New research suggests that certain scalp-pulling hairstyles like tight ponytails, braids and dreadlocks can damage hair follicles and lead to gradual hair loss
Tying hair too tightly can be damaging. A new research has found that women who like to have their hair pulled back tightly are at increasing risk of hair loss.
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Researchers from John Hopkins have reviewed 19 studies and found a strong connection between hair-pulling hairstyles – many of which are common among black women and traction alopecia or gradual hair loss.
Researchers have found that one-third African-American women are affected by traction alopecia, making it the most common hair loss in the group.
Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that occurs over time when hairs are put under constant strain or tension by pulling them back from the face and is usually caused by very tight ponytails, braids or dreadlocks.
“Hair is a cornerstone of self-esteem and identity for many people but ironically some hairstyles meant to improve our self confidence actually lead to hair and scalp damage,” said Crystal Aguh, professor of dermatology from John Hopkins School of Medicine.
“Traction alopecia is entirely preventable and early intervention can stop or reverse it. We have to do better as care providers to offer our patients proper guidance to keep them healthy from head to toe.”
In the research, various hairstyles have been rated as low, moderate or high risk hairstyles on the basis of the extent to which follicles are exposed to tension, weight, heat and hair-straightening chemicals.
Moderate risk hairstyles are those hairstyles that involve heating such as the use of flat iron and hair dryer for blow drying, hair altering chemicals such as for straitening or wavy hair and use of wigs. These hairstyles apparently feel more damaging but they are less likely to result in hair loss (their excessive use, however, can weaken hair and can make them dull and dry).
Low risk styles are generally low tension styles such as loose buns or loose ponytails that do not cause repeated stress on the hair root while highest risk styles include breads, dreadlocks, weaves and extensions. These hairstyles may look simple and free of chemicals but the constant pulling of the hair in one direction can make them detrimental for the health of hair.
Researchers recommend that people should opt for alternative styles in order to stop the tension and to allow follicles to recover from stress.
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“Dermatologists need to be conscious of the fact that many high and moderate risk hairstyles greatly improve their manageability and simply telling patients to abandon them won’t work for everyone,” said Aguh. “Instead, physicians can educate themselves to speak with patients about making the best hairstyling choices to minimize preventable hair loss.”