What Happens?

In order to better understand how traction alopecia occurs a simple knowledge of the human hair growth cycle is required. There are three phases of normal human hair growth activity. These phases are (1) anagen, the growth phase, (2) catagen, where the hair sheds, and (3) telogen, where there is no growth. The growth phase last from two to six years, the shedding phase, two to three weeks, and the resting phase from two to four months.

Under normal hair / scalp environments gravity applies a constant force on the follicle bulb. This gravitational force on the hair (non-disease) has no measurable negative (damage) effect on the scalp. On the other hand, when weaves or inserts are attached to the hair additional forces applications. Gravity exerts a constant pulling force on hair inserts which in turn apply a constant and excessive tension (“pulling”) on the hair follicle and follicle bed. The combine force of gravity and hair inserts results in abnormal tension (pressure), often causing trauma (inflammation) and scarring (tissue damage).

This trauma to the scalp can become so pronounced that the normal biological cycle of growth is disrupted, causing an unscheduled telogen or resting phase to occurrence. Instead of the hair resting in the telogen phase for 2 to 4 months then cycling to the anagen phase, the traumatized hair follicles instead could stay in the telogen phase anywhere for 1 to 3 years! This condition is medically called, “Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss”.

While in the resting phase of hair growth the papillae (the heart of hair growth) does not send messenger electrical signals to the bulb of the hair follicle. It is these messenger electrical signals from the papillae that stimulate the bulb which leads to normal hair follicle growth rates (anagen phase). If this signaling process is absent or weak there can little or no active hair growth.

Furthermore, the constant presence of inflammation around the hair follicle bed (bulb) blocks the normal flow of blood necessary to nourish and support normal hair growth cycles. Blood removes toxic waste byproducts from the site of hair growth while carrying the needed nutrients (minerals, vitamins, hormones, proteins) to sustain active hair growth rates. Since toxic waste byproducts contain dangerous free-radical compounds these free-radicals react with the sebum in the hair bulb, resulting in cracks in this natural fatty acid / wax (sebum) substance that hold the hair follicle ridged. These cracks loosen hair follicle stability resulting in breakage and loss of hair. If this trauma and inflammation is not relieved from the scalp and hair follicles PERMANENT HAIR LOSS WILL BE THE END RESULT .

What You Can Do

It is possible to reduce the effects of traction alopecia if the condition is done early enough. Remove all weaves, braids, extensions, and glues as soon as possible. Temporally stop the use of dyes, bleaches, relaxers. Only use natural or organic products to condition and clean your hair. Once you recover your normal hair growth rate, lengths, and fullness, make sure that future braiding is not done too tight. Also, try to decrease the use of weaves and extensions. Note that if you experience experience alopecia, it may take up to three months to three years to recover hair loss. In some instances where your scalp has been temporarily subjected to trauma and scarring, hair recovery may not be possible.