Traction Alopecia

Discussion in 'Terminology' started by Women's Hair Loss Project, Apr 22, 2009.

  1. Women's Hair Loss Project

    Women's Hair Loss Project Administrator Staff Member

    This refers to hair loss which occurs due to traction placed on hair. Traction alopecia is commonly seen with braids, pony tails and other hairstyles which create traction on the scalp.

    Traction alopecia is a common cause of hair loss due to pulling forces exerted on the scalp hair. This excessive tension leads to breakage in the outermost hairs. This condition is seen in children and adults, but it most commonly affects African American women. The 2 types of traction alopecia are marginal and nonmarginal. Unlike trichotillomania, a psychiatric disorder of compulsive hair pulling that leads to patchy hair loss, traction alopecia is unintentionally induced by various hairstyling practices (eg, use of braids, hair rollers, weaves, twists, locks, or "cornrows"). In the initial stages, this hair loss is reversible. With prolonged traction, alopecia can be permanent. Physicians, especially dermatologists, must recognize this condition early to prevent irreversible hair loss.


    Typically, traction alopecia is associated with sustained tension on the scalp hair. In theory, this phenomenon can also occur on areas of the face where hair is grown and styled. Traction causes hair to loosen from its follicular roots; however, hair loss also occurs secondary to follicular inflammation and atrophy. Hair loss is often symmetric and along the frontotemporal hairline; occipital scalp involvement is less common. Vellus hair is usually spared in the affected area.