A New York journalist has written about how a visit to a new hairstylist took a somewhat unexpected turn when her hairdresser pointed out that she had slightly less hair on one side of her head than the other. The cause of this hair loss, she was told, was her handbag.
Lisa DeSantis, writing for the health.com website, explains how she was taken aback when her hairstylist correctly guessed that she carried the strap of her handbag on her left shoulder. His only clue was a slight decrease in the volume of hair on that side of her head: it turns out that the missing locks had been yanked out after having got trapped under the strap of her handbag.
Wear and tear
Her stylist also said the slightly thinner locks on Lisa’s left-hand side were due to hair breakage caused by the wear and tear of the strap on her hair. This is where the hair becomes weakened and snaps along the shaft, leaving behind split ends and frizzy hair that can be mistaken for thinning hair in severe cases.
“I was in shock,” she writes. “Could something that I do every day be ruining my hair?”
In fact, there are multiple things that people do every day that can ruin their hair, from smoking to not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water. We asked senior Belgravia hair loss specialist, Leonora Doclis for her professional opinion on this case and whether how you wear your handbag is something worth worrying about in terms of hair health.
“Under the circumstances, breakage or weathering of the part of the hair shaft that is caught between the straps of her handbag and her clothes could possibly cause hair breakage; the chance is quite remote but it is possible. I have long hair and do not allow my bag strap to rest on my hair shaft against my shoulder – if my hair gets trapped I quickly move it; this type of damage is easy to avoid. When it comes to everyday actions that cause hair loss, tight hairstyles are far more of a concern than bag straps,” she advises.
Hairstyles more of a worry
Frequently wearing tight hairstyles or modifications (hair extensions, wigs or weaves) that lead to a hair loss condition known as Traction Alopecia is the chief offender when it comes to seeing lifestyle-related hair loss in women.
These include tightly woven braids, cornrows and taut ballerina buns or high ponytails, as well as anything that adds extra, constant weight to the hair follicles for extended periods, as they cause excessive tension to the scalp. A headache will often precede this type of hair loss and acts as a sign that your hairstyle is placing too much strain on the follicles.
So widespread is the problem, in fact, that the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore recently issued guidelines detailing the maximum amount of time these styles can safely be worn. It’s a serious subject: while some cases can be reversed with a personalised traction alopecia treatment course from a specialist clinic, in more extreme instances the hair loss can be permanent.
The press has been quick to pick up on Lisa’s story, and while it has hardly led to a global panic it is undoubtedly giving some women pause for thought. Arguably the best thing about the story breaking is that it is a reminder that hair is not infallible, and just because a woman has great hair today, there is no guarantee that the same will be true tomorrow.
In addition to the rise in cases of traction alopecia, women with a genetic predisposition towards hereditary shedding are now tending to experience thinning hair from female pattern hair loss earlier on in life than previous generations – often from their 20’s – so hair loss in women is already a growing concern.
At the first sign of any kind of hair loss or thinning, a visit to a dedicated specialist is always the best way to proceed, even if it is just to get some expert advice. In the vast majority of cases a personalised treatment plan can help to prevent further shedding and promote regrowth so the sooner you find out what is happening and what your options are, the better. But as for handbags, just make sure the strap is clear of your hair and this shouldn’t be a problem.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.