A reader recently reached out to me and I could feel her frustration from the last sentence of her email: “Elsie, I just need to know how to grow my edges back from traction alopecia.”
I know how it feels like to lose edges.
During the winter of 2019, I lost my edges as a result of wearing tight braids.
It’s been two years now and my edges have grown back after trying out various things, some of which I’ve talked about in this blog.
Edges are delicate…
There’s not much discourse on how to take care of the hairline.
Many people don’t realize it, but the edges are the most delicate part of your hair.
When you don’t care for your edges properly and give them the right amount of tender loving care, they’re the first to break off.
Handling your hair in a rough manner can leave you with no edges, thanks to a condition called traction alopecia.
This can cause a lot of distress emotionally since it can take a toll on your confidence and your self-esteem.
It’s quite challenging to grow your edges back once you lose them due to unforeseen consequences of frequent styling and tugging, as well as over-manipulation.
It takes a lot of time and effort to get the same volume and fullness of your edges back.
Some people will even spend thousands of dollars on hair transplants when the hair loss becomes permanent.
Luckily, there are other practical and more affordable ways to promote healthy hair growth when you lose your edges.
What is traction alopecia?
Alopecia is one of those words that hair lovers dread hearing.
It’s a broad spectrum of hair loss conditions that thin out the hair and cause it to snap and break.
Sometimes, alopecia is an internal condition, like androgenetic alopecia that is hereditary and hampers your hair growth because of your body’s make-up.
For alopecia cases like those, you’ll need to consult a doctor for your options.
But traction alopecia is about what you do externally.
It’s a type of hair loss caused by repeatedly tugging and pulling at the hair.
This eventually affects your hair follicle and damages it so that it has a hard time growing the hair back.
Tight braids, weaves, and ponytails are some of the culprits that cause traction alopecia.
These tightly-done protective styles and over-manipulation of the hairline should never be entertained.
Or you can take the final pictures of your edges as you kiss them goodbye.
I mean, if braids (which are meant to be a protective style) are making you lose your edges, then there’s nothing protective about them anymore.
Damage to the hair follicle
With traction alopecia, the hair loss is usually concentrated on the edges of your face, which often falls prey to over-manipulation during styling.
This is because your edges are the most delicate and fragile area of your hair.
The follicles are more sensitive since they’re not designed to withstand constant rubbing and pulling, unlike your hair that grows longer at the back.
The repeated pulling and tension on the edges causes mechanical damage to the hair follicle, eventually leading to hair loss.
Apart from tight braids, ponytails, and weaves, you may develop traction alopecia if you style your hair often in high puffs, buns, and cornrows.
Even doing something as simple as wearing hot rollers throughout the night can tug on your hair too much, leading to some hair loss.
If you chemically treat your hair with bleach, color, or relaxers, you may be twice as prone to traction alopecia.
This is because chemicals make your hair more susceptible to falling off when tugged on.
Common among African-Americans
While it can happen to people of any ethnicity, traction alopecia is most common among African-Americans who like to put their locks in protective styles like braids.
It can also occur with ballerinas, gymnasts, and flight attendants required to pull their hair back in tight buns.
As you would figure, the most common sign of traction alopecia is hair loss and breakage by the edges of your face.
You’ll also notice little bumps on your scalp – a sign of irritation because of the hair-pulling.
But in more severe cases that aren’t tended to right away, you can develop painful, pus-filled blisters or lose hair in big patches.
The good news is that traction alopecia isn’t permanent. It’s reversible.
As long as you stop putting your hair under stress because of tight braids and harsh headbands, your hair could grow back sooner than later.
But if you don’t take action as soon as you can, the hair follicles can go through so much scarring and damage that they’ll lose their ability to grow hair forever.
The emotional turmoil that comes with traction alopecia
Aside from the physical effects of traction alopecia, it also takes a toll on sufferers on an emotional level.
I mean, imagine being raised in a culture of embracing your natural hair and putting it in beautiful braids and cornrows, only to suffer from hair loss because of it.
Many women who see their edges break and fall understandably feel very insecure because they feel different.
It can sometimes be a blow to your self-esteem to look in the mirror and see patches of skin where your hairline would be.
This is even worse if you place a big chunk of your identity in your hair and how thick, full, curly, or voluminous it is.
And for younger women who don’t really understand what is happening to their hair, there’s a lot of anxiety about understanding what the heck is going on.
See a dermatologist/trichologist
That’s why the best thing to do when you suspect you have traction alopecia is to visit your trusted dermatologist or trichologist for help.
They can diagnose you properly, give you a better understanding of traction alopecia, and run down encouraging options about how you want to go about treating and fixing it.
Many women who feel insecure and want to hide their receding hairline turn to wigs or headbands to cover up the shiny patches of skin at the top of their head.
But this move is actually a big no-no because wigs and headbands can pull even more hair out if they’re too tight or glued down.
Hiding your hair is only a temporary fix – a band-aid that allows you to forget about the problem for a while.
But sooner or later, you’ll have to do something to fix the root cause of your hair loss.
The best way to do that is changing your mindset on hair care and being more gentle to your locks, giving it all the care, moisture, and nutrition it needs to grow back.
How to grow my edges back from traction alopecia
If you catch your hair loss early on, you can quickly reverse the damage done by merely avoiding tight hairstyles that tug on your hair, like braids and high ponytails.
The key is to stop bad hair habits as soon as possible to help your hair regrow and look thick and full again.
But sometimes, traction alopecia can deal irreversible damage to your hair follicles, giving them a hard time growing your luscious hair back.
Here are some of the best, healthiest ways to save your hair and scalp from traction alopecia:
If you had consulted with your dermatologist about your hair loss, chances are they prescribed a topical or oral medication to help aid in hair growth.
Among these could be minoxidil, which comes in either tablets or a liquid applied directly to your scalp to regrow edges.
Other medicated products include gels and shampoos that contain minoxidil.
These are massaged into the affected areas in your hairline.
They dilate your hair follicles, encouraging thicker, faster hair growth.
If you’re dealing with redness, itchiness, and inflammation due to your scalp swelling from the pulling and tugging of your hairstyles, your doctor might recommend a steroidal cream to help soothe it.
Give yourself a good old scalp massage.
You can use your fingertips or a gentle scalp massager to stimulate the scalp and increase the blood flow and circulation in areas losing hair.
This increases oxygenation in your scalp, allowing nutrients to flow better.
It strengthens the hair follicles and encourages healthy hair growth.
Make sure you don’t use your fingernails to scratch your scalp, as this can be very irritating when your skin is already sensitive and tender.
Massage gently yet thoroughly in a circular movement whenever you have free time and ideally every day.
If you push your fingertips down into your skin too hard, you could end up pulling more hair out of your edges, effectively hampering its growth and causing even more hair fall.
Use nourishing oils to promote faster growth
You can always turn to essential or carrier oils known to speed up the growth of thick, full, voluminous hair.
Some potent oils also cleanse and unclog the hair follicles, creating an optimal environment in your scalp for healthy hair growth.
Rosemary oil is one of the most popular oils for hair growth.
It’s rich in carnosic acid, which helps restore tissues in your scalp to make it stronger and more efficient in growing your hair.
Try diluting it into your favorite hair oil, like argan or jojoba oil, and incorporate it into your daily scalp massage.
Jamaican black castor oil
Another oil famous for thickening hair is castor oil, specifically Jamaican black castor oil (JBCO).
It has plenty of fatty acids that moisturize the hair, as well as ricinoleic acid to aid in regenerating hair that you’ve lost.
JBCO is a holy grail in the beauty community when it comes to growing thick, healthy, shiny hair.
I wrote about my edges grew after consistently massaging a mixture of peppermint oil and Jamaican black castor oil.
Although more research is needed to ascertain peppermint oil’s ability to stimulate hair growth in humans, there are indications that this essential oil helps to some extent.
Tea tree oil
If you want to focus on scalp care to create the best environment possible to grow out new hair, try tea tree oil.
This potent oil purifies and detoxifies your roots and follicles, allowing for healthier hair growth that won’t be stunted as a result of product build-up and clogged pores on the scalp.
Lastly, you can look into using the fan-favorite coconut oil for longer, thicker hair that grows fast as well.
It’s rich in fatty acids and essential hair vitamins that moisturize your strands.
It also has penetrative properties that strengthen the hair cuticle from the inside out, encouraging tiny strands left in your hairline to grow thicker and longer in no time.
Do a DIY deep conditioning session
Once a week, do a deep conditioning session at home with hair-growing ingredients and superfoods you can find in your kitchen.
Nourishing and moisturizing your hair allows it to be resilient against breakage.
One that is simple but has fabulous results is a mixture of saw palmetto, aloe vera, and coconut oil.
Saw palmetto is a Native American fruit that reverses a receding hairline by blocking DHT, the dreaded hair loss molecule.
Aloe vera is a humectant that hydrates your hair but also encourages rapid hair growth.
Top it off with rich coconut oil, and you’ve got a winning combo of powerhouse ingredients.
Combine a teaspoon of saw palmetto powder with two tablespoons of aloe vera and two tablespoons of coconut oil.
Mix until they’re well-combined, and the concoction doesn’t feel grainy from the saw palmetto.
Slather the mixture all over your hairline (and maybe even your whole head of hair if it needs the extra moisture!) and let it sit for about half an hour.
Hop in the shower and wash your hair as you would with shampoo.
You’ll be left with shiny, moisturized hair that has the potential to grow thicker, stronger hair in a few months.
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
Encourage hair growth from within!
Make sure you’re eating enough fruits, veggies, meats, and grains, as well as drinking lots of water.
It’s especially important that you’re taking in enough protein, iron, and zinc, all of which help you grow thick, bodied, and shiny hair.
Hair strands are made of keratin, a type of protein.
To keep your hair strong and long, you’ll need to have an adequate amount of protein at all times to maintain and even grow your hair out to be thick and full.
Good sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, tofu, yogurt, and cheese.
Bone broth is another excellent source of protein.
It also has a good amount of collagen and other nutrients that strengthen and stimulate the hair follicle, allowing it to sprout new hair in your edges.
Iron deficiency is a common cause of hair loss for many women, so it’s absolutely crucial you have enough of it in your system if you want to regrow your edges.
You can find iron in red meats, nuts, beans, mushrooms, spinach, and brown rice.
Lastly, zinc is important when it comes to hair growth because it’s an essential mineral in repairing tissues, which your scalp needs to grow out healthy hair.
Foods that are high in zinc include chickpeas, lentils, cashew nuts, and lamb.
Take supplements for extra hair vitamins
Some vitamins pack more of a punch than others when it comes to regrowing your edges.
These include biotin and vitamins E and D, which are all super important for strengthening the hair and promoting healthy hair growth.
Taking supplements is a great way to ensure you have all the vitamins you need to grow out thick and healthy edges again without having to keep tabs on which food is high in what nutrient.
Ensure you have no deficiencies by regularly taking capsules that give you the daily recommended intake for each vitamin.
You could also look into fish oil supplements to strengthen your hairline with omega fatty acids.
These healthy fats strengthen and moisturize the hair, making them less prone to breaking off.
This is especially important for the new hair growing back.
Use onion juice
When I was wondering how to grow my edges back from traction alopecia, I was introduced to the use of onion juice.
I’d never heard of onion juice being used on hair and so I was a bit skeptical at first.
And the thought of the strong onion smell on my hair really scared me.
But my desperation got the better part of me and I decided to try it out.
Onion juice contains vital vitamins such as sulfur, as well as minerals.
After applying onion juice to your scalp, the sulfur is absorbed and helps to promote hair growth.
The onion juice also helps your new hair growth to be thicker and stronger.
The juice also increases blood flow to the follicles of your hair, which encourages hair growth.
I personally saw some new hair growth after about six weeks of using onion juice on my edges.
I strongly believe that it also contributed to halting further hair breakage.
Have a better wash day routine
If your hairline is looking thinner than normal, cut down on how often you wash your hair.
Shampoo can be very harsh and stripping on the hairline, which can make it recede even more.
If you’re used to washing your hair daily, try to cut it down to two times a week instead.
Taking breaks in between wash days also gives your natural hair oils a chance to moisturize your edges properly, strengthening your strands for the time being so they’re not as susceptible to breakage.
It would also do you good to stay away from harsh shampoos full of sulfates and alcohols that can dry out the hair and make it more brittle.
Switch over to gentler hair cleansers that are hydrating and rich in hair-growing ingredients like coconut oil, aloe vera, biotin, and tea tree oil.
That said, make it a point to condition your hair every day, even if you don’t shampoo.
Whether you use a rinse-out or a leave-in conditioner, moisturizing your hair daily will do wonders for keeping your edges strong as you regrow them.
This is the quickest way to get edges back on your head is also the riskiest, complicated, and expensive.
The procedure involves taking out hair follicles from other parts of your body and surgically placing them on your hairline.
Hair transplants are not without risks, as are all surgeries.
This option is for more extreme cases and should only be considered a last resort.
Plus, they’re super expensive and aren’t cost-effective at all compared to other hair care and lifestyle changes you can adopt to grow your hair out again.
There are tons of better ways to proactively take care of your hairline and encourage your edges to grow.
Please Note: Although you can trust these tips and tricks to effectively grow your edges back in a healthy manner, you have to manage expectations when it comes to how long it will take to grow back your hairline.
None of these regrowth methods is a simple, quick fix.
It might take a while – maybe even months – to see your edges growing back.
Just stick to a good hair care routine along with a balanced diet, and you’ll be back with gorgeous locks framing your face in no time.
How to prevent traction alopecia from occurring again
You’ll only fall prey to the wrath of traction alopecia again if you don’t change your bad hair habits and continue to expose your edges to stress, pulling, and tugging.
The key to preventing this type of hair loss is quite simple: just stop doing things that can cause it trauma.
Avoid tight hairstyles
Glued-down wigs, too-tight cornrows, and insanely sleek high ponytails are a big no-no even after you recover from traction alopecia.
You don’t want to go through the same turmoil again, do you?
One simple rule of thumb to go by is to take your hair out of its styling if you’re uncomfortable with the tightness.
If you can’t move your eyebrows or feel the temptation to take a pain reliever after your braiding session, consider them red flags.
Take your hair out of its agony immediately and let it relax.
If someone else is doing your hair, don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel that they’re being harsh on your hair.
Don’t just squirm in your seat – save your hair and tell them that you feel like it’s a bit tight on your edges.
Insist on loosening up the hairstyle for your comfort.
Ditch the rubber bands
On the off-chance that you really do need to keep your hair tied to look neat and snatched, ditch the elastic rubber bands that tug at your hair.
Switch over to silk and satin scrunchies that slide off your hair with ease.
You can also opt for telephone cord ties that don’t leave creases in your hair.
Avoid chemicals before braiding/weaving
If you plan on getting braids or weaves, make sure you don’t do any chemical treatments on your hair beforehand.
This deals a lot of damage to your hair, making it easy for your edges to snap off as you’re getting braided.
Another tip is to make your braids thicker than you would typically get them.
Thicker locks won’t pull as easily, so the tugging won’t be as painful or irritating to the edges.
Sometimes, it feels like traction alopecia may be taking over your hair and your love for expressing yourself through creative protective hairstyles.
But there are ways to fight back and retake control of your life, starting with regrowing the edges of your hair with a good hair care regimen.
Remember that the strands that frame your face are the most delicate, so you have to baby them.
Nourish and pamper your edges with gorgeous hair-growing ingredients and lay low on the styling (no matter how tempting it gets!), and the hair growth you’ve been praying for will follow.
Before you know it, you’ll have thick, full locks of hair to frame your face again.