Hair Loss in HIV/AIDS Patients: Treating the Triple Threat by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

Hair Loss in HIV/AIDS Patients: Treating the Triple Threat

by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

Any time your body experiences extreme stress, your hair changes.

HIV/AIDS patients face a triple-threat. The high risk of infection, the impact of medications and accelerated aging can increase stress and ultimately cause hair loss.

The best weapon in the fight against hair loss is information and preparation.

Hair is an “accessory organ.” The body does not need it to survive. In HIV/AIDS patients the body fights daily to defend vital organs like your heart, lungs, and liver. Naturally, it may not have much energy left to help protect your hair.

When bacteria and fungal infections attack the scalp and deprive hair follicles of much needed nutrients, the effects are largely visible and reminiscent of more common hair loss disorders that come with age. Even medications meant to ease other symptoms and attack the virus can lead to dry, brittle, and weaker strands.

Hair loss can resemble androgenic alopecia – male patterned hair loss – or alopecia areata – irregular bald spots.

To help slow this process and/or repair it, HIV/AIDS patients should practice the following:

  • Avoid dying, perming, or straightening your hair
  • Try to reduce stress whenever possible to prevent accelerated aging

Check with your doctor to determine if your hair loss can be treated with medications like Minoxidil (Rogaine) or Finasteride (Propecia).

Contracting HIV/AIDS is complicated; as you manage internal changes the external side effects can be emotionally charged as well.

Practice safe sex and get tested, regularly. Choose to be healthy and let’s eradicate this disease from our community one person at a time.

“Stress Will Make Your Hair A Mess” by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

Stress Will Make Your Hair A Mess

by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

The holiday seasons are upon us. Money is tight and bills still have to be paid. We experience different levels of stress on a daily basis, but heightened levels of stress can affect our health, interrupt the hair growth cycle and ultimately—make your hair a mess!

Stress has a profound affect on our bodies manifested in the forms of cancers, hypertension and even weight gain. The hair is the barometer of health so when there are imbalances in your body the hair will signal this imbalance. It may become dry, brittle and begin to break easily. Styles won’t have the same flair they used to have and your hair will look very dull. All of these elements produce a series of really bad hair days, but usually the hair will begin to fall out and rebounding from this form of hair loss requires a lot of patience and discipline.

There are two different types of stress-physiological and emotional. The physiological stress can be signaled by nutritional deficiencies or hormonal fluctuations due to diet, medications, illnesses or lifestyle changes. When this form of stress presents itself in the body it interrupts the hair growth cycle by causing large numbers of hair to enter the telogen (shedding) phase at once.  This leaves patchy hair loss throughout the scalp. Typically, once the stress is addressed and physiological balance is restored, the hair will grow back.

Now the emotional stress is the form of stress we are all familiar with. It is the emotional stress that we are constantly struggling to balance. There is an emotional connection to physiological stress. The short-term, everyday emotional stress that we encounter does not cause hair loss, but it’s the emotional triggers from long periods of stress that lead to bad habits and create physiological imbalances that cause hair loss. For example, the emotional stress in the form of grief when someone dies does not cause hair loss, but the sudden weight loss, lack of sleep and improper intake of nutrients as a result of the grief causes the hair loss.

There is a psychological disorder called Trichotillomania. This disorder is characterized by an irresistible urge to pull hair out from the scalp, eyebrows or other areas of the body to deal with negative or uncomfortable feelings such as stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness or fatigue. In this case, seek help with a psychologist or therapist. The root of the problem must be addressed to see improvement with this hair loss disorder.

Overall, we must find healthy ways to deal with stress. Yes, it affects the hair, but it impacts our entire body. Not everyone loses hair from stress, but it may manifest in the body in other ways. If you are experiencing forms of hair loss and you are under some form of stress, I encourage you to see your healthcare provider. They may be able to help you identify the stressor that is causing the hair loss, but most importantly rule out any additional systemic conditions that could be contributing to your hair loss. Hair loss is an early sign for more that 20 different diseases. Once the cause of stress is identified, you can gain control over your emotions and find productive ways to channel them-your hair should return to normal.

“The Truth About Transitioning” by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

The Truth About Transitioning

by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

 Transitioning can be a very challenging process. The Internet is full of amateur opinions, and information that can be intimidating, inaccurate and out right confusing.  It is incredibly difficult to decipher which techniques; styles and products will work best for your specific hair type. Many women who set out to transition to a chemical-free hairstyle get lost, feel defeated and ultimately-give up.  I am going to outline 4 Truths about Transitioning to help women have a greater understanding of what to expect on their transitioning journey:

 1. Straightening the hair with hot combs and flat irons on a consistent basis can cause the same amount of damage to the hair as a chemical straightener. Many women who have decided to no longer use relaxers continue to straighten their hair with a variety of heat styling tools.  Using heat on a consistent basis will cause the protein bonds in your hair strands to break permanently leaving straight, fragile ends. Women who have started their natural hair journey may sometimes find themselves starting over again if they straighten their hair too often. My advice: If you want to straighten your hair to celebrate its versatility, do it on occasion and minimize the amount of heat you are using to straighten your curls.

2. You may have more than one curl pattern in your head.  Lots of women have no idea what their natural curl pattern looks like. There are thousands of pictures and videos of women describing and showing off their curls. We begin to create images and even hopes of what our curls will look like once we shed the straight ends. Its important to remember that every curl is different and your hair may not fit into a simple 3a or 4b description. Due to genetics you may have a variety of curl patterns through out your head. These diverse curls will determine the styling and product routine you may need to adopt to create the style that makes you feel most comfortable. My advice: Seek the assistance of a professional who can help you understand your curl pattern and texture. Getting a realistic picture of what YOUR hair can do will help eliminate any discouragement you may feel when discovering your curls do not resemble Traci Ellis Ross’s.

3. Everyone’s hair growth cycle is different, so your hair can grow anywhere from ¼ of an inch to ½ an inch a month.  It is so easy to get trapped in the maze of comparison. Your friend or colleague who started their transition journey at the same time as you may now have curls that stretch pass their chin and yours are still at the top of your ear. There are several factors that affect hair growth. Some of those factors include health, medications and hormones; but sometimes it is genetic factors that cause some women’s hair to grow faster than others. My advice: Monitor your hair growth cycle by approximating the length your hair has grown after a month. Protective styles like braids and twists provide a good way to measure how much growth you have achieved after 6-8 weeks. If you determine that you are not achieving much length or that your hair is not growing past a certain length, there may be other factors affecting your hair growth and you should consult with your Trichologist, Licensed Cosmetologist and/or Medical Doctor.

4. If you do not do the Big Chop, it can take 12-18 months to fully transition back to your natural curl. Depending on how much straight or relaxed ends you have to trim away, getting back to your natural curl will take time. This process of transitioning will be a big test of your patience. To help the transition from straight to curly go faster, protective styles are a great way to make time fly. Surrounding yourself with women who have gone through the process, are going through the process or who are big supporters of your process will also be a big help. Stay encouraged and don’t give-up. Rediscovering your natural curls will provide you with a great sense of freedom and accomplishment.

To get more information about Transitioning, download: “The Journey Back: How To Transition Back To Your Natural Curl.”  Download your copy now at:

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Understanding Hair Elasticity by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

Understanding Hair Elasticity

by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

 Last month we discussed the porosity of hair, and now we will incorporate the importance of hair elasticity.

 Porosity and elasticity are related. Hair elasticity measures the strength of the hair strand and the ability of it to stretch without breaking and to return to its natural state without any help. The elasticity of a hair strand depends on a healthy cortex. The cortex is located in the center of the hair strand, makes up most of the hair shaft and determines most of the physical properties of the hair.  A hair shaft that has poor elasticity can break easily with grooming and manipulation.

So how does one lose the elasticity in their hair? Heat and chemical damage are the major culprits that contribute to the loss of hair elasticity. Heat damage includes heat appliances such as hot combs, flat irons, curling irons, blow dryers and even damage from the sun. The chemical villains include relaxers, perms, and hair color.

When chemicals are applied to the hair they completely alter the structure of the strand and increase its porosity, so a very strict conditioning routine must be in place to maintain the health of the strand. When heat is applied to the hair at high temperatures on a consistent basis, the affect it has on the hair strand is very similar to what a chemical does. The constant heat causes the temporary breaks in the bonds of the hair to become permanent, leaving straight dry ends that will no longer curl when water hits it. Cracks and breaks in the cuticle of the hair shaft create porous hair strands that are void of moisture and very susceptible to breakage when stretched.

It is difficult to restore the elasticity to the hair and based on the extent of the damage it may require completely cutting it off. Hair requires moisture (water) to maintain its elasticity. Women who have lost the elasticity in their hair strands because of heat or chemical application require a moisture based hair regimen that involves the consistent use of moisture based products and conditioners. I caution women who get addicted or stuck in a routine of using nothing but moisture. Those soft, supple strands feel really nice if the hair was once extremely dry and brittle, but without a solid structure, hair can also lose elasticity and still suffer from breakage.

So how do you maintain elasticity in your hair strands? The key is to balance the use of protein based conditioners and moisturizers. Therefore, if your hair is dull, weak and stretches excessively when wet, you need to incorporate more protein-based conditioners into your hair regimen. This type of hair strand is a sign you over-moisturized your hair (yes, there is such a thing). If your hair strand is dry and brittle this is a sign you need to incorporate more moisture based products into your hair care regimen. Once you determine the unique needs of your hair and maintain the proper balance of protein and moisture with your products, you will be able to sustain the elasticity of your hair.


Dr. Kari is a Trichologist and Owner of Mahogany Hair Revolution in Los Angeles, CA

For more information on Dr. Kari visit or follow her on Twitter @drkariwilliams 

For updates on Facebook LIKE her fan page Mahogany Hair Revolution

“Protective Styles Gone Wrong: What Happens When The Weave Is Too Tight? ” by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

Protective Styles Gone Wrong: What Happens When The Weave Is Too Tight?

by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

Weaving is a popular option for most women who are making the transition from straight and relaxed styles to natural hair.  It protects the hair from daily manipulation and heat styling. It also offers a look for women that resembles what they are accustomed to wearing or allows them to try out a head full of curls until their very own head full of curls are ready to be unleashed. But sometimes-protective styles can go wrong if improper techniques are used. A popular protective styling option is the weave.  Unfortunately, I see many women who are suffering from severe thinning or hair loss because of a weave style. You may be wondering, “How does this happen?” There are several reasons why this happens. The most common reasons are traction alopecia and scalp infections.

I discussed traction alopecia in another post and described it as self-inflicted hair loss. To refresh your memory, traction alopecia is when the hair is literally pulled out of the scalp follicle as a result of braid styles that are too tight. Although this form of hair loss is mostly seen around the hairline, many women are beginning to suffer from this type of hair loss in the center of the scalp. The pattern of braiding traditionally done for the foundation of the weave is a honeycomb shape that ends at the top of the scalp, concentrating all of the tension in that area. The sewing of the tracks onto the braids worsens the tension. Some technicians wrap the thread around the braid, literally pulling the cornrow away from the scalp. Translation- your hair is being pulled out of your head. Most women sense this discomfort and pain immediately. Some women say nothing and convince themselves that pain is beauty and that it will eventually subside within a couple of days and after a couple of Advil. Others will voice their concerns only to be hushed or ignored by their stylists. This is only the beginning of the problem.

When the hair is weaved, it is very difficult to clean and treat the scalp, especially if a net is used. Lets revisit the pain of installing the weave. The pulling and traction created during this process creates scratches, scars and open wounds in the scalp. These wounds create the perfect pathway for bacteria and fungus to enter the blood stream. Consequently, fungal and bacterial infections invade the scalp and because many women ignore the symptoms of pain, incessant itching, and refuse to remove their $300 styles; after three months of dirt and bacteria accumulating on the scalp, the infection runs its course and causes permanent hair loss.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a weave technician who is well trained. You must vocalize your concerns if you are feeling any discomfort and remove your weave immediately if you experience excessive pain or itching. Most importantly, see a dermatologist to confirm diagnosis of an infection and receive a prescription that will clear up the infection before it destroys your hair follicles.


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