You might be habituated to wearing your hair in a tight ponytail or braid. But are you aware of the damages it may cause to your hair?
“Traction alopecia , the condition which causes hair loss due to repeated tight pulling force exerted on your hair, happens over time and is often unidentifiable until you experience severe hair loss,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
Scroll down to find out what causes traction alopecia, what are its signs and symptoms, and how you can treat it with Ayurveda.
- What Is Traction Alopecia?
- What Are The Causes Of Traction Alopecia?
- How Do You Know If You Have Traction Alopecia?
- Can Traction Alopecia Be Reversed?
- How To Treat Traction Alopecia With Ayurveda Naturally?
- How To Prevent Traction Alopecia?
- How Long Does It Take For The Hair To Grow Back?
- When Should You Consult A Doctor?
What Is Traction Alopecia?
When repeated pulling or tension is applied on your hair over a long time, it causes mechanical damage to your hair follicles and dermal papilla . This leads to loosening of your hair shaft from the follicle and results in gradual loss of hair. This condition is known as traction alopecia.
People who wear their hair in tight braids, ponytails, or buns that cause pulling, high tension, and hair breakage are often susceptible to traction alopecia.
What Are The Causes Of Traction Alopecia?
1. Wearing the same hairstyle, especially those which pull your hair such as weaves, cornrows, braids, tight ponytails, etc. for longer durations.
2. Frequent use of headbands, clips, hairpins, hair rollers, etc.
3. Using tight headgears and helmets for long periods.
4. Vigorous combing  or brushing of your hair.
5. Having very long and heavy locks can also weigh down your hair which has a pulling effect on your follicles, leading to traction alopecia.
6. The habit of twisting the beard tightly can cause traction alopecia of the beard in men.
7. Pulling or plucking hair repeatedly with hands due to a compulsive disorder called trichotillomania.
Traction alopecia was first spotted by doctors in Greenland in the early 1900s. It was noticed that women lost their hair along the hairline by wearing tight ponytails.
How Do You Know If You Have Traction Alopecia?
Here are some of the prominent signs and symptoms of traction alopecia:
- Headache due to tightness in your hairstyle
- Small flesh-colored or white bumps on your scalp around follicles in the early stage
- Redness of scalp
- Tenderness, itching, and scaling of your scalp after wearing a weave or a braid
- Prolonged inflammation on the scalp or folliculitis
- Scalp sensitivity after untying your hairstyle
- Gradual and symmetric hair loss, usually around the front and side hairlines
“You can notice spare and broken baby (vellus) hair across the region of hair loss when you have traction alopecia,” says Dr. Zeel.
Can Traction Alopecia Be Reversed?
Traction alopecia can be reversed and your hair can start to grow back if you stop pulling your hair or prevent any causative factor from applying stress to your hair shaft in any way. But, if you do not identify your condition correctly and act upon it soon enough, the hair loss caused by traction alopecia can be scarring and become permanent.
How To Treat Traction Alopecia With Ayurveda Naturally?
Weakened or damaged hair follicles are the main causes of hair loss in traction alopecia. Hence, besides reverting from the practices and habits that cause traction alopecia, you can use different Ayurveda treatments to revive your damaged follicles and reverse your hair loss.
1. Ayurvedic Hair Care
A. Understanding Ayurvedic Doshas And Hair Type
Ayurveda believes that the condition of weaker hair roots can be the manifestation of elevated doshas in your scalp tissues. Treating your scalp and hair with dosha specific herbal formulations strengthen your hair follicles while bringing your aggravated doshas to equilibrium. Hence, you need to understand your Ayurvedic hair type and your current dosha levels to opt for the right Ayurvedic ingredients for treating your hair loss.
B. Regular Scalp Massage With Ayurvedic Oil
Massaging your scalp with dosha-specific Ayurvedic oils is a perfect way to dissipate your elevated doshas from your scalp. Ensure you massage your scalp and hair with warm Ayurvedic oil with dosha balancing ingredients at least half an hour before your head bath. This age-old Ayurvedic practice is also a natural way of providing deep nourishment and conditioning to your scalp and hair, which keeps your hair roots stronger.
- People with elevated Vata can opt for oils containing herbs such as krishnatila, bhringraj, yashtimadhu, shatavari, etc.
- People with elevated Pitta can opt for oils containing herbs such as vetiver, japa, nimba, musta, etc.
- People with elevated Kapha can opt for oils containing herbs such as bhringraj, bakuchi, brahmi, devdar, sariyaka, ashwagandha, etc.
C. Using Herbal Hair Cleansers
Using chemical-laden shampoos and conditioners can damage your hair follicles by drying out your scalp tissues. Ayurveda recommends using natural hair cleansers such as amla, reetha, and shikakai for a gentle hair wash while maintaining your scalp’s pH levels . Also, avoid using hot water for your hair wash as it can damage your follicles. Using lukewarm water is what Ayurveda suggests for washing your hair.
D. Normalizing Your Bowel Movement
The undigested toxins (ama) due to your improper bowel movements can block the supply of essential nutrients to your hair roots, leading to the damage of follicles. As per Ayurveda, you can take triphala churna  daily to ensure regular bowel movement.
E. Roots Strengthening Ayurvedic Diet
An Ayurvedic diet based on your Prakriti is one of the most important ways to supply adequate nutrients to your follicles while maintaining your doshas in balance. Vitamins - A, B, C, D, E, and K, minerals- iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, proteins, etc. are some of the essential nutrients which your follicle needs to promote healthy hair growth.
Include foods such as pudina(mint), cucumbers, asparagus, coriander, bitter gourd, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, seasonal fruits, etc. in your day-to-day meals based on your dosha levels. Avoid foods that are oily, fried, over spicy, and salty. Also, ensure to intake adequate water as it has a crucial role in making your hair roots stronger.
F. Ayurvedic Lifestyle
Ayurveda says that insufficient sleep can cause aggravation in your doshas, which in turn can contribute to the weakening of your hair roots. You must sleep adequately to keep your doshas in balance.
“Avoid smoking and alcohol as these habits can take a toll on your hair and scalp health,” says Dr. Zeel.
2. Home Remedies
A. Palandu (Onion Juice)
Onion has good Vata balancing properties. Cut an onion into slices and grate it to extract juice from it. Apply the juice across your scalp for about 10-15 minutes. Keep it for half an hour and wash it off using normal water.
B. Amla Powder (Indian Gooseberry)
Indian gooseberry is well known for its tri-dosha balancing properties. Prepare a fine paste by mixing 2 spoons of amla powder  and 2 spoons of lemon juice. Apply it throughout your scalp roots and hair. Let it sit for about 45 minutes and rinse it with water.thoroughly later.
C. Methika (Fenugreek)
Fenugreek balances your elevated Kapha and Vata doshas. Soak 2-3 spoons of fenugreek seeds for a night and make it into a fine paste the next morning. Add a spoon of coconut milk to it and apply the paste to the hair roots on your scalp. Leave it for about 30-45 minutes. Later, use an Ayurvedic shampoo to wash it properly.
3. Ayurvedic Medications
Your Ayurvedic doctor may prescribe any of the following medications as per your dosha levels and intensity of condition to promote hair regrowth:
- Mahabhringaraj taila
- Brahma rasayana
- Chandraprabha vati
- Narasimha rasayana
- Neelibhringadi taila
- Kanchanara guggulu
- Ksheerabala taila
- Saptamrit lauh
- Panchakola choornam, etc.
Important Note: Please use the above medications only under the guidance of an Ayurvedic doctor.
How To Prevent Traction Alopecia?
1. Tie your ponytail, braid, or bun loose.
2. Keep changing your hairstyles weekly. For example, if you braid your hair for a week, then wear it loose and down the next week.
3. Avoid sleeping with hair rollers.
4. Avoid using weaves or extensions frequently for longer periods. Give it a break between each usage.
5. Never use hair relaxers.
6. Stop using elastic or rubber bands to tie your ponytail.
7. Avoid processing your mane with chemicals as they can make your hair more prone to breakage.
8. Never comb your wet hair. Also, use a wide-toothed brush or comb on your hair very gently while you do it not more than twice or thrice a day.
9. Avoid heat styling your hair with blow dryers and flat irons.
10. If you use a wig, opt for a satin made wig cap that does not pull your hair hard.
Vedix Tip: Trim your hair frequently to balance the pulling force on your scalp caused by the weight of your hair.
How Long Does It Take For The Hair To Grow Back?
You may notice your hair growing back within 4-6 months after you start treating your hair loss with Ayurvedic treatments/remedies while following simple preventive measures to avoid traction alopecia. Sometimes, it may also take as long as one year for hair regrowth in cases of a severely damaged scalp.
When Should You Consult A Doctor?
If your hair does not grow back after 6 months despite adhering to a regular Ayurvedic hair care dosha balancing regimen, then you may need to visit your doctor or dermatologist. Your doctor may suggest different tests such as a biopsy to identify any other possible causes for your hair loss.
Following are the most common treatments, which your doctor may prescribe to treat traction alopecia:
1. Topical application of minoxidil (rogaine)  to regrow hair.
2. Antibiotic ointments and antifungal shampoos to prevent the occurrence of scalp infections.
3. Topical application of steroids to reduce your scalp inflammation.
4. Follicle strengthening biotin supplements.
The Last Word
If acted upon quickly after identifying the condition, traction alopecia can be reversed. However, negligence can lead to severe hair damage. Besides your right hair care habits, maintaining the balance of your doshas has a significant impact on your scalp and hair health. At Vedix, we customize an Ayurvedic hair care regimen for your unique hair problems by evaluating your doshas.Know Your Dosha Now