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Do Ponytails Cause Hair Loss?

The ponytail is a much-loved hairstyle. It’s worn by women (and some men) to keep the hair off the face. It’s a practical hairstyle often associated with school, sport and work — but it’s also been linked with hair loss.

Some women experience a condition known as traction alopecia as a result of wearing their hair tightly pulled back into ponytails. Traction alopecia affects many people for many reasons — so do ponytails cause hair loss? And if so, how can you wear your hair pulled back without damaging your hair?

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What is traction alopecia?

Traction alopecia can be caused by the hair being forcefully pulled towards the vertex of the scalp in a tight ponytail or bun. Any hairstyle that pulls the hair upwards too tightly can cause traction alopecia. In addition to causing hair loss, wearing a tight ponytail may also cause scarring and general discomfort.

hair loss and hair thinning due to traction alopecia
Example of hair loss due to traction alopecia

Who gets traction alopecia?

People who regularly wear their hair in a ponytail or other tightly pulled hair updo are prone to traction alopecia. This includes those who wear their hair in dreadlocks or braids.

These hairstyles can have a similar effect, with both men and women noticing hair loss from traction alopecia around the hairline, primarily around the temples and sides of their heads. Some people have also experienced hair loss from traction alopecia as a result of wearing headgear such as safety helmets for motorcycling, skiing and snowboarding.

Traction alopecia is also common in ballerinas, who tend to scrape their hair into tight ponytails and buns. It also affects people who adhere to certain cultural traditions, where the hair is not cut and instead, wrapped up in a tight hairstyle. It’s not only the tightness of the hair that can cause traction alopecia in this case but also the weight of it.

Celebrities with traction alopecia

Many female celebrities are thought to have experienced traction alopecia as a result of the hairstyles they wear. This includes Kim Kardashian, Naomi Campbell, Serena Williams, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Jessie J.

Ariana Grande has admitted experiencing trouble with her hair, which led to her trademark tight ponytail. On her Facebook page, she explained that having to dye her hair red frequently for her TV role had completely destroyed it and that she had to resort to wearing a wig or extensions. She now wears her hair in her signature ponytail with hair extensions. This is because it is too damaged to wear it in any other style and makes her feel uncomfortable.

Photos of Ariana show that she has experienced thinning around the temples and hairline. This is a classic sign of traction alopecia. However, by continuing to wear her hair in tight ponytails supported by hair extensions, she could actually be causing more of her hair to fall out.

Symptoms of traction alopecia

Traction alopecia occurs due to continuous strain on the hair follicles due to pulling. Due to the unique nature of this hair loss condition, individuals who suffer from hair loss due to traction alopecia will notice the following:

  • Increased hair shedding– This will be more than the normal 50-100 hairs the average person loses in a day.
  • Hairline and temple hair loss– begins around the front and sides of the scalp where the hair follicles feel the most tension from tightly pulled hair.
  • Stinging or soreness on the scalp from hair being pulled.
  • Symmetrical hair loss-this usually starts around the temples and hairline where hair is normally pulled tightly (known as marginal traction alopecia). Patches of hair loss can also occur across the scalp.
  • Folliculitis or pus-filled blisters.
  • Broken hairs around the hairline and temples.

Treating traction alopecia

If you notice signs of traction alopecia early and take action to prevent it from worsening, your hair should grow back naturally. In most cases, not wearing your hair in tight ponytails or buns is enough to allow your hair to regrow. If you need a little extra help, Minoxidil and other hair loss shampoos and conditioners may stimulate your hair growth.

If your traction alopecia has led to scarring, you may be unable to grow your hair back naturally due to permanent hair loss. In this case, your best option is an FUE or FUT hair transplant.

How to tie your hair in a ponytail without causing hair loss

The solution is simple: tie your hair back in looser, softer styles. Don’t yank the hair back from the scalp, and try to avoid pulling your hair upwards towards the top of the head.

It’s also beneficial to use soft fabric hair ties like scrunchies to tie your hair back. This can cause less breakage and damage than traditional hair elastics and spiral hair ties.

Do ponytails cause hair loss?

Unfortunately, yes — ponytails can cause hair loss. In most cases, hair loss caused by ponytails and other tight hairstyles is only temporary. By changing how you wear your hair, you can regrow your hair without taking more drastic action.

However, if your traction alopecia is severe and you suffer significant hair loss, you may need to undergo further female hair loss treatments or even have a hair transplant to restore your hair.

Hair restoration for traction alopecia

Here at the Wimpole Clinic, we specialise in hair restoration treatment for both men and women. We have dealt with many cases of traction alopecia and helped people get back their confidence with a successful, natural-looking hair transplant. Find out more about the different types of hair transplant and which would be the best option for you.

You can find out more about our FUE and hair transplants on our website. We highly recommend booking a consultation with one of our trichologists so you can learn more about your condition and the treatment options available to you.

Do Ponytails Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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