially when worn in the same position every day) as well as headbands.
Other causes include tightly worn hairpieces, tight headgear like cycling helmets that are worn frequently or for long stretches of time and tend to rub or pull repeatedly on the same area of hair, constant use of hair rollers.
One uncommon cause of this type of alopecia is a emotional condition called trichotillomania which causes sufferers to pull out their own hair.
Tension alopecia manifests itself in a number of ways - the most common being a receding hairline, especially at the temples and behind the ears.
While hair breakage due to tension is reversible, complete hair loss (when the hair is pulled completely from the root) is not.
Some of you will also notice what looks like pimples at the spots where your hair is constantly pulled. That is actually a sign of inflamed hair follicles. If you continue to put the hair under stress at this point, you will be doing irreversible damage to your hair.
Simply put, you are making it so that your hair will never be able to grow again in that spot.
Symptoms that you are putting your hair through this include getting a headache after you get your hair styled, an overly-itchy scalp and a scalp that feels sensitive for long periods of time after you have untied your hair or had braids done.
The best way to stop tension alopecia is to prevent it before it happens because once your hair is gone, it is not coming back.
How to fix it?
One of the first things you can do to prevent it is to ask your hairstylist not to pull your hair so tight. There is a misconception that tightly pulled hair looks the neatest but it is not worth losing your hair over.
One of the best things you can do for your hair is to let it rest. Rest from all the chemicals, combing and styling.
It is not advisable to do one hairstyle after the other. Rather wear your own hair in between hairstyles. If you have relaxed hair, DO NOT relax your hair immediately after removing braids. Rather give it a week to rest before you relax it and another week to rest after relaxing before you braid it again (so that’s 2 weeks in total).
When your hair is braided (especially with singles) do not pull too tight whenever you tie it. We advise pulling the braids around your hairline slightly out of the ponytail to loosen the tension before turning it into a bun.
It is also not advisable to do the same braided or tied hairstyle over and over again because causing a pattern of pulling will only make your hair fall out faster.
Sleeping with a satin or silky doek or pillow case is also one solution as that type of material is less harsh on your hair.
You should also be careful about how you remove the knots that are left in your hair after you remove braids. Forcibly combing, brushing or pulling them out causes breakage and tension and that is why it may look like your hair never grows.
Hair products also play an important part in keeping your hair strong and healthy enough to fight tension. The best is Jamaican Black Castor Oil which retails for ± R300. Regular castor oil and olive oil are much cheaper alternatives but they also help hair regain thickness and stay strong.
Pure, unrefined coconut oil and raw, organic apple cider vinegar are also favourites among hair bloggers.
Main image credit: instagram.com/terrypheto