While most of us know the steps necessary to achieve strong and healthy hair – like moisture and regular trims -we may be doing our hair a disservice with our actual styling practices. It turns out our favorite ‘dos could be serious don’t when it comes to hair health.
Nearly half of black women suffer from hair loss – much of it is caused by our hairstyles. And, Dr. Yolanda Lenzy, a dermatologist and clinical associate professor at the University of Connecticut in Farmington, revealed last week that it’s not just a chemical thing. Braids and weaves are just as guilty as relaxers when it comes to follicle damage and thinning strands.
She and Black Women’s Health Study at Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center surveyed nearly 5,600 black women about hair loss. What used to be considered genetic, they found is now attributed to hair styling methods. The top cause of hair loss in black women is a form of alopecia known as central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA). This is different from traction alopecia, which comes from tension from braids and other styles, and is often reversible. CCCA causes scarring and permanent hair loss that starts off as bumps with itching, burning, or pin and needles sensation.
“When hair loss is caused by styling practices, the problem is usually chronic use. Women who use these styling practices tend to use them repeatedly, and long-term repeated use can result in hair loss,” said Dr. Lenzy last week at the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.
Not only did 41% of those surveyed suffer hair loss symptoms consistent with CCCA, only 9 percent had actually been diagnosed. In fact, 81 percent of women, in general, don’t seek out any medical assistance for their hair loss.
Besides self-monitoring, Dr. Lenzy suggested avoiding tight hair styles that put pressure on hair follicles, llimiting use of chemical relaxers and having your hairstylist help you out.
“A hairstylist is really the front line in detecting changes in your hair,” said Dr. Lenzy. “Someone who looks at your hair and scalp frequently can help you recognize a problem.”
She also stressed the importance consulting with a dermatologist.
“Women who are dealing with hair loss should consider changing their styling practices, and visit a board-certified dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. Some people may only associate dermatologists with skin issues, but we’re also experts in hair disorders, and we can provide the help you need.”