Is your hairline thinning and receding? You may have traction alopecia. Many women end up losing their hair to traction alopecia in the quest for perfect hair. It isn’t always reversible, but it certainly is preventable.

Here’s what you need to know about traction alopecia – from what causes it to how to prevent it:

Watch: The tragedy of hair loss in the beauty industry

What is traction alopecia?

Alopecia is the loss of hair brought on by many causes. Although hair loss is usually associated with men, women also deal with this condition. Traction alopecia refers to a skin and hair condition that many women around the world suffer from. It is the usually permanent loss of hair typically at the hairline caused by regular pulling and manipulation of hair. Many South African women have a receding hairline that is actually traction alopecia in varying degrees of severity.

Related: 5 Possible causes for your receding hairline

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What causes traction alopecia?

The main cause of traction alopecia is tight hairstyles that pull at the hair, causing it to break and sometimes even damaging the hair follicle.

This hair loss looks different on different women, depending on the hairstyle that’s causing your alopecia. Some women take down their hairstyles typically cornrows and braids and find that their hair is thinning at the hairline, while others find complete bald patches at their temples.

Micro-braids, heavy braids, tight cornrows and weaves are popular hairstyles that may cause traction alopecia if done incorrectly.

Can you reverse traction alopecia?

Depending on the damage done to your hair follicles, traction alopecia can be reversed, but avoiding it altogether is your best bet.

If you suspect you may have traction alopecia, it’s time to give your hair a break. Choose styles that don’t pull at your hairline or better yet leave your hair unstyled for a few weeks. This will give your hair time to recover and grow.

Your hair regimen is very important at this stage. Keep your hair and hairline well-conditioned and moisturised to retain any new growth and keep manipulation to a minimum; this includes combing and brushing.

If your hair doesn’t grow back naturally, the best thing to do is visit a dermatologist. A dermatologist will give you options on how to treat your scalp to recover your hairline. In extreme cases, a hair transplant may be necessary, where healthy hair follicles are transplanted from other parts of your head to replace the damaged follicles at your hairline.

4 Ways to avoid traction alopecia

Avoiding traction alopecia is much easier than reversing it. By adjusting your hair styling choices you could save your hairline before it’s too late.

Related: How to care for your damaged hairline

Choose your hairstyles carefully

Avoid styles that are likely to cause your hair to break. Micro braids, heavy braids that weigh your natural hair down and styles that require you to pull and manipulate your hairline regularly are traction alopecia magnets.

Good hair doesn’t hurt

No matter what your hair stylist says, good hair should not hurt, but styles that cause traction alopecia do. Do not allow stylists to pull painfully at your hair or force your edges (the shorter hair at your hairline) into braids or cornrows. If you feel pain during styling, it is a sign of the damage being done to your hair and scalp.

Take care of all of your hair (including your edges)

When doing a hair treatment do not forget your edges. Your edges are more fragile than the rest of your hair, so they need extra TLC. Your edges need the nourishment from hair treatments to stay and grow strong.

Lay your edges before installing a wig

Friction between your wig and your edges can damage your hairline. Make sure you lay down your edges using a moisturising product and cover them with a wig cap before putting on your wig.

Now read: How to lay and slay your edges