Tight Buns and Hair Loss

Brush with lost hair
Photo: PopTika/Shutterstock
Q: I am a 20-year-old in the military and I'm overseas right now. We always have to wear our hair in rags, so each and every day my hair is pulled back tightly in a bun with gel in it. I noticed recently that my hair had been falling out a lot more than it usually does.
I have thick curly hair which is normal for me to shed. Just not two handfuls of hair every time I take a shower. Do you think my scalp is stressed from all the tight buns and maybe a bad hairbrush? Or do you think it could be something else contributing to my hair loss?

A: There are a few important questions to ask in your situation: Are you experiencing any scalp pain along with the hair loss? Is there any irritation of the scalp? Is there any redness or skin discoloration?
Any signs of irritation should be cause for you to head straight to the doctor to have it checked. It is entirely possible that the constant use of head wraps and gel on the hair and scalp can be causing irritation and stress to the scalp, increasing the level of hair loss.
This type of irritation would usually have additional symptoms (redness, itch, irritation, etc.) but not always. Furthermore, even if there is no irritation, you may want to see the doctor anyway because he may be able to identify other symptoms that I, as a cosmetologist, have no way of associating with your hair loss or situation.
I think the cause is less likely a bad hairbrush, and while tight buns might exacerbate the problem, I would imagine that the buns would result more in hair breakage than hair loss. As far as the possibility that something else is contributing to the hair loss: it is possible, but I have no way to guess what factors in your environment could be adding to the situation.
If it is the head covering and gel that are causing scalp irritation, you will want to find some other method of coping. Perhaps a different styling product (such as one that is wax based, like a pomade) would be gentler on the scalp. I would also recommend that you try to let your hair and scalp "breathe" as much as possible, by leaving them clean and dry whenever you can. I realize that this can be difficult in some military environments, but it is worth the effort.
See also:
Hair loss
Scalp problems
Ponytails and hairline recession
Is wet hair more prone to hair loss?