Hair Loss in Black Women
Hair Loss in Black Women
By Tanula Starks
Ranging from seasonal hair loss, hormonal hair loss, to scalp conditions, and around to immune disorders, hair loss is common, yet its causes are varied. Dermatologists are seeing an increase in hair loss among black women yearly. Hair loss and/or thinning are the top reasons many black women have turned to wearing glueless lace wigs. Glueless, lace wigs are a convenient and safe alternative to costly hair treatments. What is causing this increased hair loss that is so widely affecting Black women? We have identified four of the top causes.
Extensive overuse of relaxers has been a long time cause of hair loss in Black Women. Lye based and non lye relaxers contain strong chemicals, sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide, that penetrate the hair cuticle and cortex to loosen or “relax” the coil pattern of the hair cuticle by weakening the bonds of the hair. The bonds in our hair are meant to keep our strands strong. So when you continue to “relax” them, it leaves the hair weak, brittle, and prone to breakage-- hair loss is inevitable at this stage. Continued weakening of hair bonds, followed by heat styling from flat irons and curling irons pulling on the already weakened hair shaft will contribute to breakage and hair loss.
Weaves, braids, traction styling: continued tugging and tension along the hairline contributes to a large percentage of hair loss. Weaves sewn to tautly braided hair creates a lot of tension. Braids pull on the edges of the hair, and then the weight of the extensions create more tension by pulling the hair even more. Tight ponytails, Cornrows, and Braids are a No. These tight styles lead to traction alopecia. Wearing wigs that have cheap lace will irritate the scalp and natural hairline causing breakage. Glues and other adhesives used to keep cheap wigs in place also contribute to hair loss.
Stress as we all know has effects on our body that can lead to disease, and even conditions that are deadly; stroke, heart attacks, brain aneurysms to name a few. Stress is also a huge cause of hair loss. When we are stressed, the hormone cortisol is elevated in amounts that cause an imbalance. This signals the body that something is wrong. Our hair follicles begin to self protect in response to stress by shutting down growth. Now shedding begins. Hair will begin to shed in large amounts and women will see this when shampooing and simply combing the hair.
Diet and Immune disorders
Our diet ideally is supposed to provide all the vitamins and minerals that we need to have healthy hair, skin, and nails. Proper hydration is key as well. Consuming the right amounts of water can certainly give the hair much needed growth benefits. The integumentary system is the system responsible for our hair, skin, nails, glands, and some nerves. We don’t hear much talk about it, but diet does affect this system of our body. VItamins as we know help to build and add nutrition to our bodies. Same with our hair. When we lack certain vitamins in our diet, it negatively affects our hair, contributing to hair loss.
Our immune system protects us. However when we have immune disorders, our body fights against itself or can not fight for itself because it is too weak. Earlier we talked about stress’s effect on our hair, immune disorders similarly result in hair loss due to an attack on the hair follicles. When the hair follicles are attacked, hair loss occurs. The disorders usually don’t damage the follicle, so hair can regrow with proper care.
We are in a time now where we can slow down during the pandemic to assess our needs. Listen to your body. Get the proper amount of rest and nutrition. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle can help to manage our stress levels tremendously. Maintaining low levels of stress, developing a consistent hair care routine, and either letting go of chemical relaxers, or using them less, along with a regimen that involves protein treatments, proper conditioning, and moisturizing. Think about your hair like an organ of the body; our skin is the largest organ that we have. Our hair is a part of our integumentary system and it must be cared for. Be Well.
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