Can Traction Alopecia (Friction Alopecia) Make Men and Women Bald?

No, is the simple answer.

But it can make any existing hair loss problem you have, a whole lot worse!

Traction alopecia (also known as friction alopecia) can develop if you regularly wear braids, bands, clips, caps, hats, helmets, etc. All these things can their toll on a healthy head of hair by constantly rubbing and tugging at your scalp.

And whilst this should not cause permanent hair loss, if you don’t get to grips with it quickly, it can easily become a long-term (chronic) problem.

Read below to see how traction alopecia can develop in both men and women, and learn five action steps you can take to help your hair recover quickly.

Traction Alopecia in Men

Men can develop traction alopecia if a hard hat, helmet, baseball cap, etc. is worn regularly and/or for a prolonged period of time (e.g., every day at work, or playing hours of sport at the weekend).

Friction alopecia risk in men

It might just be the back of the scalp that gets affected because that's likely to be where most abrasion occurs. If so, the hair loss it causes could be quite localized (perhaps just a small amount of shedding due to a cap that's too close fitting). And that’s something that can easily go unnoticed.

But, over time, it is possible that more severe hair loss can be experienced, and a small bald spot starts to form. And that’s something you, and other people, will notice.

Excess combing might just cause friction alopecia too. And this is especially true in men more so than women - men usually keep the same parting year after year, whereas women tend to change their hairstyle more frequently.

Also, far more men suffer severe hair loss (from male pattern baldness) than do women. And since the parting is likely to be in the male pattern baldness region, this hair is already weaker, and so, more likely to fall.

Can professions that wear hard hats & helmets cause baldness?

Can hard hats cause baldness?Models used for illustrative purposes only.

No. This is just a popular hair loss myth.

Male pattern baldness is driven by skull expansion (a mechanism influenced by certain genes and hormones).

But, clearly traction alopecia is not exactly going to help.

Any abrasion caused by a hat or helmet might dislodge some hair from the male pattern baldness region of the scalp.

But another concern is how hot and sweaty it can get underneath say, a baseball cap. If worn whilst playing an active sport for hours on end, such a hot, sweaty environment is not exactly healthy or hygienic for the scalp.

Traction Alopecia in Women

In today's world, hair is very much seen as a fashion item, as well as a sign of health and beauty. So, hair is often brutalized by chemicals and accessories in order to serve this cosmetic purpose. And, of course, this mostly applies to women.

Friction alopecia risk in womenModels used for illustrative purposes only.

Women tend to change their hairstyle much more often than do men, and I think this could actually be a good thing because it might reduce the risk of localized hair loss (i.e., by changing the position of your parting).

But, women are also more likely to make regular use of braids, bands, clips, cornrows, ponytails, etc. Any of which could eventually cause noticeable hair loss to develop, forming small areas of baldness.

And friction alopecia can contribute to any other type of hair loss you might have too. Strangling weak hair and tying it up in knots will easily cause even more hair to fall. Even excess brushing or combing can eventually take its toll if your hair is already thin, and ready to fall from an unrelated disorder.

Traction Alopecia Treatment: 5 Things You Need to Do

First of all, remember that traction alopecia is caused by a repetitive, physical pulling of the hair. It has nothing to do with genetics, hormones or a medical condition. And it can't develop into male pattern baldness or any other type of hair loss either.

Traction alopecia does not have to be a long-term problem as long as you take the right action. So here are 5 action steps for successful traction alopecia treatment:

Start by identifying the cause. Hopefully you've already done that by reading this page. But you probably already suspected traction alopecia if you regularly wear hats, helmets, or hair accessories.

However, since traction alopecia often develops into small bald patches, it can resemble and easily be confused with alopecia areata (see photos below).

Traction alopecia and alopecia areata

So it might be a good idea to learn about alopecia areata in order to (hopefully) eliminate it.

Obviously, a doctor can also help you identify which type of hair loss you have.

2. Stop using all those hair accessories! Ideally, you should avoid them altogether, at least until your hair has started growing back. At the very least, you should reduce wearing them as much as you can. And if you do need to wear a hat, try to make sure it's a loose fitting one.

3. Keep your hair clean. The subject of hygiene does have a part to play in the hair loss process. So, remove all the braids, etc. and wash your hair every one or two days. Learn how hair hygiene might contribute to hair loss.

4. Keep calm. Any type of hair loss can cause stress. And stress is only going to makes things worse. So, simply by realizing what's causing your hair loss, and knowing that your hair will grow back (given the chance) this should help prevent you from panicking.

5. Take a good look at your diet. Avoid junk food and be aware of "comfort" eating too – e.g., eating excessively simply to relieve the stress your hair loss might be causing. Taking in too many calories from the wrong types of food is not going to help you get your hair back in the area of loss, and could even make it worse.

Learn more? Read: Baldness, beer and burgers.

Doing all these simple things should gradually improve the health of your hair and give it a chance to grow back.

But if you want to do more than just sit, wait and hope that your hair will regrow, then you might consider my own techniques. These are designed to quickly restore healthy hair regrowth for men and women who suffer various types of hair loss.

Learn about my methods?  Read the FAQ page.

Note: Always consult with a doctor to identify which type of hair loss you have and how best to treat it.

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