Hairstyle choice could be a deciding factor driving balding in women, a new study reveals. Fortunately, the condition may be entirely preventable.
Women who pull their hair back tightly may be accelerating hair loss, according to researchers from John Hopkins University. This includes braids, dreadlocks, weaves, tight ponytails and extensions.
"Hair is a cornerstone of self-esteem and identity for many people, but ironically, some hairstyles meant to improve our self-confidence actually lead to hair and scalp damage," Crystal Aguh, assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said.
Traction alopecia, or hair loss due to tension at the hair root — was found to be made more common by hairstyles marked by stretching of the hair. This is the most common type of hair loss among African-American women, affecting roughly one-third of the demographic.
Traction alopecia can easily be prevented, and treatment is available, if patients start on a plan early.
"We have to do better as care providers to offer our patients proper guidance to keep them healthy from head to toe," Aguh stated in a press release.
Chemical straightening of hair increases the damage caused by these hairstyles, researchers determined. This treatment weakens the hair shaft, which can result in breaking. Extensions, especially those in which adhesive is applied directly to the scalp, can also damage hair, leading to hair loss. Use of heat to straighten hair, such as blow drying and the use of flat irons, could weaken hair, leading to thinning and balding as well, researchers stated.
Frequent wearing of wigs, or even wig caps, could damage hair, resulting in additional thinning. However, caps made of satin may be better on hair than such pieces made from nylon or cotton.
Researchers advised that weaves and extensions should only be worn for six to eight weeks, and braids should be loosened after two to three months.
People wearing their hair in a naturally relaxed state, or gathered together into loose buns or updos, were found to be least at risk for hair loss. Untreated hair was found to be better at sustaining damage done to it during styling.
Study of how hairstyles can lead to traction alopecia was profiled in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.