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Friction Alopecia: Is It Permanent & How to Prevent It?


If you experience hair loss from brushing your hair or taking a shower, don’t feel too alarmed just yet. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, it’s normal to lose 50 to 100 strands of hair daily, which is a significantly small portion of the approximately 100,000 strands of hair on our heads. But for some people, excessive hair loss happens due to prolonged stress such as constant hair pulling or heavy-duty styling, leading to conditions like friction alopecia.

Table of Contents: 

  • What is friction alopecia?
  • Real-life cases of friction alopecia
  • What are the signs of friction alopecia?
  • Can friction alopecia be reversed?
  • How do I treat friction alopecia?

What is friction alopecia?

Friction or traction alopecia is a type of alopecia that occurs when repetitive friction is applied on the head, legs, face, and other hair-bearing sites. This condition can happen to people of all ages, including babies as young as three to six months as they can unintentionally rub the back of their head on firm surfaces such as a crib mattress, playpen, or infant seat. Your chances of developing friction alopecia increase as you grow older and your hair becomes longer and more damaged.

Real-life cases of friction alopecia

Friction alopecia develops when people put a lot of stress and pressure on their hair. Such was the case of a 15-year old girl who developed friction alopecia on her head because she admitted to repetitively touching and scratching her hair while studying for tests. In another case, friction alopecia developed on the lower one-third portion of a middle-aged woman’s legs due to prolonged wearing of socks during winter. 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine also found that one-third of African-American women suffer from traction alopecia because they commonly don popular but high-risk hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks, weaves, and extensions. They are considered high-risk because of the hard hair-pulling and tight-locking patterns done to create them. Not to mention that those hairstyles sometimes require the use of damaging chemicals and heating tools, as well as add weight to the human head. 

Friction alopecia is also common among ballerinas, gymnasts, performers, and other people in professions where frequently styled hair is required.

What are the signs of friction alopecia?

Friction alopecia may not be as obvious as you might expect, but if you constantly put your hair under a lot of stress, you should take a minute or two to look for and recognize the signs of this condition. 

You possibly have friction alopecia if you have or experience any of the following:

  • Itching; 
  • Redness or inflammation on the scalp;
  • Receding or thinning hairline;
  • Short broken hairs;
  • Bumps and pus-filled blisters on the scalp;
  • Folliculitis;
  • Scalp tenderness.

If you particularly have a receding hairline, it’s easy to dismiss it as normal, especially if you come from a family with a history of baldness. But if not, you should take it more seriously and have it treated. Knowing the symptoms or signs of friction alopecia is the first step to stopping it in its tracks. Don’t wait for these symptoms to get worse and lead to traumatic alopecia or Trichotillomania before you take action.

Can friction alopecia be reversed?

The good thing here is that friction alopecia can be reversed when identified and treated early. Your hair will still be capable of regrowing and regaining its healthy state if you completely stop damaging it. But if you treat friction alopecia too late, you’ll permanently ruin your hair follicles and have irreversible hair loss, even when you finally leave your hair alone.

How do I treat friction alopecia?

Depending on the degree of your friction alopecia, there are many ways you can restore the natural state of your hair. Some treatments can resolve friction alopecia within a few months, while others take a year or so. Here is what you can do:

Natural treatments

The easiest way to treat friction alopecia, or avoid it altogether, is to simply let your hair be. It’s okay to put your hair up into a ponytail, bun, or braid every once in a while, but not every day. If you constantly braid your hair with extensions, for instance, professional hairstylists recommend undoing your hair after a maximum of five or six weeks and properly cleansing your scalp. Just as you need to rest after a hard day at work, your hair needs some time off from constant stress and pressure as well.

If your hair still won’t regrow even after leaving it alone, consider taking supplements or undergoing alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, and micro-needling. Make sure to consult with a doctor before trying any supplement as some may not be safe for consumption and may even be worse for your health. Remember to manage your expectations when you undergo therapy as well as one form may not work for you but work for other people. It’s all just a matter of getting the best advice from a professional and allotting enough time and energy for your hair’s recovery.

Medical treatments

If those natural treatments didn’t work, try using topical medications such as minoxidil, anthralin, and corticosteroid creams, which can be bought over-the-counter and by prescription. A 2019 study in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that minoxidil, in particular, helps regrow hair but not so much for treating inflammation. Injectable treatments such as steroid injections, intralesional triamcinolone acetonide injections, and platelet-rich plasma can also be alternative medications for friction alopecia.

To make your hair more manageable and prevent friction, you can also try using a leave-in conditioner, such as WOW Hair Revitalizer

Apply a few sprays of WOW Hair Revitalizer and gently massage it into the scalp and length of your hair. Leave it on the whole day for the best results. Not only does it contain micronutrients such as ​​Vitamin A, Vitamin E Acetate, and Vitamin B5, but also active ingredients such as pure Himalayan spring water, biotin, and safflower extract, all of which help improve hair health and texture, strengthen strands, and fight breakage.

Check our collection of leave-in treatments for more natural, vegan, and gluten-free solutions designed to protect your hair and skin! 

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul is the published author of "Heads Or Tails" and Quora writer with over 1.6 million views. He is a keen observer who enjoys the simple joys of life. He strongly believes true beauty is not how beautiful your face is but how beautiful your heart is.

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