Different ethnic groups have observable differences in the structure, density, and growth rate of hair. With regards to structure, all human hair has the same basic chemical composition in terms of keratin protein content. It has been discovered that ethnic hair may differ in the distribution of lipids throughout the hair shaft. However, with ethnic hair:
- There’s less contrast between hair and scalp color, and curly hair covers more of the scalp.
- It’s coarser, resulting in a raised cuticle layer which readily absorbs, then loses, moisture.
- It needs oils to seal in moisture, protect the hair and keep it soft and manageable.
- Surgical procedures, even minor ones, can often result in keloid scars and hypopigmentation if not done correctly.
- It’s frequently stressed – thinned – from years of use of strong chemicals to color or straighten, from braids, from weaves and from heat.
For Black women, the most common type of hair loss falls into the category of traumatic alopecia. Caused by destructive habits that are often avoidable, dermatologists say traumatic alopecia results from the following: 1) improper use of products that chemically alter the natural hair texture, 2) excessive hot-pressing, curling or blow-drying, 3) gluing hair in during the weave process, 4) applying new relaxers over previously relaxed hair, 5) chemical or heat burns to the scalp, and 6) combining permanent color with other chemical hair treatments.
Traction alopecia affects thousands of Black women each year. Continuous pulling of the hair that occurs from tight cornrows, braids, weaves, ponytails and curlers is often the culprit. If you have difficulty moving your forehead or experience headaches and scalp soreness, these may be signs that your hair is styled too tightly. Over time, bald spots may develop along the hairline and above the ears. The hairline gradually recedes significantly. If the problem is not treated, a permanent condition called scarring alopecia may result.
Another common type of hair loss among Black women is hot comb alopecia or (CCCA) central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, which begins at the central portion of the scalp and progresses rapidly. Eventually, it causes severe damage to hair follicles.
What You Can Do For HAIR LOSS
- See your Trichologist early for an exam, proper diagnosis and medication if necessary.
- Avoid harsh chemicals, relaxers and excessive heat
- Try a simple, loose style that does not require a lot of maintenance
- Consult with your hairstylist to create styles that minimize the appearance of hair loss without sacrificing your look.
Info 101: What can I expect on a visit to a trichologist?
Many natural hair wearers suffer with hair loss. Disorders of the scalp, health conditions, vitamin deficiencies and even heredity can be causes of hair loss. The best person to seek advice is someone who specializes in hair and scalp care – a trichologist.
Mary Harris noticed that her hair was thinning. Her loc stylist recommended that see a trichologist. Below she not only shares her hair story, but an in-depth look into her trichologist experience.
Mary’s hair journey …
My hair journey started years ago because of my love for the natural black beauties of the 60s and 70s.
When I first attempted locs it was to no avail. I didn’t have a true understanding of why I wanted my hair locked, so I went back to the relaxing – aka – ‘hair crack’ as my girlfriend calls it.
Almost four years ago I saw the movie by Chris Rock called Good Hair. It made me ask myself some deep soul searching questions about the authenticity of my look as a woman of color.
I am not saying relaxing is not being authentically black; I am saying my authentic me is natural.
Also, as a health conscious person who has had major illnesses, I was concerned about the risk of having a chemical that can melt an aluminum can being applied directly to my scalp and its long term impact on my overall health.
So I cut my relaxed hair and started my natural hair journal ‘for real’ this time. I had a lot of trials and errors when it came to searching for products and locticians. But I now love my hair and embrace it as a part of who I am at the core of me.
I won’t go back to chemically processing my hair. I love it [being natural] too much. I am also still learning how to care for my hair.
Her advice to those contemplating going natural …
My advice would be to really understand your reasons for going natural. I realized the first time I went natural why it didn’t stick; I was not sure of why I was doing what I was doing.
Also do your research on natural hair care providers, products and the history behind black hair. Just like picking a doctor make sure you check into the stylists’ credentials and licensing.
On noticing her hair thinning …
I noticed around November that I was losing hair around my edges, especially on the right side of my head. I was very concerned because it was an overnight thing.
I consulted with my loctician, Mr. Salih Watts of LocLov Styles. We discussed environmental reasons, stress, health and any other changes in my life that could have led to the loss of hair. He referred me to a trichologist.
The trichologist experience …
A trichologist is a licensed cosmologist or medical professional who is certified in the study and treatment of the hair and scalp. A trichologist looks at your overall health to seek the cause of hair loss or scalp issues and formulates treatment.
I was a little impatient in waiting for Salih to email me his referral of a trichologist, so I searched the internet and found someone – who will remain nameless.
Let me say the experience left me very disappointed, embarrassed and disrespected. It was a pure nightmare. But I was glad I did my research and knew what to expect from a consultation with a trichologist. I knew this person was not giving me a detailed review of my hair.
So I went to Mr. Bobby Spence of The Hair Loss Clinic, Trichological Associates. Several of my stylist’s clientele go to him. I was told to bring my most recent blood test results or they would refer me to a lab to do the testing.
On the day of the consultation, I was not sure what to expect after my first encounter with the trichologist. Mr. Spence was very knowledgeable about health issues and their impact on hair growth.
He discovered that I was severely anemic something of which my doctor had neglected to tell me. After reviewing my test results and examining the condition of my hair and scalp through a microscope, Mr. Spence informed me that I had two forms of alopecia.
He said that I had non-scarring cicatricial alopecia caused by chemicals like relaxing, and diffuse alopecia areata which is caused by underlying deficiencies.
He formulated a treatment plan that would work on my budget. I told him I was “balling on a budget”, so he suggested a holistic approach with my financial situation in mind.
The plan incorporated an overall lifestyle change including eating more cold water salmon, tuna, sardines, liver and green veggies, especially kale.
He also suggested eliminating all white foods like white breads, pasta, starches and grains and replacing them with quinoa and brown rice.
He gave me information on the types of dyes I should use (if I really have to dye my hair) – brands like Bigen and INOA which are ammonia free, and he told me to avoid hair products with alcohol in them.
He instructed me to follow this plan of action for one month then to go back to get a blood test done and revisit with him. I learned that our hair can be an early indicator of other health problems internally.
I was so glad I found the right trichologist. I am also glad that my loctician knew what a trichologist was. These two hair specialists worked together to help resolve my problem.
So a lifestyle change is in order! I feel this will help me be an overall healthier me.
Advice when it comes to seeking out a trichologist and/or natural hair stylist …
If you feel you are not getting what your hair needs with a stylist it is okay to change stylists. I went through three before I found my loctician, Salih. I went to two different trichologists.
Do your research in regards to your natural hair needs and find the right person to fulfill those needs. It is just like any other health care concern. And, yes, stylists in a way are providing health care for your hair.
The best stylists I have had have always given me a consultation concerning my hair’s overall health. Again, I would say don’t be afraid of changing stylists.
This person is going to take care of a part of your hair just like a doctor, you need to be comfortable in the fact that they know their craft and are keeping abreast of the latest industry trends and hair care options for natural hair care treatment and products.
My loctician, Salih Watts, owner of LocLov Styles was not my first hair care provider, but once I found him I knew he knew his stuff – the same with Mr. Bobby Spence of The Hair Loss Clinic, Trichological Associates. He wasn’t my first trichologist, but he is the only one I will be seeing and referring.