African American women are at great risk of hair loss due to many damaging hairstyles and practices.

By: Amanda Anderson

I have heard many times that a woman’s locks are her glory and a central part of her true beauty. In essence, most people define a woman’s hair as one of the many things that makes her beautiful. Even though natural hair is becoming popular in our culture once again, rather you are a relaxed or natural belle, we all value our hair and continuously seek ways to enrich and nourish it. Through our search, we have all encountered products that were not necessarily healthy for our hair, and we may even discover that some of our favorite hairstyles were more damaging than we originally believed. A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology has concluded that nearly one-third of African American women and 17 percent of African American girls aged 6-21 will lose their hair due to traction alopecia.

So what are the main causes of traction alopecia? Hairstyles and styling practices such as tight braids, waves, cornrows, weaves, relaxers, dyes, and bleaches are some of the biggest factors in developing the hair condition. Dr. Joshua Fox, the leading dermatologist in New York says that changing hair practices is the surest way to decrease chances of hair loss. The dermatologist also warns African American women that these practices may have originally been used to protect hair, but they are causing more damage than they are offering protection. He says:

“Ironically, the very hair care and styling practices designed to improve their appearance can actually cause young girls and women to lose their hair and feel that they no longer look as good as they want to.”

And when it comes to race, traction alopecia is more common in African Americans than any other race.

Although the condition is more common in children and teenagers, it can occur in an adult of any gender at any age. Dermatologists also state that if the condition is detected early, it is possible to prevent hair loss. But early detection is crucial in order to prevent losing tresses.

Dr. Fox says:

“The key to stopping traction alopecia is detecting it early. Most patients do not notice this “slow killer” of hair as it happens so gradually over months and years – much as people often do not notice themselves putting on weight or aging.”

Those that are not so lucky to catch the condition in its early stages will not be able to rely on medication to aid hair loss. Hair loss as a result of traction alopecia is permanent and irreversible. A surgical hair transplant procedure is the only form of treatment for those experiencing the later stages of the hair condition.

Symptoms of traction alopecia include itching with or without dandruff, inflammation, thinning of the hair, intense shedding, a tingling sensation or pain in areas where hair loss has occurred and a thickening of the scalp just to name a few.

While early detection is best in order to prevent the development of traction alopecia, it is also suggested that hair styles and practices that cause the condition are avoided.

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