The fall weather is a clear indicator to break out the sweaters and leather, knee-high boots left in storage. This time of year many women will also quickly transition their hair into hibernation mode with protective styles, like cornrows, waist-length braids, weave-in extensions, custom wig units, and pulled back sleek updos to shield their manes from the dry air. Protecting the hair during such harsh conditions is very important when retaining length and to keep hair at its healthiest. However, over manipulating the hair with too much tension or stress from styles that are meant to protect the hair can counteract its purpose resulting in hair loss symptoms, like traction or traumatic alopecia.
Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss caused when the hair is pulled too tight. If left untreated, traction alopecia can become irreversible once the hair is continually pulled from the hair follicle (think of it as a pocket-like structure in the skin where the hair grows out of). Now, traumatic alopecia is slightly different but can also be avoided. The Griffith Center of Hair Restoration & Research explains the condition as “the result of repeated manipulation of the hairs either by repeated brushing, by chemical treatments, scarves or hats that constantly rub the frontal hairline, excessive heat styling, and plucking.” Staying mindful of how you style your hair is the first step to stop hair loss in its tracks. Here are six simple ways you can take action against traction or traumatic induced hair loss.
HEAD WRAPS, SCARVES, & JACKETS, OH MY!
Believe it or not, some of your everyday accessories can cause wear and tear on the strands of the hair. For instance, fabrics like cotton or wool are in close contact with your hair during the fall and winter months. The daily friction from running errands, moving your body, and even whipping your hair while wearing head wraps, scarves, and certain jackets can increase the effects of traumatic alopecia. The next time you’re heading out the door take a satin or silk scarf and lay it against your neck, or around your hair, before wrapping a scarf or hat around it. This will create a safe and smooth barrier around the hair that will minimize pulling and it won’t suck the moisture out of your hair either.
ALTERNATION, ALTERNATION, & ALTERNATION
One of the beautiful things about textured hair is how versatile it can be, so use this to your advantage by allowing your hair and scalp to breathe in between protective hairstyles. Do you enjoy the carefree option that weave-in extensions offer you? That is perfectly fine! Just allow your hair to rest for at least 3-4 weeks or longer before going back into a tension-prone style.
TIGHT STYLES ≠ LONGER LASTING
There are plenty of women who are stuck in the mentality that the tighter the hairstyle, the longer it will last. It’s just not true! If money, pleasure, and a good designer shoe sale has to come to an end at some point, the same thing goes for a hairstyle. You can’t preserve style forever and there is no reason why you should pop a pill, or two, to cope with the pain of your hair being done to tightly. It’s just not healthy and in the end your hair will suffer because of it.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR HAIRLINE HANGING
The hairline is a delicate area and should always be handled with care. It’s also susceptible to the most pulling from the tension that comes with heavier, free-flowing hairstyles, like braids, cornrows, and even locs. In an interview with Self Magazine, medical doctor Jeanine B. Downie gave a great illustration on how these stressful hair styles can cause damage: “Just think of a 700-pound woman hanging off a cliff by a small tree branch. It’s going to cause traction.” Don’t let those braids or extensions hold on for dear life. Instead, schedule an appointment with your stylist or braider to have your braids touched up or re-done around the hairline; this will prevent the hair from being pulled out of the hair follicle.
DON’T OVER DETANGLE TRESSES
Too much pulling and brushing of the hair is something else you have to be mindful of. Textured hair is at its weakest point when it’s wet, so try to untangle your mane with your fingers first while its dry with the aid of light oil/moisturizer. Then gradually spray the hair with a leave-in conditioner or water to make it more pliable but less prone to snapping since the majority of the knots were removed prior to wetting the hair.
STOP PICKING AT THAT!
Have you ever found your hands randomly picking, twirling, or pulling at a section of your hair and you didn’t even notice? Probing and pulling at a section of your hair repeatedly will weaken the area from too much friction. The next time you catch yourself getting carried away head over to Mane Society for some hair inspiration to take your mind off it!
Have you thought of trying any of these preventative steps? If so, let us know your thoughts and share them with us!