In this article I will cover hair loss issues and how to treat hair loss in black women.
- Stress on the hair
- Chemical damage
- Vitamin Deficiency
- Birth control pills
- Auto-immune conditions
What is alopecia?
It is a medical term for hair loss. There are many types of alopecia: traction alopecia, androgenetic alopecia, central centrifugal cicatrical alopecia (CCCA) and alopecia areata. But black women are particularly prone to traction alopecia. Losing hair is a big deal with black women in particular and women in general. It is a very traumatic experience for a woman.
There are several causes of hair loss which I had written about in my earlier posts. Among them are disorders of the scalp, health conditions, vitamin deficiencies, medication, and even heredity. More of this here.
But it is often due to the things we do to our hair.
I will discuss the causes of each type of alopecia and the treatment methods. In all cases, you should make sure that you’re getting the proper nutrients for healthy hair in the form of vitamins and supplements.
The curly hair texture of a black woman naturally grows upward and outward. The tighter curl pattern typical of an African-American hair makes it more fragile than others and has a tendency to dry out and is more prone to breakage. Their follicles produce more sebum but the curly nature of their hair prevents the oil from flowing evenly throughout the hair follicles. This has to be supplemented by additional oils and other hair care products to make the hair more manageable and to prevent breakage.
Essential oils diluted with carrier oils can be safely used after carrying out a patch test for allergies and if you are not prone to seizures and are not expecting a baby.
. Traction alopecia
It is evident by the loss of hair along the front and sides of your scalp. However, you may also notice hair loss on other areas of your scalp, depending on your hairstyle.. Traction alopecia is the result of excessive stress on the hair and the methods used to care for black hair. The gradual pulling of the hair from tight hairstyles such as ponytails, braids, weaves, dreadlocks, wigs and hair extensions is a factor. The follicle is inflamed when the hair is pulled too tight for too long. The use of chemical straighteners and chemical relaxers has an impact on the hair.
According to Genie, a beautician and hair loss specialist in the Allanta area, many black women were denied jobs for not wearing their hair the way it naturally grows. Despite the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, which addressed dress code discrimination, black women still had trouble finding jobs because of their hair. They paid a lot of money to have chemically straightened hair. Genie would install capless wigs on her clients which allowed the scalp to breath without causing damage to the hair follicles.
Due to safety hazards, a lot of women can’t wear wigs when doing some jobs. You can wear wigs and extensions without having to worry about hair loss provided you don’t put too much stress on your hair.
In the military hair standards require black women to wear slicked ponytails, micro braids, or tight cornrows says Bobby Spence, a Virginia-based Trichologist and Hair Loss Specialist because they allow the service member to put on kevlar helmets, or military approved headwear.
He says that those hairstyles, coupled with sweat and germs that fall on the scalp while they’re working, has been known to completely destroy black hair, which could result in some severe cases of alopecia. He points out that keeping their hair in a ponytail adds traction to the hair. According to celebrity beautician Mushiya Tshikuka, whatever the hairstyle, there are techniques you can apply to keep the hair healthy. Just avoid doing it too tight.
Is traction alopecia reversible? She says that this type of hair loss is reversible in the initial stages and one technique to help grow your hair while battling alopecia is to use clip-in hair extensions and change the same hairstyles that cause the hair loss.
So the good news is that traction alopecia is fully reversible if it is recognized and treated early. The best treatment is prevention. However, repeated tension caused by hair styles will lead to scars and irreversible damage to the hair follicles.
Change the same hairstyles that caused the hair loss in the first place and refrain from using hair relaxers and other chemical treatments. For moderate to severe traction alopecia, more aggressive treatments such as oral antibiotics, injected corticosteroids or topical minoxidil may be necessary.
- Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) was once called “hot-comb alopecia, follicular degeneration syndrome or pseudopelade in African-Americans. Most women with this condition will initially notice hair thinning at the “crown” of the head and vertex of the scalp that eventually spreads.
- Constant heat styling and chemical processing (i.e. relaxers and hair color on the hair inflames the scalp and literally burns and scars the follicles leading to permanent hair loss.
- CCCA is an inflammatory-like condition, so the best treatments are medical. In addition to taking vitamins, you will have to see a doctor who will most likely prescribe anti-inflammatories (i.e. prescription strength cortisone) and other medications to be applied topically or injected directly into the scalp. 1-2 Minoxidil may also be used to help stimulate hair growth from follicles.
- Androgenetic alopecia often called “female-pattern baldness” where women will also notice thinning at the “crown” of the head with the rest of the hair unaffected. It is a hereditary condition.
You will have to see your doctor for effective treatments which may include prescription level medications, which may also include hormonal therapy. This type of hair loss is also treated with over the counter medications like topical Minoxidil (Rogaine, generic versions).
- Alopecia areata is a form of an auto immune disorder that attacks the hair follicles and causes one’s hair to fall out, often in clumps. Those whose hair comes out in patches can lose a lot of hair.
There is currently no cure for this condition though some forms of treatment may help the hair to regrow rapidly. The most common form of alopecia areata treatment is the use of corticosteroids, powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. These are mostly commonly administered through local injections, topical ointment application, or orally.
I hope you will find this article on the different types of alopecia, their causes and treatments useful and informative. The best person to consult is someone who specializes in hair and scalp care, a trichologist who will give you a complete list of the recommended blood tests that are relevant to hair loss issues.
As I mentioned earlier, there could also be other underlying conditions that lead to hair loss and you are advised to consult a qualified physican who will assess your overall health condition.
If you have any questions or comments on alopecia, please leave them below and I will try my best to address them.