Dreadlocks and braids have been around for centuries. Ancient Egyptian men wore braids and dreadlocks as a symbol of power, and Celtics were known to have "hair like snakes" during the time of the Roman Empire. Even the Old Testament tells the story of Samson and Delilah, in which a man's masculinity is directly related to 'the seven locks on his head.' And, the worldwide success of reggae artist Bob Marley catapulted the Rastafarian dreadlock hairstyle into the mainstream as an iconic emblem of the anti-establishment culture.
But whether your locks and braids are a political statement, a manifestation of cultural pride, or simply an expression of your personal style, men who wear these tight hairstyles should be mindful of the potential damage they may cause -- if not cared for properly. In some cases, they can even cause receding hairlines, hair loss and even baldness. If your braids and dreads start to recede, appear thin, or shed in large amounts, you may be suffering from what’s known as Traction Alopecia.
What Is Traction Alopecia?
Traction Alopecia is a type of hair loss caused by pulling on your hair repeatedly. It was first discovered in the early 1900s when doctors in Greenland conducted a study on women who wore tight ponytails that resulted in them losing hair along their hairline. If you’re a man who frequently wears your hair in braids, cornrows, twists, dreadlocks, or any type of tight ponytail or bun, you can develop a thinning or receding hairline and possibly Traction Alopecia.
Initially, Traction Alopecia may appear on your scalp as tiny bumps that resemble pimples. Broken hairs and hair loss will occur over time, often on the front and sides of your head. Depending on your specific hairstyle, you may also notice hair loss in other places on your scalp.
The symptoms of Traction Alopecia can vary, but in addition to hair loss, men may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Blisters on your scalp that are packed with pus
- A receding hairline
- Short hairs that are broken near your forehead
- Hair Thinning (primarily where hair used to be thick)
- Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles)
- Redness of the Scalp
- Stinging, tenderness, or soreness of the scalp
Some men will first notice that their braids or dreadlocks will appear less anchored or even begin to fall out. Others will start to see a receding hairline or excessive hair loss after brushing or showering. Over time, hair follicles can become so damaged and scarred that they can no longer create new hair.
It’s important to note that Traction Alopecia has symptoms distinct from other types of Alopecia. Some forms of Alopecia results in hairless patches all over the head, but with Traction Alopecia, only the hair that has been pulled is usually affected.
How Can Traction Alopecia Be Prevented?
Today, nothing puts the ‘dread’ in dreadlocks more than a man who starts to see his hair fall out. However, rest assured that hair loss and thinning need not be permanent. By staying aware and taking some basic preventive steps, you can keep your scalp in excellent condition and maintain healthy hair to continue wearing the hairstyle you love.
Be Gentle With Braids Or Dreadlocks When Washing
Everybody knows that washing your hair provides both cleanliness and hydration, but washing your dreads removes the natural oils from your hair that causes knots to slip out, which helps dreads develop faster.
Because your hair is dead matter, washing braids and dreadlocks too vigorously can cause them to lose their structure, especially if they are fresh. Avoid rubbing your scalp when washing your hair to avoid undoing your braids and dreads. Instead, use the palms of your hands to apply shampoo and conditioner into your hair carefully, and gently use your fingertips to massage the shampoo around your scalp. To avoid heat damage caused by hairdryers, pat your hair instead with a dry towel.
Dread Your Hair Safely And Do Less Re-Twisting
If you want to learn how to best dread your hair in a healthy manner, find an expert or someone who has worn locks for a long time and is familiar with the risks. Also, the temptation to re-twist to put on a fresh look can be harmful if done too often. It can cause hair breakage and thinning at the root, triggering hair loss. Twist and re-twist less often to avoid triggering Traction Alopecia. Remember that creating dreads is easier when your hair is short because you control how the locks are made.
Make A Habit of Switching Up Your Hairstyle
Changing your style every couple of weeks is a terrific way to reduce the pressure on your scalp. Alternating between braided and unbraided hairstyles that support it against the top of your head can reduce stress on your roots and help prevent balding. And hey, we even have a list of fade haircuts that can definitely help complement any braided or unbraided hairstyle!
Eat Well And Avoid Chemicals
Because your hair is made up of proteins, eating a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is essential for maintaining good hair health. Incorporate protein-rich foods such as fish, cheese, meat, or almonds into your meals.
You should also avoid chemically treating or dying your hair too frequently. Many products contain chemicals proven to harm your hair, making it more prone to breakage and hair loss.
Related Article: Lather Does Not Matter: The Truth About Sulfate-Free Shampoos
Get A Hair Loss or Thinning Treatment
If you have dreadlocks or braids and are suffering from hair loss thinning and want your healthy head of hair back, you may wish to speak with a professional about treatment options. Special shampoos and lotions are specifically designed to prevent future hair loss and encourage hair regrowth. They work with the natural growth cycle of your hair and revitalize hair follicles by increasing the rate at which blood circulates around the scalp. That is important because, through the process of Microcirculation, blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the hair bulb, promoting hair growth and preventing excessive hair loss.
Don’t Keep Your Dreadlocks Too Long
Hair loss can occur as a result of the heavy draw on the scalp, which irritates the scalp and hair bulb. Hair loss is more likely when dreadlocks become longer due to the added weight. Hair that would normally shed due to the hair development cycle remains twisted in the dreads, producing undue weight on the roots. Traction Alopecia can happen when the weight of the dread separates the hair follicle from the hair bulb, so be sure to trim your dreadlocks monthly.
Incorporate Essential Oils Into Your Haircare Routine
Integrating essential oils, like the ones found in our Zenore haircare products, into your routine is one of the most effective ways to promote hair growth. Dreadlocks respond well to oils like Coconut, Lavender, Peppermint, and Tea Tree because they're high in regenerative characteristics, strengthening your hair follicles and promoting healthy hair growth.
Don't Pull Your Dreadlocks Too Tight
Pulling your dreads through various style procedures promotes hair loss because dreadlocking resists the natural kink and curl of coily hair. The added weight and pull on the scalp and hair bulb generated by dreads can cause hair thinning, hair loss, and even scarring in people with European and Asian hair types. Pulling your hair repeatedly and consistently generates tension around your hair follicles, which can also lead to Traction Alopecia. When braiding your dreads, choose thinner sections to reduce any unnecessary pressure.
Keep Your Dreads Safe While You Sleep
Wrapping your hair in an elastic band, headband, or silk head scarf while sleeping will help reduce hair breaking from pillow friction, which can cause your edges to fall out or recede.
Invest In A Reliable Loctician
Someone who specializes in dreadlocks is known as a loctician. An expert loctician is skilled at the five strategies for creating and maintaining your dreadlocks, essential for avoiding hair loss from braiding and dreadlocking. They know the best technique to use based on the texture and length of your hair and can match with the dreads that best fit your needs and lifestyle. Choose a loctician knowledgeable about dreadlock treatments and who will provide you with advice on how to care for your braids and dreadlocks.
Use A Scalp Massager You Can Hold In Your Hand
A scalp massager is an excellent tool for increasing blood circulation, cleaning the scalp, and preventing hair loss. Make a habit of massaging your scalp every night to relieve any dread-related discomfort.
If you are a guy with dreadlocks or braids and start to notice a receding hairline or hair loss, you should know that Traction Alopecia can be cured in its early stages. By taking the steps outlined above, you can greatly reduce the chances of encountering a receding or thinning hairline. Take it from us -- prioritizing the health of your hair has so many benefits and is definitely a game changer in extending the life of your braids or dreads!