IT might look chic, but a sleek ponytail could be wreaking havoc on the health of your hair.
A top trichologist has warned the style – loved by Kendall Jenner and Ariana Grande – can make your locks fall out and cause bald patches.
According to Steve O'Brien, director at the London Centre of Trichology, it puts your tresses under unnecessary stress.
The hair and scalp expert said: "Some hair styling can stress the hair and lead to problems.
"Particularly damaging styles include anything tightly done up, such as a ponytail or braids.
"The problem with pulling the hair back tight is that it can weaken the roots and cause damage to the inside of the follicle.
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"This results in thinner hair and eventually the root will only produce very fine hair – known as vellus hair – or it will stop growing altogether.
"This can mean hair loss and cause traction alopecia which can take a while to take effect, so by the time the person sees the damage, it's unfortunately already well into the process."
Traction alopecia is different to other types of hair loss as it is caused by strain on the hair follicles.
According to Alopecia UK, this often occurs from tight hairstyles – popular among models like Jenner, 27, both on and off the runway.
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The sleek pony specifically often involves combing the hair into place and keeping it taut with gel, so it can be particularly problematic.
A spokesperson for the charity said: "The continuous strain on the hair follicles pulls out strands of hair and can damage or destroy the follicles.
"Traction alopecia can happen to anyone who wears their hair pulled back tightly, whether in braids, dreadlocks, or a ponytail.
"It can also occur when tight headwear (like a cycle helmet) is used in the same way every day, from using chemical relaxers or even hair extensions."
The British Association of Dermatologists added: "The pattern of the hair loss will depend on the type of hairstyle and where the tension is highest.
"Usually, it is the longer hairs at the edge of the scalp that are pulled the most.
"As only longer hairs are tied up, smaller finer hairs escape being pulled and can still be seen in the balding patches."
As well as hair loss, other signs of traction alopecia include an itchy scalp, pimples and patches of shiny, scarred skin.
If diagnosed early, it is not usually permanent and can be reversed by avoiding putting strain on the hair.
Other ways to reduce the risk of your hair falling out are steering clear or heat and tense situations, Steve said.
"Don't colour, relax or straighten the hair, and don't use high heat of any sort, including straighteners and blow dryers," he said.
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"And try not to stress too much.
"We see so many cases of stress-related hair loss. It's now at an all-time high."
What is traction alopecia?
TRACTION alopecia is hair loss caused by strain on the hair follicles, often from tight hairstyles.
The most common problem styles are:
- Tight ones, like dreadlocks, braids, cornrows, ponytails and buns
- Hair extensions and weaves
- Tight headwear, such as helmets, hair grips or elastic bands
- Very long hair
- Hair relaxers and other chemical treatments
- Extensions and relaxers together
It can happen in any area where the hair is under strain, including the top of the head and the beard area.
It is fairly common among ballet dancers and other sports professionals who have to wear tight hairstyles for long periods.
As well as hair loss, other signs of traction alopecia include:
- Pimples, redness, itching, and ulcers on the scalp
- Patches of thin or broken hair in places where the hair has been under strain
- Patches of shiny, scarred skin
It is diagnosed by using your medical history, styling habits, a scalp examination and biopsy.
If identified early, it is not usually permanent and can be reversed by avoiding tight hairstyles.
Source: British Association of Dermatologists and Alopecia UK
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