What Causes Traction Alopecia? And How Do You Treat It?

If you’ve noticed an increase in hair loss around your hairline, you might want to reconsider the way you style your strands. Repeated stress on the hair follicles—whether from a tightly wound topknot, ponytail or braids—can cause traction alopecia over time.

What is traction alopecia? It’s a type of hair loss that’s the result of repeated stress or tension on the hair and its follicles. Because the damage is cumulative, it may take some time to notice the symptoms. The good news is that if you catch it early on, any loss or thinning is reversible. If left untreated, however, the damage can be permanent.

What are some telltale signs to look for? Broken hairs around the front and sides of your hairline (especially around the ears), redness or soreness of the scalp and, in some cases, small white bumps that crop up wherever there is significant pressure or pulling. 

Yikes! What should I do now? First and foremost, give your hair a break from the styles that are causing the tension. Try to alternate between wearing your hair up and down. If you must pull it back, opt for a low, loose style. Once your strands have had a chance to recover for a few weeks, you can try using a topical minoxidil treatment (such as Rogaine) to help fill in any sparse areas. Bottom line: If your hairstyle feels too tight, it’s definitely time to loosen things up.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...