Who doesn’t want a full head of healthy and vibrant hair? Unfortunately, one of the most common hair problems with black women today is hair loss or hair thinning. It is actually a common hair problem for anyone and everyone, surprisingly even children. At a certain point in time, you will experience losing more hair than you are growing it. The reasons for hair loss and hair thinning are wide and varied – it can be because of stress, diet, heredity, hormones, vitamin deficiencies, immunity-related issues, medication, disease and pregnancy. And it can even be due to over-styling. In fact, that’s the leading cause of hair loss in African Americans today. Even young girls experience this due to the rigorous styling of their hair.
The scientific term for hair loss is alopecia. Within that category of hair problem, black women are usually most susceptible to traction alopecia, which is caused by the pulling of and the tension creation in the scalp and hair. This happens when you set and wear your hair in very tight braids, ponytails, cornrows, dreadlocks, weaves, and even when wearing tight headbands and hairpieces every day. The stretching and pulling, which usually first damages the scalp, may harm hair follicles, leading to hair tearing as well as scarring on the scalp. Depending on the extent of the damage, hair loss or hair thinning can either be temporary or permanent.
Hair thinning can also happen due to over-styling, particularly the excessive use and application of heat on your hair. The heat, whether from taking showers with water temperatures that are too hot, or ironing, curling or blow drying your hair too much, can cause hair strands to become brittle and break easily. This is especially true for African Americans, whose hair texture can be coarse and fragile. As soon as you notice your hair thinning or you seem to be suffering from excessive hair fall, which is more than the usual average of losing 100 strands a day, cut back on these bad hair habits. When showering, make sure to douse your hair with cool and tepid water to prevent damage, and when heat styling, limit its use to 2 to 3 times a week. You can also add a heat protective product that will create a thin barrier around the hair. Beware though of using too much beauty products on your hair though! Harsh chemicals found in it can also lead to more hair breakage.
When it comes to hair loss or hair thinning due to traction alopecia, the possible treatments can get a little bit more complicated. Applying the above practices will help, but depending on the severity of the damage, more serious intervention may be needed. For permanent damage, the only way to go about curing and masking it is through surgical restoration or a hair transplant. You’ll need to consult with your doctor or dermatologist first to assess the damage. Hopefully though, the damage is not permanent, in which case you can resort of any of the following tips and treatments:
1. CHANGING YOUR HAIR LIFESTYLE
The first and most lasting solution to this kind of problem is to fix what’s causing it. When it comes to hairstyle, you might need to change how you wear your hair. The key here is change. The trauma that causes alopecia usually results from a continuous tension in the same area. Change up how you wear your hair, even with how and where you part your hair. If you favor ponytails, try changing where the hair is pulled back, switching it up, low, ultra high, or on the side. If you do braids, make sure that they are loose enough that you can slide a finger under it. You can also opt for bigger braids that are more protective on the hair form than smaller braids. Generally, if you have trouble moving parts of your face like your forehead or your eyebrows, that’s a major sign that your hair is pulled too tightly. In the long run, you just need to make sure that your hair is able to rest from each style and to ensure that nothing is too tight for too long.
To aid in the restoration of hair, your doctor may recommend certain medications and antibiotics, especially if the area around your scalp is inflamed from all the pulling. There are instances where pustules form that will need medical treatment for it to heal properly. Iron and omega 3 fatty acid supplements as well as multivitamins are usually recommended in making hair healthier and helping it regrow. Your doctor might also inject you with Cortisone in case the inflammation is more severe. If the hair loss is detected in its early stages, the doctor might also prescribe topical applications of minoxidil to the scalp.
3. SCALP MASSAGE
As they say, touch can be healing and in the case of traction alopecia, it might very well be true. Massaging your scalp can help nourish it through blood circulation in that area. Even without hair loss, scalp massages can be very beneficial as it not only helps relax you, but it prevents hair fall by strengthening the roots of the hair. As a treatment for alopecia however, you can massage your scalp with different oils like castor oil (try Jamaican Black Castor Oil), olive oil, rosemary oil, and pure unrefined coconut oil. These oils can help stimulate hair growth when paired with the relaxing motions of the every day massage. What’s more, these can help prevent premature greying and help reduce or take out dandruff. You can also try raw, organic apple cider vinegar as a final rinse to help strengthen hair.
4. DIET AND EXERCISE
When it comes to health, including hair health, what you eat is what you get. In this case, if you eat the right types of food, you get to help your hair grow healthy and strong. What’s important are the nutrients found in these different kinds of food that will help nourish your hair:
• Protein – a crucial food intake would be lean protein, like fish, chicken, beans, lentils or quinoa. It figures since hair is mostly made of protein. That’s why people who crash diet and don’t eat enough of the right foods can suffer from hair loss and thinning.
• Zinc – another important nutrient to include in your hair healthy diet is zinc, as it needed to make the protein and natural oils in your hair. Foods rich in zinc are oysters, shrimp, red meats, nuts, soy, egg yolks and cocoa powder.
• Biotin – also known as Vitamin B7 and H, this vitamin helps in preventing dry flaky scalps, which can restrict hair growth. Vegetables and fruits are rich in biotin, especially avocados, cabbage, carrots, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower and berries. Other food such as salmon, yogurt and kidney beans also have biotin in them.
• Vitamin C – this vitamin helps prevent hair breakage by strengthening the hair shaft and follicles through anti-oxidants. Try yellow peppers for a heavy dose of Vitamin C as it has higher concentrations versus oranges.
• Vitamin E – this vitamin helps the hair to grow faster as it is able to improve the circulation of blood in the scalp. Food rich in Vitamin E include spinach, almonds, pine nuts, parsley, oregano, apricots and green olives.
• Omega 3 fatty acids – diets that are deficient in this nutrient are related to hair loss. What’s great about this is that it’s also very beneficial for your heart. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in food like salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, parsley, mackerel and sardines.
There are so many ways to prevent making hair loss for you permanent and severe. The key is to be able to observe your scalp and hair carefully to check if any signs of damage and thinning are happening. When doing anything with your hair, remember that quality is important as well. If you want to set certain complicated hairstyles, like a hair weave or an extension, make sure that you go to a licensed professional so that it is done correctly and with minimum damage to your hair. It might be more expensive, but in the long run, if your hair gets harmed and scarred permanently, a cosmetic fix for that will be a lot more expensive.
Recovering from temporary hair loss like traction alopecia can run for around 6 to 9 months – enough time for the hair and scalp to regenerate and heal. It might seem like a pretty long time to undergo possible maintenance treatments such as taking supplements, going on a healthy hair diet or doing daily scalp massages. That is why prevention is key. Know when your hair is under too much strain and stress. There are several ways to tell in the onset – does your scalp feel sensitive after you’ve put down a certain tight hairstyle? Does it itch without it having dandruff? Do you ever get headaches from the tension felt around your scalp and forehead area? These are already warning signs from your hair. Learn to listen so that no lasting damage is done.