Thinning hair results from gradual, non-genetic hair loss that can be caused by a number of reasons including hormonal changes in the body as experienced by pregnant women and post menopausal women, to poor nutrition as a result of a period of ill health.
Apart from these causes, a very common and often overlooked cause of thinning hair is continuously wearing the hair in tight hairstyles, placing undue tension and pressure on the hair roots eventually weakening them over time and causing them to fall out prematurely. As hairs reach the end of their normal growth phase, they fall out and ideally after going through the rest phase, should regrow and go through the whole cycle again. However, constantly pulling, or placing pressure on the hair damages the follicles and can lead to them becoming inflamed. Inflammation inhibits circulation thereby restricting the follicles access to vital nutrients required for healthy hair to grow.
Here’s a list of the most common hairstyles, that when worn excessively can lead to thinning hair or traction alopecia.
1. Drawstring ponytails
These hair pieces have a comb and drawstring to secure them on top of the head. Drawstring ponytails are attached to the hair after the hair has been pulled back into a tight bun. Hair gel is sometimes applied to achieve a sleek and smooth finish to the natural hair that is held in a bun. The drawstring ponytail is then attached by pinning it in place with the comb and using the drawstring to secure it. Although they are a convenient way to style your hair, frequent and constant use can cause thinning hair and bald patches, particularly in the area where the ponytail is attached.
2. Tight buns
The hair is twisted, rolled tightly and then fastened with pins or ties. The continuous effect of twisting and rolling the hair can weaken the strands and damage the follicles, resulting in thin hair.
This is a style very popular (but not restricted to) among black women and involves human or synthetic hair wefts being attached to natural hair, often sewing it on to cornrowed tracks. Wefts are sometimes also attached by using an anti fungus adhesive called bonding glue. Weaving is often used to stop the appearance of thinning hair, but unfortunately it can also cause thinning and hair loss itself, as the cornrows the extensions are attached to are very tight to make the weave last longer. Bonding glue can also cause hair loss when a proper remover isn’t used to break the glue’s bond completely before removal.
Hair is braided into thin, tight braids, sometimes with the addition of decorative items or with hair extensions braided into the hair (remember Brandy’s signature braids?). Apart from the pulling action caused by the tight braid, the hair line suffers because the hairs the extensions are attached to are usually weak and not able to cope with the weight of the additional hair.
These are a type of braids where the hair is braided close to the scalp. This style is favoured for being a low maintenance, aesthetic hairstyle, but can lead to traction alopecia if the cornrows are too tight as they place undue pressure on the hair, especially around the hairline.
6. Clip on hair extensions
These hair extensions are made by cutting machine made hair wefts into different lengths and attaching clips to each piece. They can be clipped onto the natural hair in various places, including the back, the sides of the face, etc.. They are commonly used to add colour to the hair or to give the appearance of fuller hair. Improper application by clipping the extensions too tightly or allowing the clips to dig into your scalp constantly when applied can lead to traction alopecia.