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African American Styling Techniques Cause Hair Disease
According to Diane Jackson-Richards, M.D., a dermatologist at Henry Ford Hospital, African Americans are at high risk for developing very serious scalp and hair diseases through common styling practices. For any woman, hair is an important aspect of their appearance, although many culturally accepted treatments for hair can lead to serious problems like alopecia and seborrheic dermatitis. Dr. Jackson-Richards states that doctors need to become more sensitive to the risk of these problems in the African American community.
She recently discussed these diseases and the risk during a presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology, mentioning that there has only been limited research performed about the prevalence of the problem and the causes of these diseases in African Americans. She recommends more research about the physiologic characteristics of African hair, it’s hair density and its growth speed to help dermatologists choose better treatments for their patients.
African American women tend to go longer between hair shampooing than women of other ethnicities and nearly 80% use some type of chemical relaxer. Combined with the use of hot combs and hair styles like dreadlocks, weaves and braids, scalp and hair disease can become very common. These hair styles cause a great deal of physical stress to the hair and scalp and may lead to alopecia, also known as hair loss. According to Dr. Jackson-Richards, hair loss is one of the most common complaints among patients visiting a dermatologist.
Traction alopecia is a specific type of hair loss that occurs when braids, cornrows and weaves are worn too tightly. It affects thousands of African Americans every year and may cause other side effects besides hair loss, including soreness of the scalp, headaches and trouble moving your forehead. After wearing tight braids for too long, patients eventually develop bald spots along the hairline and ears, while the hairline gradually recedes. This can cause permanent hair loss if it isn’t addressed, which is referred to as scarring alopecia.
Traumatic alopecia is one of the most common forms of hair loss for African American women. It’s caused by habits that are avoidable, including using chemical products on the hair to change its texture, gluing hair during the weave process, putting new relaxer products on relaxed hair, too much curling and hot pressing, combing hair color with chemical treatments and chemical or heat burns on the scalp.
Hot Comb Alopecia
This is yet another form of hair loss that begins at the center of the scalp and progresses quickly until it causes severe and permanent damage to hair follicles. Dermatologists believe that using hot oil while pressing hair can contribute to this type of hair loss as it destroys the hair follicles and causes scar tissue. This form of hair loss is permanent and irreversible.
Tips to Reduce Hair and Scalp Disease for African Americans
Still, there are some tips patients can use to lower the chance of developing hair loss and scalp disease.
Wash your hair 1 time each week with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.
- Hair should be given time to recover for 2 full weeks between coloring and relaxing treatments.
- Use of heated hair styling products and blow dryers should be limited to only once every week.
- Braids, dreadlocks and other tight hair styles should be taken out and washed at least every 2 weeks.
- Don’t wear braids too tightly; braids and tight hairstyles shouldn’t be worn for longer than 3 months to reduce the stress on the hair and scalp. This alone can dramatically reduce the risk of hair loss.
- Detangle with wide-tooth comb and conditioner.
- Hair oils like coconut, shea, olive and jojoba are best for healthy scalp and hair.