ORLANDO – When it comes to preventing alopecia, it may be best to advise patients against certain trendy hairstyles that can cause early hair loss.
At the Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic and Clinical Conference, Dr. Wendy Roberts, a dermatologist practicing in Rancho Mirage, Calif., spoke about the risks of traction alopecia associated with some hairstyles and why it’s in patients’ best interest to avoid them if they don’t want to experience premature hair loss.
Dr. Roberts brings up the topic of hair loss with patients during the full-body exam. Full-body skin exams are “opportunities for us, as the skin and hair experts, to speak to our patients about hair loss, [but] it’s rarely asked about,” she said. “Typically, what I do is start my full-body skin exam from the head and I always ask the question right away ‘How’s your hair? Are you having any problems with your hair? How’s your scalp?’ And about 50% of the time, there’s a positive answer or an interest in learning more about it.”
To avoid traction alopecia, caused frequently by intense pulling or pressure on the hair follicles, patients should be advised against braiding their hair or, for male patients, styling their hair in a “man bun.” For braids, the tightness of the braid and pulling along the hairlines will cause intense pressure on follicles over time that can lead to hair loss. For the man bun, Dr. Roberts noted that dermatologists will likely see an uptick in male patients with traction alopecia as this hairstyle becomes more popular.
In the evaluation and treatment of traction alopecia – as with any form of alopecia – clinical presentation, ethnicity, and the age of the patient should be considered, Dr. Roberts said. Additionally, collection of evidence – hair pulls, biopsy, dermoscopy, and lab work should be obtained.
Labs will check for iron levels and anemia, thyroid disease, vitamin D deficiency, and perhaps signs of a connective tissue disorder, she noted. “It’s staggering the amount of African-American women who are deficient in vitamin D, [and] there is some soft evidence that perhaps vitamin D deficiency may be a culprit in some of the clinical signs of discoid lupus erythematosus, [so] check the vitamin D and zinc levels.”
After making a diagnosis, it is important to quickly begin rigorous treatment of the alopecia. Aggressive treatment is “the bottom line,” Dr. Roberts emphasized, “because people are losing their hair and when they come to you, they’ve really had enough.”
She did not report any relevant financial disclosures.