Neatly done cornrows, a well laid down weave, those beautiful well-done braids and that perfect ponytail are all hairstyles we admire, wear and feel good in. I am a sucker for well-done hair and yes, these hairstyles make us turn our heads in admiration and enjoy the attention we get while in them.
As we enjoy these good hair day moments, we should have it at the back of our minds that these hairstyles could be causing progressing trauma and eventually cost us our amazing edges if not done in the right manner.
The hair shaft grows from the hair follicles- a tissue that grows around 4mm under the skin and elongates upward-opening to the skin surface. How long the hair shaft grows is determined by several factors- let us save this for another session. The hair follicles are firmly held under the skin by a kind of hooks referred to as connective tissues. These connective tissues are found all around the hair follicles- they are part of the hair follicle structure.
Effect of tight hairstyles on connective tissues.
Tight braids, weaves, cornrows and ponytails cause strain on the connective tissues. As we braid – the pull exerted on the hair has an equal opposite strain on the connective tissues. Over time, which could be weeks, months or even years, the tension exerted on the connective tissues become overwhelming and the connective tissues give way. They let go and the hair follicle is left with nothing to anchor it to the skin. Think of it as what happens when you pull on a rope, chain or string for long periods of time. With time your pulling weakens these materials and eventually due to the continuous tension they snap. When this happens to the hair follicles and the connective tissues, the hair follicle is eventually yanked out of the skin.
Over time, we start noticing a receding hairline, a thinning hairline or our edges do not look as vibrant as they used to be. This could be due to the gradual but progressive loss of hair follicles- yanked out which resulted from the tension.
Why does the hair not grow back thereafter? If the hair follicle is lost, the body does not generate a new hair follicle. Hair follicles are only made in utero and no new ones thereafter hence we end up with permanent loss which appears as bald spots or smooth areas along the hairline or any other parts of the scalp that may have been exposed to tension.
Should we wear our hair in braids, cornrows, weaves and ponytails?
Cornrows, braids, weaves and ponytails are great hairstyles when done well without causing tension. But when we have to take a painkiller or massage our hairline with a warm cloth to ease the pain after a salon visit, then that spells the beginning of possible hair loss from tension. This type of hair loss is referred to as traction.
Disclaimer: The article was originally posted on the blog of Celestine, https://hair-and-scalp-health.blogspot.com.
Celestine is a key trichologist at HairHub Trichology Centre, a pioneer clinic in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has been extensively involved in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of all hair types of hair loss, in particular afro ethnic hair. Over the years, Celestine has appeared on TV and radio and has frequently been featured in newspaper interviews. She also had the privilege of being a keynote speaker at the first World Trichology Society Summit in May 2021.