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Researchers Advise Women on Which Hairstyles Cause Hair Loss

In an article posted online entitled “All Hairstyles Are Not Created Equal”, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School Of Medicine in Baltimore detail the findings of a study they conducted which set out to find a correlation between hair loss and how African-American women wear their hair.

After reviewing 19 separate studies, the team said they could confirm “a strong association” between certain hairstyles that place excessive tension on the scalp and the hair loss condition Traction Alopecia.

Traction Alopecia is the only fully preventable form of hair loss as it arises when someone chooses to frequently wear a hairstyle that causes prolonged pulling on their hair follicles due to tension and/or weight. Whilst hair loss experts like the specialists here at Belgravia know Traction Alopecia and its causes intimately, the Johns Hopkins findings could prove useful to dermatologists and the wider community from an educational point of view.

One third of African-American women affected

The researchers say that a third of African-American women are affected by Traction Alopecia, and that it is the most common form of hair loss among this group. This latter statement is at odds with the outcome of a recent research project, ‘The Black Women’s Health Study’ carried out by Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Centre, which found that Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia – a form of scarring alopecia – was the most common hair loss condition among the 5,500 African-American women studied.

Hair is a cornerstone of self-esteem and identity for many people,” says Crystal Aguh, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “but ironically, some hairstyles meant to improve our self-confidence actually lead to hair and scalp damage.”

Ms Aguh goes on to say that: “We have to do better as care providers to offer our patients proper guidance to keep them healthy from head to toe.”

Traction Alopecia, as previously stated, can be avoided entirely and, whilst this study investigated its predominance in the black community due to women’s hairstyling practices and the brittle nature of afro hair, it can affect men and women – even children – of all races. Luckily, in many instances where it is evident the condition will start to improve the minute the hairstyle is changed for one that stops putting pressure on the hair follicle. Sometimes, though, the damage is so severe that permanent damage to the follicle has been caused.

A bespoke Traction Alopecia treatment course can offer relief by promoting regrowth – sometimes significant – however it will not fix permanently damaged hair follicles. At Belgravia many encouraging regrowth results have been achieved for clients by using recommended preparations of high strength minoxidil which is applied straight to the thinning areas, daily. This medication is suitable for use by both men and women and can also be used alongside a range of hair growth boosters to improve the condition of the hair and aid the action of the treatment.

Traction Alopecia Contributing Factors DiagramHighest risk styles

The Johns Hopkins team correctly assert that the highest-risk hairstyles in terms of Traction Alopecia include braids, dreadlocks, weaves and hair extensions – even more so when they have been applied to chemically straightened or ‘relaxed’ hair. They also point out that further problems can arise if extensions have been attached with glue that has been applied directly to the scalp.

Some of the above styles are deemed ‘moderate risk’ by the Johns Hopkins team when they are applied to natural hair. In other words, hair that has not been chemically treated but is fashioned into a ‘tight’ hairstyle may be less likely to lead to Traction Alopecia. Other styles and treatments that fall into the moderate risk category include thermal straightening, permanent waving and the use of some kinds of wigs. The team states that the use of flat irons and blow drying can weaken shafts which may not be a problem in itself but could lead to “significant” hair loss when applied to one of the hairstyles that often lead to Traction Alopecia.

Interestingly, the team have come up with some guidelines pertaining to how long styles that can lead to Traction Alopecia should remain in place before they are swapped for something less stressful on the scalp. They recommend that braided hairstyles should be in place no longer than three months, while weaves and extensions should be removed after a maximum of eight weeks. By removing the styles somewhat earlier, however, the risk of Traction Alopecia is obviously reduced.

Traction Alopecia tends to display around the hairline which starts to recede due to the strain placed around the front of the head, so anyone concerned that they may be losing their edges should start to wear their hair naturally, stop any heat-styling practices and consult a hair loss specialist nurse for a diagnosis and professional treatment advice.


The Belgravia Centre - Hair Loss Specialists LondonThe Belgravia Centre

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.


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