Can Men Experience Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia was once the burden of women, primarily African-American women. Tight, harsh hairstyles have been in fashion for decades due to the sleek look. Alternatively, for women with Afro-textured hair, leaving their hair in a natural state can be inconvenient, and the caliber of the hair follicles requires a stronger force to be exerted in order to keep them in place. Thus, tight ponytails wrapped at the crown or the nape, braids, corn rows, weaves, and even the weight of extensions can damage hairs and pull the follicles out of their roots. Since the hair gathered pulls most at the hairline and edges, these are the areas that show early signs of balding.

Traction Alopecia in Women

Harsh, tight hairstyles have come in vogue in recent years for people of all hair textures, including straight and wavy. The statement chignon or even the twist favored by working women can exert enough pressure on the scalp to cause permanent hair loss. Even in the past, the hairpins used by nurses to keep caps securely on their heads caused tension hair loss. Due to shifting trends in male grooming in mainstream and sub-cultures, tension hair loss is no longer a woman’s-only issue.

The Dreadlock Trend and Tension Hair Loss

In the height of the 90s and early 00s, dreadlocks became a favorite hairstyle in white counter-cultures. Dreadlocks are evenly sized rope-like strands of hair formed through a planned process of braiding or matting. Historically, this hairstyle has been in use since Ancient Egypt, and later became a source of ethnic identity among various African groups like the Maasai warriors or the Turkana people. The caliber of afro-textured hair lends itself to form locks that can be groomed and maintained. The dreadlocks popular among people with Caucasian-textured hair are formed, by and large, through the “twist and rip” method which exerts pressure on the scalp, as well as through “free forming”, i.e. neglect. This results in hair that mats and tangles in uneven clumps. The harmful methods employed to encourage Caucasian-textured hair to dread is inherently unhealthy and altogether removed from the methods employed for afro-textured hair, making dreadlocks in white people both unhygienic and culturally inappropriate. The pressure placed on the scalp during the “twist and rip” process can rip hair follicles from their roots, causing permanent baldness.

The Man Bun Style of the Millennial Generation

In the past few years the latest trend to dominate male grooming habits is the man bun. Although it is an improvement in terms of cultural appropriation, the hairstyle can still be damaging to the scalp. The intensity in which the hair is pulled into a topknot or a half knot can still rip follicle out along the hairline and edges, causing permanent hair loss. In fact, since the man bun reached its fever pitch in 2015, many young men have reported hair loss with the characteristics of traction alopecia.

What Men Can Do About Traction Alopecia

If caught in its earliest stages, traction alopecia can be treated by first discontinuing the practice of man bun as well using Minoxidil (Rogaine). For any other progressive stage, the only curative treatment is a hair transplant. The most common methods used by hair restoration surgeons are follicular unit transplant (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). FUT surgeries involve an excision on the back of the scalp in order to harvest follicles, which leaves a visible scar if the hair is worn short. FUE surgeries are less invasive and use a punch tool in order to extract follicular units without excising an entire strip of skin. Thanks to advancements in FUE hair restoration, men have a greater number of grafts available to restore their hair. According to a 2012 report published in Dermatology Times, the FUE system called the UGraft harvester has such benefits, with aditional advantages to prevent common causes of follicular death. More over with advanced forms of FUE, there are more choices on where the hair comes from. Use of finer hair would allow for use of finer nape hairs or even body hair that can be used to craft a more natural looking temples. Because temple hairs are the first to thin out in man bun alopecia, advanced FUE would be a hair transplant procedure of choice.