Hairstyles are a defining feature for many people, but some ‘dos can also damage hair follicles. Black women are prone to a type of hair loss called traction alopecia, which can be caused by heat, chemicals and tight styles (braids, dreadlocks, extensions and weaves) that pull at the hair root.
Traction alopecia is the gradual loss of hair from damage to the follicle due to prolonged or repeated tension on the roots. Although it’s especially common among black women, it can affect anyone.
A Johns Hopkins review of 19 studies has found that many hairstyles can lead to traction alopecia.
The researchers categorized common hairdos and styling techniques as low-, moderate- and high-risk, based on the degree to which they expose follicles to factors like tension, weight, heat and chemicals.
The most damaging are hairstyles with a lot of tension or pulling in one direction, like tight ponytails, braids, knots and buns, as well as dreadlocks, weaves and extensions — especially when these are attached to chemically straightened hair.
Straightening can also can lead to breakage.
Extensions can also cause damage when glued directly onto the scalp and later removed.
Tight styles and the added weight of hair enhancements can lead to breakage and eventually loss.
Moderate risk comes from excessive straightening with flat irons and blow dryers, which weakens hair shafts and increases