Self-Inflicted Hair Loss
by Dr. Kari WilliamsHair loss is devastating. Unfortunately, some black hair care practices make many of us susceptible to hair loss at a very young age. With pressure from society to conform to an unattainable beauty ideal based on European features, our hair styling history is filled with attempts to smooth, straighten and hide our coils. Consequently, Black women suffer from a common form of hair loss that is self -inflicted. Even worse, its located around our hairlines as a constant reminder of the trauma our scalp has endured at our hands or at the hands of someone else. This type of hair loss is called Traction Alopecia.Traction Alopecia is a result of the hair on the scalp being pulled too tightly, especially at the sides near the ears, at the nape of the neck and the front of the scalp. Styling techniques that create excess tension in this area cause the hair to break or pull out from the follicle prematurely. Traction alopecia is a type of scarring alopecia, which means when the scalp experiences the trauma of hair being pulled repeatedly, the body’s natural response is to protect itself. That protection comes in the form of follicular degeneration or the loss of follicular openings. Once your follicles disappear the hair, unfortunately, will not grow back.The majority of victims who suffer with traction alopecia begin to experience this hair loss as a child. Tight ponytails, braids, the excessive use of rubber bands and even relaxers create thinning hairlines as early as the age of 2. In more severe cases, this hair loss is permanent, and the child becomes an adult who is traumatized by hair loss they had no control over. Education is critical for parents and young girls who maintain their own hair. Hair must be combed and styled in a way that avoids excessive tension. Double strand twists, box braids and the revival of the afro gives us more styling options that children can feel comfortable wearing. Most importantly, it gives children the freedom to play and their hair a chance to grow.In some cases, traction alopecia can be reversed if it is treated in the early stages. However, if it is left too long, nothing can be done at the present time.If you are in the LA area, Dr. Kari currently teaches workshops for parents on how to care for and style their children’s hair. Visit: www.drkariwilliams.com for more information.