The term alopecia refers to hair loss. Traction alopecia is hair loss that’s caused by repeatedly pulling on your hair. You can develop this condition if you often wear your hair in a tight ponytail, bun, or braids, especially if you use chemicals or heat on your hair.
Traction alopecia can be reversed if you stop pulling your hair back. But if you don’t intervene soon enough, the hair loss may be permanent.
Doctors in Greenland first identified the condition in the early 1900s. They discovered that women who wore tight ponytails had lost hair along their hairline.
Early on, traction alopecia might show up as little bumps on your scalp that look like pimples. As the condition progresses, the main symptom is missing and broken hairs. The hairs along the front and sides of your scalp are most often affected. However, you may also notice hair loss on other areas of your scalp, depending on your hairstyle.
In addition to hair loss, traction alopecia can cause these symptoms:
- redness of the scalp
- soreness or stinging of your scalp
- folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles)
- pus-filled blisters on your scalp
Eventually, the hair follicles can become so damaged and scarred that they can’t produce new hair.
The symptoms of traction alopecia are different from those of other forms of alopecia. In other types, the hair loss occurs in patches all over the scalp. In traction alopecia, usually just the hair that’s been pulled is affected.