Hair Transplant For Traction Alopecia
A special type of hair loss
Hair loss is quite common. Of the 55 million Americans suffering from hair loss, many are African Americans. Many African American women (and some African American men) lose their hair from a specific condition called traction alopecia. They are unaware of the condition since it can happen over time. Unfortunately, most do not pick up on the condition until it’s too late. In these cases, a hair transplant for traction alopecia is the most effective way to restore your hair.
At Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics, we encounter tens of women who are distraught about their hair loss every year. When we explain the reason for the hair loss – traction alopecia – we see a lightbulb go off. We will cover everything about this condition if you’ve been experiencing hair loss. We will also tell you how hair transplants are the solution you’ve been searching for to finally restore your locks.
What is traction alopecia?
Traction alopecia refers to excessive hair loss by tightly pulled hairstyles. Our hair consists of tens of thousands of follicles that go through several stages of a growth cycle. Part of that cycle is the exogen phase, where the follicles are shed. On average, we lose 50-100 follicles a day. However, when there is a massive amount of hair loss, there is an underlying reason. The repetitive tension caused by these specific hair practices causes breakage and eventually permanent hair loss in particular areas.
Causes of traction alopecia
Traction alopecia is common in African American women and some men but can happen to almost anyone. The primary cause is specific hairstyles that cause tension around the hairline. These include:
Adding hair extensions, like braids and weaves, adds weight to the hair, damaging the hair follicles. Using hair relaxers also damages the scalp and causes traction alopecia. Finally, excessive flat iron or hair dryer use can weaken the bonds in some delicate areas, increasing the chances of the condition. Since traction alopecia happens over time, most patients are middle-aged, but the issue can happen to younger women.
How do you know if you have traction alopecia?
The hair is pulled back tightly over a long period, usually several years. As a result, significant hair loss occurs at the hairline, forehead, and nape, but hair growth should not be impacted in other areas.
The hair loss could be in patches or right around the temples where the hair has been under strain. There could also be redness, pimples, itching, and scarring. In severe cases, folliculitis – hair follicle inflammation – can form. This condition causes pus-filled blisters and scarring. Traction alopecia can be a distressing condition for patients, with many women choosing wigs and other coverings to conceal the issue. Yet, traction alopecia can be addressed, and patients can begin to feel confident again.
Can you fix the condition?
If traction alopecia is identified early, a few proven treatments can help. However, only a dermatologist or trichologist can assess and treat the condition. At Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics, we perform a comprehensive check of your hair health. From there, we provide the best solution for traction alopecia. In the beginning stages, a combination of antibiotics and steroid medication can help with inflammation. In some cases, a combination of prescription minoxidil and hair supplements may restore growth over time.
Why hair transplant for traction alopecia may be right for you
When it comes to hair restoration, most African American women and men don’t think about hair transplants. However, this is one of the best ways to treat traction alopecia permanently. Most patients visit their dermatologist with an advanced stage of the condition that prescription medication and supplements cannot treat. Hair transplants are also great for patients who tried these treatments without success.
Hair transplants are a surgical procedure that moves hair from one location on the scalp or body to another with thinning or no hair. The procedure has been around for over 50 years and is the most successful form of hair restoration to date. It also brings long-term, near-permanent results compared to prescription drugs and other topicals. These drugs stop working when the patient stops the prescription. Hair transplants produce hair you can style and even cut since it’s simply moving stronger, healthier hair to the affected areas.
Types of hair transplants
There are two hair transplant techniques, the Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).
Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT)
The initial hair transplant procedure created is the Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), sometimes called the Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS). With the FUT procedure, the dermatologist or surgeon takes a strip of skin with healthy hair follicles from the donor site. This donor site is often another part of the scalp, like the back of the head, neck, or just above the ear. The surgeon will use local anesthesia so the patient will feel no pain. The surgical site is then closed with stitches and concealed near the hairline.
The surgical team then takes the donor sample, converts it into 500 to 2000 separate grafts, and prepares the individual hair follicles. The next step involves transplanting the strands in the affected area. The surgeon then makes tiny holes in the scalp and installs the follicles. This is a detailed, meticulous procedure that may take several hours. Over time, the follicles will grow in the impacted areas.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
Follicular Unit Extraction is a more popular option for its many benefits. This procedure does not involve making incisions in the scalp but extracts the follicles from the donor site individually. Using FUE can take longer than FUT but with significant advantages, including less pain after surgery, no permanent scarring, and fewer side effects. The donor area is shaved, and the follicles are extracted, treated, and transplanted to the designated area.
NEO Graft Follicular Unit Extraction
NEOGraft is the next step in hair transplant and the procedure used by Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics. This procedure is a minimally invasive, semi-automatic version of FUE and an excellent option for patients with traction alopecia. We use the special NEOGraft machine, a hands-free device with special suction action, to remove individual follicles from the shaved area. The hairs are treated with a special solution then installed in the area with traction alopecia with the same device. Along with the advantages of FUE, NEOGraft is hands-free, faster than FUE, and safer. It also provides more natural results since the machine allows for improved accuracy during implantation.
What to expect during your hair transplant for traction alopecia
Your dermatologist would have had at least one consultation before the procedure. The consultation will cover expectations, donor area, cost, risks, and instructions for a successful surgery. For instance, patients may need to stop smoking, vitamins, anti-depressants or taking blood thinners before the procedure.
The patient may require several sessions taking 2-4 hours. In some cases, patients may need just one session lasting as much as 10 hours. We will then shave the donor area and begin the extraction process, taking up to 1 hour.
What results should you expect?
With any cosmetic procedure, the results can vary. The success rate is dependent on the expectations of the patient. Some patients expect to recover the hairline for traction alopecia. Others hope for dense hair growth. It’s important to sit with your dermatologist or trichologist to set the proper expectations.
On average, hair transplants have an 80% success rate, meaning up to 80% of the hair follicles should survive the transplant. On average, studies show that up to 83% of customers are satisfied with their results.
We’ve seen this success rate increase with NEOGraft techniques. It can take up to 18 months to see the full results of your hair transplant. Patients will experience some hair loss during this time, known as the ‘shedding phase.’ This phase is normal and will resolve itself as the grafts grow. In some cases, you may need more than one procedure.
All surgical procedures have risks. Your doctor will describe these risks in detail during your consultation. Risks and side effects do not happen to everyone, but should they occur, your doctor will advise you of the necessary steps. Our NEOGraft procedure has no scarring and looks natural in both the donor and implantation areas. However, some patients can still experience:
- Pain and numbness
- Infection at the surgical site
- Thinning hair or differences in the look and feel of the surrounding hair
If any of these occur for a prolonged period, speak with your doctor immediately.
Protecting your hair after a successful transplant
The goal is not only to restore your hair after severe traction alopecia. We want to ensure you take steps to reduce the chances of the condition happening again. You should begin seeing results about 3-4 months after the procedure, with final results after 12-18 months. Take these steps to ensure the best recovery and results:
- Immediately after the procedure, you’ll need a few days of downtime to take care of the donor and treatment areas. Both can feel sore and uncomfortable, so take the necessary rest and medication as advised by your doctor.
- Avoid getting your hair wet in the shower or washing your hair for at least 3-5 days after the procedure. When it is time to wash your hair, use a dermatologist-recommended, fragrance-free shampoo with gentle motions to remove any dried blood and dirt. Harsh shampoos and rubbing motions can impact the long-term results.
- Sleep on your back with your head elevated to prevent swelling and disrupting the surgical site.
- Avoid strenuous exercise, hats, hair coverings, and hair products until your doctor gives the all-clear.
For long-term care
The goal is to reduce practices that cause traction alopecia while encouraging growth. We may still prescribe minoxidil or an alternative treatment to promote growth. Other helpful steps for long-term growth include:
- Avoid hair products like relaxers that can damage hair follicles over time.
- Reduce the use of heating irons or hair dryers on high heat, damaging hair follicles.
- Avoid weaves, braids, and extensions if possible. If you must use these styles, do so for a short period with long breaks in-between.
- Alternate your hairstyles as much as possible.
- Remove tight ponytails as soon as possible and avoid tight bands that can cause breakage.
- Maintain a healthy diet and use recommended supplements for continued hair health.
Studies show that this condition shows no signs of slowing down, especially since the hairstyles used decades ago continue to be popular today. Proper long-term hair care is the only way to prevent the condition from happening or a reoccurrence after your hair transplant.
Let Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics treat your traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia can be treated with early intervention. However, most cases have reached the scarring stage, where prescription solutions are insufficient. Hair transplants are a proven, effective method to bring permanent results and continued hair growth. Using the NEOGraft method, Eternal Dermatology +Aesthetics ensures patients have a safe, painless experience. This technique eliminates scarring, speeds up recovery, and provides exceptional results.
Our lead dermatologist, Dr. Ife Rodney, has helped hundreds of women and men with traction alopecia. She and her team have also performed countless hair transplants and understand the best methods for your hair type. Eternal Dermatology +Aesthetics serves customers in the Washington DC and Baltimore areas, including Howard County, Fulton, and others. Speak to us to set up a consultation to help you regain your confidence and your hair.