African Woman & Hair Loss

air loss can be absolutely devastating, particularly for women. Hair is so strongly tied to our beauty, sense of worth and self-confidence. Often when we lose our hair, we attempt to camouflage the loss but frequently utilise hairstyles that make the problem worse.

Most women have no idea that there are many causes of hair loss. Some think that hair loss is a normal part of aging. Others do not realise that their hair care practices may lead to or contribute to their hair loss. Still others do not realise that something can be done to stop the hair loss. Since hair loss is such a major problem for our community and it has such devastating consequences, we have decided to devote this article to this extremely important subject.

Remember, you are not alone. Your dermatologist may be able to help you. Follow the simple measures we discuss in this article to help you grow new hair, stop the progressive loss, and allow you to keep the hair that you have.

What it all means

In order to understand hair loss, it is important to begin with a quick vocabulary lesson, so that we are all speaking the same language.

simply means hair loss. If you have hair loss, then you have alopecia. However, it is important to realize that there are many different types of hair loss or alopecia. Alopecia may occur in different locations on the scalp. There are different causes of alopecia. Some types are reversible and others are not. As you would expect, there are different treatments for alopecia depending upon the type.

Traumatic Alopecia
(Hair Breakage) means that the hair strand has become shorter than it was before because of trauma or injury to the hair strand. There are also many reasons for hair breakage. Your dermatologist and hair stylist may help you identify your specific reason.

is the crown or the top of your head.

Traction Alopecia
is hair loss from pulling.

Central Centrifugal Cicatrical Alopecia is a type of hair loss that begins in the central portion of the scalp, spreads in an outward or centrifugal pattern and causes scarring or cicatrix of the hair follicles.

What causes Hair Loss

Although there are many causes of hair loss, the three most common causes of hair loss seen in African females are:


1) Traumatic Alopecia (Hair breakage)

2) Central Centrifugal Cicatrical Alopecia (CCCA)

3) Traction Alopecia

We begin with hair breakage as that is the easiest to recognise and to reverse. It is often a matter of altering the way that you treat your hair.

Traumatic Alopecia (Hair Breakage) can occur at any location on the head and it is directly related to trauma or injury of the strands of hair. There are some women who report that they have a “weak” spot where the hair will break, re-grown and break again in that same area.

When the hair breaks you will not see the white hair bulb at the end of the hair. A broken hair is usually very short but it can be of any length.

Sometimes you will see the short broken hairs in the sink or on the pillow. Other times you won’t notice the breakage when it occurs. Your scalp will feel normal. The breakage may be sudden and unexpected or slow and gradual. Since there are many causes of trauma to the hair strand, there are many causes of breakage, we will highlight a few of the most common.


Common Causes of Traumatic Alopecia (Hair Breakage):

  • Excessive Chemical Use: Relaxers, dyes or the combination of both relaxers and dyes
  • Excessive Heat: Curling irons, flat irons, hot rollers, hot combs, blow dryers, hooded dryers
  • Frictional forces: Rubber bands, excessive brushing or combing

Some say that after a relaxer (perhaps one that was left on too long or one that was too strong) they noticed that their hair is suddenly shorter. In this case the trauma was because of the relaxer.

Other women who have used peroxide containing hair dye and then immediately relax their hair have noticed breakage. In this case the trauma was from the combination of two chemicals applied to the hair.

Still others will report that they are doing nothing different in regard to their hair care practices (they have always relaxed, blow dried and flat ironed their hair every two weeks), yet experience hair breakage. Often we can identify the cause of the breakage, as in the above examples, but not always.

Steps to Help Reverse Hair Breakage

What can you do if you notice hair breakage?

There are several simple measures that can be done to help stop and reverse your hair breakage.

  1. Recognise that your hair is breaking and take action. If you have relaxer in your hair, analyse how often you get a touch up. Are you getting touch-ups too often? Using relaxers too often may damage and weaken the hair shaft and cause breakage.

  2. Space your relaxer out to every eight or ten weeks or longer, particularly during the winter months when there is little to no humidity.

  3. Use moisturisers and hair oils more consistently to smooth and “tame” the new growth.
  4. Use a wide-tooth comb to gently comb the hair, beginning at the ends and working up towards the root to minimize breakage.
  5. Avoid pulling and tugging the hair when combing new growth.
  6. Try not combining two chemical processes such as permanent hair dyes or highlights, containing hydrogen peroxide, with relaxers, this may lead to damaged hair shafts and breakage. Additionally, condition your hair regularly and minimize heat from blow dryers and curling or flat irons if you have both chemicals in your hair.
  7. Limit excessive heat. This may be from hot combs, curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers, hooded dryers, or hot rollers. Do not use these implements more than once a week. See if you can decrease the heat that is generated from them by turning the setting down. Roll, pin curl or wrap your hair at night so that you do not have to apply heat in the form of curling irons or flat irons each morning.
  8. Only comb and brush your hair to style it. The hair of many black women is very fragile, and studies have demonstrated that normal brushing and combing the hair can result in breakage.
  9. Avoid rubber bands or other implements that can physically cut into and break the hair shaft.
  10. Trim the damaged ends of the hair, wash and condition the hair.