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Hairstyles that pull can lead to hair loss

A sleek ponytail, cornrows, or tightly pulled updo can look great. If you wear your hair tightly pulled back often, the constant pulling may eventually lead to hair loss. By making a few changes, you can keep your sense of style without losing your hair.

Changes that help prevent hair loss due to tight hairstyles

Anyone who frequently wears a tightly pulled hairstyle can develop hair loss. In fact, there’s actually a medical term for this type of hair loss. It’s called traction alopecia (al-oh-pee-sha).

You can reduce your risk of developing this type of hair loss by following these dermatologists’ tips.

  1. Avoid frequently wearing hairstyles that pull on your hair. Every once in a while, it’s OK to wear your hair tightly pulled back, but you want to avoid wearing a tightly pulled hairstyle every day. The constant pulling can cause strands of your hair to break or fall out.

    In time, the continuous pulling can damage your hair follicles. If you damage your hair follicles, your hair cannot grow back, so you develop permanent hair loss.

    Hairstyles that constantly pull on your hair include:

    • Buns, ponytails, and up-dos that are tightly pulled
    • Cornrows
    • Dreadlocks
    • Hair extensions or weaves
    • Tightly braided hair
    Wearing rollers to bed most of the time can also lead to hair loss, so dermatologists recommend styling your hair this way only on special occasions.

    Avoid wearing hairstyles that pull on your hair

    If you often wear your hair tightly pulled back, the first sign of hair loss may be broken hairs around your hairline or thinning hair where your hairstyle pulls tightly.

    Woman with hair tightly pulled back

  2. Loosen up the hairstyle. When you wear your hair pulled back, loosen the hairstyle a bit, especially around your hairline. To reduce the constant pulling, you can:

    • Loosen braids, especially around your hairline
    • Wear a braided style for no longer than two to three months
    • Opt for thicker braids and dreadlocks

    Loosen up your hairstyle

    If your hairstyle feels painful, the style is too tight.

  3. Change it up. Changing hairstyles can also help reduce the pull. Ideally, when you change styles, you want to give your hair a chance to recover. For example, after wearing cornrows, you may want to wear loose braids or go natural for a few months.


    Cornrows, which pull at the roots of your hair, can cause hair loss. Wearing looser braids and changing your hairstyle after 2 or 3 months can prevent hair loss.

    A small girl wearing a cornrow hairstyle

  4. Follow these precautions when wearing a weave. Weaves and extensions are great way to add volume and length to your hair. To prevent them from causing hair loss, dermatologists recommend that you:

    • Wear them for short periods of time, as the pulling can increase your risk of developing traction alopecia
    • Remove them immediately, if they cause pain or irritate your scalp
    • Opt for sewn-in weaves rather than ones that use bonding glue

  5. Have a professional relax your hair. A hairstylist who has training in chemical relaxers can chose the product that will achieve the results you want while minimizing the damage to your hair.

    To find out whether your stylist has this training, ask. You should also ask what your stylist will do to help maintain the health of your hair.

  6. Look for early signs of hair loss. If you wear hairstyles that pull tightly, take time every month to look for these early signs of hair loss:

    • Broken hairs around your forehead
    • A receding hairline
    • Patches of hair loss where your hair is pulled tightly
    If you see any of the above, it’s time to stop pulling on your hair so that your hair can regrow.

    When the pulling continues, most people eventually notice that their hair stops growing. Where you once had hair, you’ll see shiny, bald skin. When traction alopecia advances to this stage, your hair cannot grow back.

  7. Change your hairstyle immediately if you notice any of the following problems. These are signs that your hairstyle or products could cause hair loss:

    • Pain from tightly pulled hair
    • Stinging on your scalp
    • Crusts on your scalp
    • Tenting (sections of your scalp are being pulled up like a tent)

When to see a board-certified dermatologist

If you have hair loss, it’s never too early to see a board-certified dermatologist. People develop hair loss for many reasons. Your hairstyle may be the cause. It’s also possible that something else is causing your hair loss, such as stress or hereditary hair loss. A board-certified dermatologist can get to the root of the problem.

The sooner you find out what’s causing your hair loss and take steps to stop it, the better your results.

Related AAD resources

Image 1: Getty Images

Image 2: Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides

American Academy of Dermatology. “African American hair: Dermatologists’ tips for everyday care, processing and styling.” News release issued Aug 24, 2014.

Billero V and Miteva M. “Traction alopecia: The root of the problem.” Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018;11:149–59.

Haskin A and Aguh C. “All hairstyles are not created equal: What the dermatologist needs to know about black hairstyling practices and the risk of traction alopecia (TA).” J Am Acad Dermatol 2016;75:606-11.

Sperling LC. “Alopcias.” In: Bolognia JL, et alDermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1001.

Wright DR, Gathers R, et al. “Hair care practices and their association with scalp and hair disorders in African American girls.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2011;64:253-62.

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