I was a serial hair puller; I would wear tight buns and ponytails during the day then tightly tie my scarf around my edges at night. I liked to wear my hair a little tighter simply because it looked neater and felt more secure when I was wearing extensions* or clip ins*. It wasn’t until I started to experience breakage at the nape–or the kitchen– of my neck that I knew I had to give up my tight hairstyles.
I eventually managed to grow back my hair, but after it was all grown in, I made the mistake of going to the salon and getting some super long box braids. I asked the stylist to make the braids loose around my edges–and she did–but the way they were installed plus the weight of the braids were entirely too much for the nape of my neck.
After only two weeks of having the braids in, my hair began to weaken and rip out to the point that whole braids were falling out the back because they no longer had anything to grip onto. Of course, I was distraught, but it was my own fault for thinking my hair could withstand all of that tension.
After all was said and done, I had less than an inch of hair in the back of my head and no clue how to grow it back, so I did some research and found out that I was experiencing traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia is gradual hair loss caused by harsh tugging or pulling while wearing tight hairstyles. A lot of women are not able to grow their hair back after traction alopecia because while their hair was being pulled, the follicles were being damaged and/or destroyed.
When I read that, I went into a full blown panic because I thought my hair was never going to grow back. However, I continued to do research and I learned that if the affected spot was bald, shiny, and clearly missing hair follicles then it was pretty obvious that I could no longer grow hair there. Luckily for me, I had some hair left so there was a chance that I could grow it back.
For the next two years, I wore nothing but sew ins. In hindsight, that sounds crazy considering all the tugging and pulling that comes with a sew in; but I knew that the edges and crown area of my hair were strong so I could wear weaves without damage. For each install, I left out the nape of my neck and wouldn’t do anything to it except apply Jamaican black castor oil*, wash, and repeat.
It took about two years for my hair in the back to grow long enough to put into a high ponytail, but considering how short it was before, I was very happy with the growth.