Traction Alopecia Means Your Bun Could Cost You Your Hair
(Photo: iStockPhoto/Getty Images/Susan Chiang)

It might be nice to go through life with long, flowing, loose hair like Kate Middleton, but without the Duchess of Cambridge’s full-time hair staff, that shiny blowout just looks like a lot of work. For those of us with stuff to do who want our hair out of our face, there are few styles in the world as easy and cute as a good bun, topknot, or ponytail. It’s just so easy! I think I have legitimately become addicted to wearing my hair up, but that is a problem because it turns out that relying on an updo can make you start to actually lose your hair permanently.

The condition is called traction alopecia, and it basically means that prolonged pulling on the hair causes the hairline to recede. It is common in people who frequently wear their hair pulled tight. Ballerinas are susceptible because they wear their hair pulled up for their jobs. Women who wear braids or extensions also frequently see hair loss due to pulling. Buns, topknots, and tight ponytails can do it too.

I’ve been worrying about this a lot lately because I’ve always worn my hair back and tight more often than I should. Since having a baby, my hair has been in a tight topknot for basically the last 15 months, because babies really like to pull hair. But as a result, I’ve been noticing shorter and shorter baby hairs around my hairline, even at the back of my head where I never had that problem before.

Hair loss from traction alopecia can be permanent, but hair follicles can recover if you notice the hair loss starting and take steps to stop it before it is too late. Here are some ways to prevent traction alopecia.

1. Wear your hair loose.

The best way to prevent traction alopecia is to stop tying your hair back. That is easier said than done. I think I might actually be addicted to wearing my hair up because I took it down while writing this post and am already distracted by thoughts of, “Can I put it back up now? It feels weird. I need my ponytail back.” But wearing your hair loose is the best way to avoid traction alopecia.

2. Change up your style.

If you don’t want to completely give up the idea of getting your hair back, try switching between styles. Instead of wearing the same topknot every day, try a low braid one day, or a side ponytail on another. Forget about the topknot and try a low bun. Change where you part your hair. Keep moving it around, and go for looser, lower styles to take pressure off your hairline.

3. Get a pixie cut.

I’m so addicted to my tight buns and topknots that I’ve been thinking the only way to stop myself from wearing them too often might be to just chop my hair off to a straight-up pixie cut. I think that is a terrible idea because I have a giant head and I am pretty sure it will turn out to be shaped oddly or something, but if I can’t put my hair in a ponytail, I can’t pull my hairline.

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