How do you get ready for bed? With a steaming, calming cup of chamomile tea and a good book? If, along with slathering on your ten-step skin-care routine, your pre-sleep regimen involves tossing back your tresses into a tight topknot, you may want to rethink a little bit. Turns out, the easy-peasy hairstyle you so haphazardly pull back before hitting the hay (you know, the one that’s somehow always trending online) could be doing more harm than just adding a slightly wavy texture to your strands.
According to Francesca J. Fusco, a New York City-based dermatologist who specializes in hair loss, regularly wearing your hair tight in the same style — night after night — could ultimately lead to a level of hair loss, beginning at the hair line, known as traction alopecia. “If someone wore their hair tightly pulled back every night for years, traction alopecia could could occur along the hairline,” Fusco explains to Allure.The idea is that the constant “pulling” shocks the hair follicle, causing breakage and damage, which can permanently prevent the hair follicle from completing its regular growth cycle. And as Fusco warns, this irreversible damage can occur with any hair type, including natural texture, as well as any style — topknots, ponytails, braids, headbands, etc. — as long as the hair being pulled or tightened.
If you’re worried that your nightly DIY hack for air-dried waves is now a bust, Fusco says not to fret — not all tossed-up hairstyles should be considered worrisome. “As long as the style does not place traction on roots, meaning it doesn’t pull too tight or ‘hurt’ the next morning, it should be fine,” she says. If it doesn’t hurt, or if your elastic tends to slip out as you sleep, you’re probably fine.
But if you can’t start snoozing without your hair tied back, we recommend a slightly safer alternative to your preferred strained style: silk accessories. Swap out your controversial elastic — which we’ve reported can also cause breakage at the base of the ponytail due to constant tugging — for a softer, tress-friendly scarf or a dermatologist-recommended pillowcase (yes, they exist). There is also, of course, the scrunchie.