Alopecia is a blanket term for all kinds of hair loss. Alopecia can be seen in woman and men, and in all nationalities. However, certain beauty habits and genetic factors cause black women in particular to be susceptible to more forms of hair loss. The good news is many of these forms of alopecia are not permanent and can be treated.
African-American hair is highly textured and dry. This causes it to be extremely susceptible to damage and breakage. Hair loss can start in the front near the hairline, the crown of the head, the sides of the head or all over the head. In addition, the hair loss can be patchy or thinning in appearance.
Factors that cause alopecia are stress, traction, chemical damage or illness. Stress can cause more hair than usual to enter into resting stage, which will cause them to fall out. At any given time at least 10 percent to 20 percent of our hair is in this resting stage; this is the hair we see in a brush. Stress causes a shock to the system, which makes more hair enter this stage than usual. This is called telogen effluvium. Another common cause of alopecia in black women is traction caused by wearing tight ponytails, extensions or extremely tight braids. Wearing tight hairstyles causes the hair to the tug from the follicle; over time, this causes damage to the follicle, which results in hair loss all round the hairline.
Hair loss due to using harsh chemicals, such as relaxers or perms, may cause burns on the scalp. These burns form scar tissue inside of the hair follicles causing permanent hair loss. Hair loss as a result of this is called cicatricial alopecia or scarring alopecia. Another form of alopecia that affects black woman is androgenic alopecia. Androgenic alopecia, also called male pattern hair loss, affects women who have entered menopause and those who have medical conditions that cause a shift in sex hormones.
Symptoms of traction alopecia are extreme thinning around the hairline and bald patches at the hairline. Symptoms of androgenic alopecia are diffused thinning all over the head or thinning hair on the crown. Symptoms of cicatricial alopecia are patchy hair loss, shiny smooth areas on the scalp and scarring or scalp damage. Symptoms of telogen effluvium include noticeable hair thinning.
In some cases, the cause of the hair loss must be taken care of before the hair can restore its growth. However, in cases of severe or localized hair loss, you may be told to use Minoxidil 2 percent topical treatment. This is an ointment, lotion or foam you use on the scalp every day to help restore hair growth. You can purchase this product over the counter under the name Rogaine. Another medication used to treat hair loss, in particular androgenic alopecia, is Tagamet. Although this medication is used to treat peptic ulcers, according to the American Hair Loss Association it has shown a powerful anti-androgen effect, which may work well in treating this form of alopecia.
African-American hair needs lots of moisture to prevent breakage and damage. Use moisturizing shampoo when washing to restore the hair’s natural oils, and do not wash your hair any more than three times in a week. In addition to this, moisturize your hair daily using natural oils such as almond, aloe, coconut or avocado. Do not wear you hair in tight styles. If you suspect you have an infection of the scalp such as ringworm, get it treated straight away to prevent excessive hair loss.