As a hair loss specialist with a primary focus on helping those with Trichotillomania, I have discovered that breaking the cycle with our hair systems and hair toppers (barriers) are proof positive to help. Once my clients have grown out, there will be a significant amount of their own hair under the hair topper, and it is no longer necessary, the challenge is if the cycle is broken for them to go without it. For many, the time cycle is broken, but the temptation to pull may still be present. I have given clients take-home hair to play with, fidget toys, but they have told me that it is not about distraction, but the sensation they get from pulling the perfect textured hair from the root. Therefore, some of these devices do not work long term, I am blessed to have worked with an inspirational young lady who advised me that hair extension applied in areas, where she liked to pull, stopped her from pulling on her hair. Her name is Ashely Daniels, and I credit her with this information, as well as being brave enough to talk about Trich.
Ashley has grown in her own beautiful and long hair, but during stressful times her urge to pull overpowers her, this is when I apply keratin micro-extensions to her hair. As she describes, pulling on hair extensions does not give the same satisfaction as pulling on her own hair. Additionally, she realizes that pulling out her extensions will equate to pulling larger amounts of her own hair since they are attached to approximately 30 strands of hair.
I am sharing an Instagram story she recently posted, her long natural hair is proof positive that she is doing something right. Ashley also knows that I am a phone call away, and we can attach hair extensions before hair pulling becomes out of control. I have since used the extension technique with other clients in this phase of hair growth, and it works. I do not attach hair extensions in a conventional way, they are undetectable and custom made at the top of the head, crown, and areas that are common to pull. Keratin bonded hair extensions are not easily removed and trigger a "stop" response. There is an added benefit to hair extensions since they fill in sparse areas of hair due to pulling.
Ashley's beautiful photo and recent Instagram post. @life_en_purpose
Hair Twirling and Picking At Split Ends
Hair twirling and split end picking is also a "body-focused-repetitive behavior, I have witnessed clients with damaged ends of their hair, some twirl so vehemently that the hair may pull out from the root. Hair extensions are another great option for this behavior, I attach extensions throughout the hair leaving them a bit longer than my client's own hair, this technique allows them to twirl and pick at the hair extensions instead of their own hair. The tension of constant twirling hair extensions will cause pain which leads the "twirler" to stop before damage to the hair follicle occurs.
You may note that these are all techniques that break the cycle of hair pulling which leads to healthy hair growth. The barriers and tricks created have proven successful and often time leads to remission from pulling out hair.
Ashley has helped me to help others, which is a blessing. She gave me permission to tag this article on Instagram, and she welcomes you to ask for her advice. She is not embarrassed to speak about her journey albeit difficult she feels in control. Ashley is an avid athlete, below is a picture of her leading an active life at the gym.
We have addressed "Trichotillomania" on our podcast "Hair Matters" which can be found on every major podcast platform. I am honored to have interviewed "HabitAware" bracelet creator Aneela Idnani where she shares her own personal struggle with Trich and discusses the benefits of her invention on many BFRB such as skin picking and nail-biting. Ms. Idnani's bracelet is another way to stop the cycle of trichotillomania. Her website is rich with advice, webinars, and techniques to help stop hair-pulling behavior.
I love being part of a community where we can help each other, I welcome your tips or questions, feel free to comment below. I address each comment and will share links and advice.
Note: Unlike Alopecia Areata, fungal infections, thinning hair, and other autoimmune diseases where balding spots or female pattern baldness where you lose hair, Trichotillomania is a disorder, and the hair loss is physically removing hair follicles. Our approach considers the full spectrum of hair loss, but our approach to Trichotillomania is unique and specific with the aim to build stronger hair and encourage hair growth.