We’ve all heard the saying, “The more you wear it, the more you lose it.” But do we ever really think about what that means? For black women, wearing our hair in braids or weaves can actually lead to major hair damage, and here’s why…
Hair loss is an issue that affects many people, especially women. For those who are young or premenopausal excessive thinning and balding should not be the norm!
For many women, hair loss is a significant issue by the time they reach their late thirties. If you are under 55 or premenopausal it shouldn’t be common for thinning and balding to occur at this time in life- unless there’s something else going on. More often than not, the culprit is traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia aka tension alopecia is a type of hair loss that’s caused by damage to the hair follicles. It’s often triggered by braids, weaves, and other hairstyles which can pull on the hair and damage the follicles. This damage can lead to inflammation and scarring, which can prevent the hair from growing back.
In some cases, the damage is permanent and the hair will never grow back. However, in other cases, the damage is temporary and the hair will eventually regrow.
Hair loss can be a very upsetting condition, especially when it is permanent. The constant tugging and pulling from these hairstyles put much strain on the scalp and will lead to follicle damage if the scalp does not have periodic breaks.
Hair Follicle Damage
Before I dig into hair follicle damage, let’s get clear on exactly what is a hair follicle.
A hair follicle is a small hole in the skin that holds a hair strand. The bottom of the hole is anchored in the skin, while the top part goes out to the surface of the skin. A hair follicle has several layers of cells, including the outermost layer of cells, which are responsible for making the hair strand.
The cells in the lower part of the hole divide and grow to make a new hair strand. As they divide, they push older cells up to the surface of your skin. Cells at the base keep dividing and making new cells to replace old ones that fall off the surface.
These cycles happen throughout our lives and are responsible for our hair growing and shedding. Most people shed between 50 and 150 hairs per day, so there’s no need to panic when you see daily hair fall.
If you believe that you are losing more hair than the average daily hair fall and you regularly or even periodically wear braids, weaves, or ponytails, you may have hair follicle damage.
When the follicle is damaged, it weakens and miniaturizes, eventually leading to hair loss. If left untreated over time, this damage can lead to permanent hair loss. For this reason, it is important to be gentle with your hair and avoid putting it under too much strain.
Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available that can help to reverse the effects of traction alopecia and restore healthy hair.
Finding The Right Solution
As I discussed with you earlier, traction alopecia is a condition that results from prolonged exposure to traction or tension on the hair. The condition usually starts with small areas of hair loss along the hairline, but can also happen in any area of the scalp.
Treatment typically involves modifying or stopping the behavior that is causing the traction, such as changing hairstyles. In more severe cases, medications may be prescribed to help promote hair growth.
There are a variety of medications that can be used to treat tension alopecia, the most common being Minoxidil and Rogain. Both of these medications are applied topically to the scalp and work by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and stimulating new hair growth.
Finasteride aka Propecia is an oral medication that is taken daily and is used to treat male pattern baldness. It works by reducing the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that contributes to hair loss.
Other medications that may be used to treat traction alopecia include corticosteroids, anthralin, and retinoids. In severe cases, hair transplant surgery may be necessary to restore hair growth.
Taking The Natural Route
If you know anything about me, you know that I’m all about restoring hair naturally. I have had hair loss challenges in the past due to prescription medications and sought help from a dermatologist.
I was prescribed a few topical medications that were supposed to help control my scalp problem and stimulate hair growth, but nothing really worked. Plus I found out that even if the Minoxidil works, once I stop using it, my hair will fall out all over again.
I didn’t want that. I wanted my hair and scalp to function normally and not be dependent on a chemical. The medication would essentially cause my scalp to become an addict, and without its “fix,” it will go into serious withdrawal (back to hair loss).
So I decided to go the natural route by feeding my body with hair-stimulating nutrients such as zinc, iron, and vitamin D. I also topically treated my scalp with hair growth-stimulating essential oils like cedarwood, thyme, lavender, and rosemary.
And it didn’t take much time either, I began to see an obvious change in my scalp within two weeks and new hair growth within the first month. Yeah, my hair is thinner than it used to be…(that’s just because I’m getting older)…but I still have a pretty nice head of hair.
So, what’s the solution? The best thing to do is take a break from braids and weaves every so often. If you can, try to go natural for at least a month. During that time, give your scalp and hair follicles a chance to heal.
If you don’t want to go completely without protective styles, try low-manipulation styles like buns, twists, or french rolls. And make sure you are using quality products specifically designed for your hair – they will help keep your hair healthy while you wear them.
If you’re looking for more information on how to take care of your hair, sign up for my free class Healthy Hair and Scalp. I hope this article has helped shed some light on the damage braids and weaves can cause and give you some solutions to consider.