Hello everyone!! This month, I have decided to address one of the most frequent questions from customers- how can I prevent hair loss? It is a very good question and the answers are dependent on what exactly is the root cause of your hair loss. So let’s dive straight in and see what the research indicates.
AFRO ETHNIC HAIR
There is currently limited research around the influence of hair care & cultural practices on afro hair types, scalp health, and conditions despite numerous publications on human hair ( Franbourg et al J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Jun; 48(6 Suppl). The authors classified hair into three groups according to their racial origins: Caucasian, Asian, and African. They differ from each other base on their structure, appearance, geometry, and water content. African hair has:
1. a high degree of irregularity in geometry than other hair types,
2. has a twisted oval rod, with random reversals in direction and can flatten out whereas Caucasian and Asian hair is more cylindrical.
3. Afro hair has less tensile strength and therefore is more prone to breakage than any other ethnic hair type
4. More challenging to comb due to its curly configuration than any other ethnic hair type. Also, this curled configuration prevents the distribution of the hair oils along the shaft, from root to tip, thus making the hair look dry and dull (Bras, A,2015)
5. Has less moisture content than Caucasian hair
Taken from: ( A Syed, A Kuhajda, H Ayoub, K Ahmad, EM. Frank African-American hair: its physical properties and differences relative to Caucasian hairCosmet Toil, 110 (1995).
Causes of hair loss
Whenever my customers inquire about what products they can use to address their hair loss problem, I would often ask a few questions:
1. When did you start realizing that you are losing your hair?
2. Is there any pattern to this hair loss
3. What is your diet like?
4. Have you experience any recent illness or stressors in your life.
5. Have you used any new hair care products?
Unfortunately, not every complaint of hair loss can be fixed with a wonder product(s). Some hair loss needs expert consultation and treatments that include corticosteroids or oral antibiotics to reduce inflammation and minoxidil to stimulate hair growth. Some types of hair loss are attributed to genetics and very little can be done to fix this. Examples of this include alopecia areata and female pattern hair loss.
Other hair loss can be caused by stress or having a poor diet. A common condition associated with a high level of stress is called Telogen Effluvium but it can also be triggered by hormonal changes and medications (beta-blockers, anticoagulants, excess Vit A) (Elizabeth, C & Saleh, D,2020 Telogen Effluvidium, NCBI). According to the authors, physiologic stress cause a large number of growing hairs in the hair cycle (anagen) to enter into a resting phase (telogen) and this can last from 1-6mths. However, this cessation of hair growth often goes unobserved by the patients, and when the hair renters the growing phase, those hairs that have been suspended during the resting phase extrude from the follicle and start to shed.
According to Guo & Katta,2017, hair follicles are the most metabolically active in our body but the impact of hair growth involves a complex interplay between calorie, protein malnutrition, and micronutrient deficiency. In other words, nutrition supplementation in the absence of any evidence of such may cause worsening of hair loss or the risk of toxicity. Therefore, it is essential to have a well-balanced diet because anemia, Vitamin A, D, E, Biotin & Selenium deficiency, and abnormal thyroid hormone can all contribute to hair loss.
As Black women, we are more prone to a hair loss called traction alopecia which is caused by years of repeatedly using hairpieces or tight hairstyles that cause the shortening of hair in the frontotemporal region (aka edges of hair) (the “Fringe Sign” – A useful clinical finding in traction alopecia of the marginal hairline Samrao A, Price VH, Zedek D, Mirmirani P Dermatol Online J. 2011 Nov 15). The earliest sign is perifollicular erythema (redness) and scattered hair in the frontotemporal region of your head. The exact mechanism of why this occurs is poorly understood (Bras, A,2015, NCBI). Therefore it is important to ask your hairstylist to ensure that your hair is braided loosely.
Hair straightening and chemical relaxer may cause damage to the hair shaft, cuticle, cause scalp irritation, and may make the hair more fragile if not done by an experienced hairdresser/technician. From my experience, I’ve suffered hair loss for 3 years despite using an experienced hairdresser. It is worth considering the facts before making a decision on whether to go natural or chemically straighten your hair.
As usual, we would love to hear all about your experiences regarding hair loss and how you solve this issue. Please feel free to like and share this blog with any interested parties.