Black women and hair loss is a major topic in our community. By now, we’ve already heard of the woman, Tessica Brown from Louisiana, who used Gorilla Glue to achieve her ultra sleek ponytail. While this case is extreme, it does tell us the lengths that Black women will go to in order to have ‘laid down edges’. These types of hairstyles, when done excessively, can have detrimental effects on our hair, hair growth and can lead to hair loss.
The number 2 issue I hear from Black women (after their hair being dry) is having an itchy scalp. From my own experience, what I have learned is that when I keep my hair in a ponytail or in a scarf for too long, then my scalp starts to itch. Once I take my hair down, my scalp feels fine.
Don’t forget that our hair is a part of the scalp. Scalp is skin and skin needs to breathe. Imagine wearing a leather coat on your bare skin for days. Going to sleep in that leather coat, wearing it on hot days. Wearing it in the shower! This is essentially what we do to our scalp when we pile product on our hair to create certain styles. And then, we leave that style in our hair for days, weeks and in some cases months.
Black women and hair loss and your styles
A 2014 study published in The Journal of Clinical Aesthetic and Dermatology surveyed over 200 African American women aged 21-83 from the Detroit, Michigan metro area. In the study, they wanted to explore the prevalence of hair loss and the psychosocial impact of hair grooming difficulties. In their survey they learned that a majority of respondents (59%) reported a history of excessive hair breakage or shedding, and 44 percent reported a history of excessively itching and scaling scalp
Black women are more susceptible to hair loss. While our hair is the most fragile due to the structure of our strands, styling habits and infrequent washing can lead to problems such as hair breakage, dry and brittle hair and an inflamed scalp.
Why are these styles bad for our hair?
Let’s start with the hair follicle
A hair follicle is part of the skin that grows hair by packing old cells together. It resides just below the surface of our skin and is made up of several different cell types each with its own purpose.
In a previous blog post, we discuss how co-washing (where you’re using only conditioner to wash your hair) can lead to hair loss. This is by causing product build-up and ultimately hindering the follicle the ability to push hair out of the scalp. There are other styles and habits that can cause hair loss.
We should also consider what using large amounts of hair gels, grease, edge tamers on our hair can do to our scalp. These products on their own are not bad for our hair. However, when these products accumulate on our scalp, it can lead to the growth of fungus and bacteria.
These types of styles, while they are ultra-chic, should be kept for special occasions and washed out after a couple of days.
Hair growth stage - black women and hair loss
There are four phases of hair growth which include anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen.
- Anagen is the growing phase and can last as long as 2-5 years and in some cases 7 years. During this phase your hair follicles are pushing out hair.
- Catagen is the transition stage where hair growth slows. Your hair follicles start to shrink. About 5% of your hair is in this phase.
- Telogen is the resting stage. Your hair isn’t growing during this phase, but it doesn’t fall out either.
- Exogen phase is when your hair sheds. Shedding 50-100 strands of hair per day is normal.
If we are constantly using products that causes our hair follicles to be blocked, we could be interfering with the anagen or growing phase of our hair. You want to make sure you wash these products out and give your scalp a chance to ‘breathe’.
Key Takeaways for Black Women and Hair Loss
- Listen to your scalp. If your scalp is feeling itchy or inflamed, take your hair down and leave your hair loose for a few hours. If the itching stops, then it’s your hairstyle.
- Wash your scalp often. I recommend washing your hair once per week or every other week tops. Be sure to apply the shampoo to your scalp and massage. Check out our shampoo mistakes to avoid.
- Clarify your hair and scalp. This is especially important if you’re using products that are not water soluble. Ingredients such as silicons and mineral oil need a good lather to remove from your hair and scalp.
- If you have persistent scalp problems such as fungus, dermatitis etc. Do not hesitate to see a dermatologist.