American actress and model, Hailey Bieber, kicked off a social media storm in summer 2022 with her iconic hairstyle. Photographs of her middle-parted, scraped-back bun generated a stunning 126 million hashtags from beauty bloggers on TikTok. Her new look inspired countless young women to imitate the look by pulling back their hair and tying it up at the back.
That works well if you simply want to postpone washing your hair for another day or two, but what are the long-term implications for your strands if you decide to adopt this style as your default look? Not good, is the short answer. Read on to discover why!
The Austrian Dermatologist
Not long after the photographs of Bieber started spreading across the internet, some TikTokers reported having suffered hair loss and a receding hairline as a result of adopting similar styles to the American star. This shouldn’t come as any big surprise; the problems caused by too-tight hairstyles were first identified way back in 1907 when an Austrian dermatologist called Trebitsch discovered that women in Greenland who wore a tight ponytail suffered a loss of hair from the hairline. Sound familiar?
This kind of hair loss is caused by the tension created when the strands are pulled tightly. The tension puts stress on the hair follicles and loosens the hair strand, particularly along the hairline. Further stress is caused at the back of the head by the band, clip or bobble used to secure the bun or ponytail. Hair loss caused by these attritional hairstyles has a name; it’s called traction alopecia.
Alopecia is a catch-all term for different types of hair loss. Traction alopecia is the specific name for hair loss caused by consistent pulling on your strands. Tight ponytails, buns and braids are the main culprits, although hair extensions and weaves can also do damage. Aside from hair loss and breakage, symptoms of traction alopecia sometimes include pimple-like bumps on the scalp, itchiness and redness due to inflammation of the hair follicles. Left untreated, this inflammation can result in permanent scarring of the follicles and render them incapable of producing new hair.
Traction alopecia can strike at any age, although it is less commonly found in young people. African American women are particularly vulnerable because of the popularity of cornrows, weaves and braids in that community.
Dodging traction alopecia is simply a matter of shunning the hairstyles that cause it. If you really want to wear a bun or a ponytail, make sure you wear them loose and avoid tying your hair tightly at the back. Even so, you shouldn’t adopt these styles for longer than a week or so before reverting to wearing your hair down. The same principles apply to weaves and extensions.
Other, more general, haircare tips are also helpful when it comes to avoiding traction alopecia. These include cutting down on your use of heat styling tools or, at least, using them at lower temperatures. Hair products that rely on strong chemicals for their effect should be avoided. Finally, care should be taken when you are drying, brushing or combing your strands. If you are too vigorous in how you perform these activities, you could be contributing to your hair loss problem.
Reversing the Damage
The good news is that traction alopecia is reversible if it’s identified and treated at an early stage. Stop wearing your hair in a tight style and it should grow back naturally. If you fail to notice the symptoms and allow the condition to develop, you may need to see a doctor. It could be that you’ll need a course of antibiotics to treat any inflammation on your scalp or to prevent infection in places where the small bumps have turned into open sores. You may also benefit from a course of topical steroids to reduce any swelling.
Other medications may be prescribed to help stimulate regrowth. Minoxidil-based products are often prescribed in these circumstances, while biotin is a popular supplement that can help strengthen your strands.
The Bieber Bun is undoubtedly a chic look, and it can cut down on the number of times you need to wash your hair each week. Wear it regularly, however, and you’re going to develop hair loss problems. That being so, isn’t it time you discovered a different, less harmful way of achieving that killer look?
Vinci Hair Clinic is here to help if you have concerns about hair thinning or hair loss. We are one of the biggest hair restoration organisations in the world, with a network of clinics across the globe. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to all our new clients, one that can take place in person or using photographs on WhatsApp. All you have to do is get in touch to set the ball rolling. Make today the day you do that!