Q: I have a little girl who's just under two years old. Sometimes daycare sends her home with rubber bands in her hair making it look very cute. If I'm not washing her hair that night, I'll sometimes leave
the rubber bands in while she sleeps and keep them in for the next day. My mom is concerned it will 'hurt her hair'. Is there any truth to that?
A: There is some truth to it for a few potential situations:
One, if the rubber bands are actually rubber bands (such as the kind used in office supplies or to bind newspapers for delivery) then the rubber itself can damage the hair. This
becomes especially true when the bands are wound tightly around the hair. The rubber of the bands grips against the surface of the hair shaft and can pull the cuticle layers up in places along the hair, leaving the
hair weak in those spots, not to mention being frizzy and prone to tangle when removed.
Two, if the bands are used to secure the hair taut against the scalp (such as in pigtails or ponytails, etc.) and you allow the child to sleep on them, there can be extra tension
placed on the hairs at the perimeter of the sections gathered (along parting lines and the like). This extra tension can lead to the hairs being pulled loose and resulting in what is known as “traction alopecia”.
Even when the hair isn’t entirely pulled loose, it can become stretched or break from the tension, resulting in a fuzzy look in the areas where the tension was greatest.
We’ve learned over the years that gathering and binding the hair should be done gently, and have developed tools to help do so. If you want to use a band, select one that doesn’t
grip against the hair. Look for plasticized bands, or fabric-covered ponytail holders. Also avoid pulling the hair tightly into a style that is to be bound. This may mean you won’t have that “crisp, tidy” look, but
the hair will remain healthier and look better all around.