10 March 2012

Spotlight on Traction Alopecia

As a black woman with a perm, I heard many times, "Stop wearing your hair in one all the time!" Or, "Your hair will break off if you don't stop pulling it back all the time!" Maybe that's why I had fallen in love with short hair as I was then forced to wear it always looking nice.

(Source)Do you remember this photo of
British supermodel, Naomi Campbell?
Now with locs, my greatest concern is relocking too tightly. After that, it would have to be relocking too often. Even with my daughter, I am so very cautious when it is time for her to get cornrows done for school. I wish many days that she could just wear it out with a headband on. But I know the knotty ordeal that would greet me when it is time to brush/comb it out during the afternoon in preparation for pre-school the next day!! She's still so young but I do not want to take silly chances.

Traction Alopecia (TA) ought to be a serious concern for black women, but I am not so sure it has been getting through to us. In my own native Barbados, I see far too many women suffering with TA and still wearing their hair pulled fiercely back into a ponytail, whether they have locs, a fro or relaxed hair. Their hairlines/edges are so badly damaged. 

What is TA?
Traction Alopecia occurs when too much pressure or tension is placed on the roots of hair from constantly and consistently pulling hair tightly in the same direction. 

Susan Taylor
I have seen her hair in braids for all my life.
Might she be dealing or has she dealt with TA?
According to one very recognized resource site, Traction Alopecia "often occurs in persons who wear tight braids, especially 'cornrows', that lead to high tension, pulling and breakage of hair."  The writer continues, 
"Traction Alopecia can also occur due to overprocessing of the hair. Chemical treatment of hair with dyes, bleaches, or straighteners disrupts the keratin structure in a manner that reduces its tensile strength. The hair can become fragile and heavy fall out can occur with brushing or combing. The use of thermal or chemical hair straightening, and hair braiding or weaving are examples of styling techniques that place African American women at high risk for various "traumatic" alopecias."

One of the first things you might notice is actually a receding hair line. Or, you might notice redness on the scalp or hair line where there are tiny irritated bumps. These little bumps have surfaced because the hair follicle has been pulled out due to excessive tension on that area. 

Things to keep in mind
  • Change up hairstyles often. Refrain from constantly wearing your hair in styles which apply extra stress to sensitive areas. So ponytails, braids, weaves and the like are a no-no
  • Wear softer styles. Why not wear your hair open? Twist outs? 
  • Try not to wear rollers for too long
  • Do not reloc hair tightly
  • Stay away from hair accessories that grip the hair so tightly that you end up having a headache
  • Pay special attention to the heat settings on hair dryers (hoods and handheld), flat and curling irons
  • Don't twist or cornrow a child's hair too tightly. Also, not every single style has to have a ruffle or stretchy band. A child's hair can be twisted and beautifully styled without causing too much stress to the scalp 
  • The tensile strength of your hair becomes weaker due to chemical over-processing. Be careful! Take better care of your hair!

Final thoughts
There is help for persons if there is early detection. Unchecked or undetected Traction Alopecia may very well lead permanent hair loss. Ladies, let's make the effort whenever possible to minimize the occurrence of Traction Alopecia. 

Little girl with TA
It does not have to be like this.
Locs and TA


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