That tight ponytail can cause hair loss. (Photo: Getty Images)
If you’re addicted to ponytails, braids, or weaves, you might want to let your hair loose for a while. According to a new study review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found strong ties between tightly wound styles and hair loss.
Johns Hopkins University researchers were interested in figuring out whether certain types of hairstyles contributed to the development of traction alopecia (TA), a diagnosis of exclusion common among African-Americans. As many as one-third of African-American women may suffer from the condition, which is characterized by gradual hair loss when the follicle is repeatedly damaged or the root is continually stressed.
The researchers reviewed 19 studies on hair loss and found a “strong association” between certain hair-stressing ’dos and TA. They identified a variety of common styles that may lead to the condition, breaking them up into high-risk, moderate-risk, and low-risk styles.
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Tight ponytails, tight buns, braids, dreadlocks, weaves, extensions, and chemical straightening were among the high-risk group. Moderate-risk hairstyles included thermal straightening, permanent weaving, and wigs with clips and hairline adhesives. Low-risk styles were loose updos and natural hairstyles.
According to Gary Goldenberg, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, different styles can damage hair in a number of ways. “Long-term use of certain techniques and chemicals can damage the root of the hair, causing hair loss,” he tells Yahoo Beauty. “Hairstyles can also damage the hair over time when they pull the hair too tight. This can damage the hair itself, and also damage the root over time.”
The most recent review focused primarily on African-American women and their hairstyles, since TA is most common among this group of women. However, Goldenberg says styling the hair in the stressful manners listed can be detrimental for women of any race and ultimately lead to hair loss.
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You don’t have to give up your favorite tight hairstyle forever, though, says Goldenberg. Just be smart about maintaining the health of your mane. “Varying your hairstyle is important,” he explains. “I also recommend patients prolong the period of time between chemical treatments, or stop them completely.”
So if it’s a ballerina bun on Monday, let your hair go loose and natural on Tuesday. The less you stress your strands, the better.