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Hair Transplants In Sikh Males: Traction Allopecia


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Hair Transplants in Sikh Males: “Traction Allopecia”.

Sikhism is a distinct religion started by Guru Nanak Dev in India.

The Sikh tenets make it compulsory for the Sikh male to sport 5 symbols of religion on their person, one of which is “Kesh” or long hair. This long hair is tied rather tightly on the head as a topknot and held in place by a rubber band. The pull of this firmly tied knot stretches the most distant hair which in this case is unfortunately the frontal hair line and also the temporal hairline.

However, the frontal hair line is devoid of hair since the hair roots have been permanently scarred consequent to the constant pull on them since early childhood. This scarring and hair loss also occurs below the jaw<sup> </sup>area because also sport a long beard and knot tied below the jaw.

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This is a cause of tremendous anguish and concern amongst these young males with a broken frontal hairline.

In many cases with this form of hair loss due to traction, called traction alopecia, seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis may occur together. Treatment of these skin conditions will reduce the symptoms.

Treating this traction alopecia in Sikh males can be a difficult process since they are forbidden to cut their hair short.

What are your views on this topic? Should a Sikh go for such treatment?



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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Re: Hair Transplants in Sikh Males: “Traction Allopecia”.

Related article

Traction Alopecia


In 1907, the first example of traction alopecia was reported in girls and women from Greenland who styled their hair in a ponytail. A similar pattern of hair loss was later noted in Japanese women who wear a traditional hairdo. In Sikhism, one of the religions practiced in India, men grow both scalp hair and beard hair. To keep their hair from falling in front of their face, it is tightly pulled into a bun. This practice has led to traction alopecia in Sikh men.<sup>1,2 </sup>The tight rolling of beard hair into a pocket in the submandibular region also results in a similar phenomenon. The use of hair extensions, a common treatment for male or female pattern baldness, is also associated with a similar type of hair loss.<sup>3</sup>
Traction alopecia is a common cause of hair loss due to pulling forces exerted on the scalp hair. This excessive tension leads to breakage in the outermost hairs. This condition is seen in children and adults, but it most commonly affects African American women. The 2 types of traction alopecia are marginal and nonmarginal. Unlike trichotillomania, a psychiatric disorder of compulsive hair pulling that leads to patchy hair loss, traction alopecia is unintentionally induced by various hairstyling practices (eg, use of braids, hair rollers, weaves, twists, locks, or "cornrows"). In the initial stages, this hair loss is reversible. With prolonged traction, alopecia can be permanent. Physicians, especially dermatologists, must recognize this condition early to prevent irreversible hair loss.

Typically, traction alopecia is associated with sustained tension on the scalp hair. In theory, this phenomenon can also occur on areas of the face where hair is grown and styled. Traction causes hair to loosen from its follicular roots; however, hair loss also occurs secondary to follicular inflammation and atrophy. Hair loss is often symmetric and along the frontotemporal hairline; occipital scalp involvement is less common. Vellus hair is usually spared in the affected area.

Traction alopecia tends to follow a series of progressive events. Initially, pruritus and perifollicular erythema may be present. These may be accompanied by hyperkeratosis, creating a seborrheic picture. Pustules and scales may form. Eventually, an abundance of broken hairs can be detected. With persistent traction, the follicles atrophy and no longer produce the typical long and co{censored} hair. Instead, thinner, fine, short hair is generated.
When tensile forces are chronically present, an irritant type of folliculitis develops. Follicular scarring and permanent alopecia may result. In some cases, peripilar hair casts form. The casts are fine, yellowish white keratin cylinders smaller than 1 cm in diameter that ensheathe the hair follicle. Often, peripilar hair casts occur in isolation; however, they have also been known to occur in association with hyperkeratotic scalp disorders. The hair loss pattern entirely depends on the specific grooming pattern of each patient. Marginal and nonmarginal types may be seen.

Alopecia linearis frontalis, more commonly known as marginal alopecia, is a hair-loss pattern that usually results from the use of tight curlers, rollers, or straighteners during childhood. In this condition, the distribution of hair loss follows a characteristic pattern in the temporal scalp, starting in the periauricular area and extending forward in a triangular manner. The involved area is approximately 1-3 cm in width in most cases. For example, the constant contraction of the muscles used in facial expression, in addition to the tension caused by braiding, may partially account for why this pattern is often seen in the temporal region.

On the other hand, chignon alopecia is a type of nonmarginal alopecia that is characterized by hair loss in the occipital scalp region where the bun rests.<sup>4 </sup>This condition is seen in patients with a long-standing history of pulling their hair into a bun. The typical patient is a 40-year-old woman who initially complains of itching and dandruff localized to the occipital area. Similar to marginal alopecia, perifollicular erythema with occasional peripilar hair casts can be seen.

The natural history of chignon alopecia mirrors that of marginal alopecia, with the eventual formation of pustules and the development of folliculitis. Permanent alopecia can also result if this condition remains undetected and the traction continues. Sometimes, the frontomarginal part of the scalp may also be involved because the longest hair roots originate in this region, and may be subjected to traction. When an examining physician notices both chignon alopecia and marginal alopecia, the index of suspicion should be high, and the diagnosis of chignon alopecia should be considered.

United States

This condition is most commonly seen in African American population because of the practice of styling the hair in tight braids or the use of chemical hair straighteners. An estimated three fourths of African American females straighten their hair. More recently, female athletes who pull their hair tightly have been found to develop from this problem. Traction alopecia is also reported in nurses who secure their nurse's caps to their scalp with bobby pins.<sup>5,6 </sup>The exact frequency of traction alopecia in the United States has yet to be documented.

Traction alopecia is seen worldwide. Its frequency usually depends on cultural customs. Japanese women who wear a traditional hairdo, Sikh men in India, and others who wear ponytails are examples of individuals who may be affected.

Population studies show a prevalence of 17.1% in African schoolgirls (6-21 y) and of 31.7% in women (18-86 y).<sup>7 </sup>

Traction alopecia may lead to permanent hair loss if it is undetected for a protracted period. For females especially, this can lead to significant emotional trauma. Changes in self-perception, including lower self-esteem and social problems, are frequently reported by women who have traction alopecia.

This condition can be seen most commonly in African Americans, Japanese women, and Sikh men in India. See Frequency above.

Traction alopecia is more common in women than in men because women are more involved with hairstyling practices such as braiding or chemical hair straightening, and they are more likely to use tight curlers and nylon brushes and to wear chignons.

  • Women wear ponytails more frequently than men. Women use chemical straighteners more frequently than men.
  • Traction alopecia is becoming more prevalent in men who are concerned about hair loss because, ironically, it can result from treatments for alopecia itself (eg, use of hair extensions). In addition, males, especially of African descent, commonly use cornrows and this, in part, explains the increased prevalence of traction alopecia in this population.
  • Traction alopecia develops in Sikh men because they tightly pull their hair into a bun and roll their beard hair.

Traction alopecia is initially seen in children and young adults.

  • Traction alopecia is an uncommon overall cause of hair loss in adults. However, in the African American population, this entity is a significant cause of alopecia.
  • The exact frequency has yet to be documented in children, young adults, and adults.


  • Patients usually complain of itching and dandruff.
  • Otherwise, no other complaints are offered.

  • Patients usually have patchy areas of hair loss.
  • The hair-pulling test results in the detachment of more than 6 strands.
  • Closer inspection of the scalp reveals perifollicular erythema, scales, and pustules.
  • Hair loss may be symmetric, and marginal traction alopecia may be present in the temporal region.
  • With chignon alopecia, hair loss may be in the occipital area.
  • With cornrowing, the area most commonly affected is that adjacent to the region that is braided.
  • In patients who tie their beards into knots, areas of alopecia can be detected along the sides of the mandible.

Three basic mechanisms of traction alopecia have been proposed: trichotillomania, telogen conversion, and overprocessing. In all cases, immediate cessation of the underlying cause can reverse the alopecia.

  • In trichotillomania, patients compulsively pull out their own hair.
  • Telogen conversion appears to be the most common cause.
    • Usually, the hair follicle can sustain trauma and still remain in the anagen growth phase.
    • Excessive traction for prolonged periods (eg, tight braiding, wearing of ponytails<sup>8 </sup>) leads to conversion of the anagen phase to the telogen phase.
    • In the telogen phase, the hair follicle ceases to grow and alopecia results.
  • In overprocessing, chemical treatment of hair with dyes, bleaches, or straighteners disrupts the keratin structure in a manner that reduces its tensile strength.
  • The hair becomes fragile and is unusually susceptible to breakage.
  • Normal combing can lead to the sudden loss of hair en masse.

See also attached for a medical article in pdf format


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Mai Harinder Kaur

Oct 6, 2006
British Columbia, Canada
Re: Hair Transplants in Sikh Males: “Traction Allopecia”.

If people are aware of this, it can be easily avoided. The jurah needs to be firmly tied, but not that tight. I know I never used a rubber band in my sob's hair, always either a hair tie or one of those things with little ***** on them that you can fold around the hair instead of trying to thread all that hair through. And there is no reason it has to be so tight. It stays in place perfectly well if tied a bit looser. But my son and my husband got very upset at losing a single hair to this and consequently didn't do it. I know that if I ever pulled my son's too tight, I'd hear an indignant, "Mata ji, you're disrespecting my sacred kesh!" He would be laughing, but he really was half serious.

Yes, it might take a little time and effort, but I have never seen Kaur with this hairline so common in our keshdhari men and boys. Maybe if keeping kesh were a little less painful, fewer would chose to become monas.

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