Saving Our Strands
By Holly Carter
Hair loss among Black women has reached near epidemic proportions. "I see at least five women every day with this concern," says dermatologist Susan Taylor, director of Society Hill Dermatology in Philadelphia. Different from hair breakage, in which the hair snaps off, loss occurs when "the hair comes out from the root, leaving patches with no hair or alternatively, if there is still hair, the density is markedly less, and you can see the scalp through the hair," explains Taylor. Many Black women suffer from what doctors call traction alopecia. Tight hairstyles—braids, weaves, ponytails and cornrows—worn over long periods of time pull on the hair, causing the natural hairline to recede.
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, another condition common among Black women, is characterized by circle-shaped balding at the crown toward the front of the head. Many dermatologists blame this condition on the sometimes outrageous things we do to our hair with tension, heat and chemicals. Other forms of hair loss include female pattern baldness, a hereditary condition, and alopecia areata, random quarter-size bald patches throughout the scalp, which can be caused by stress. In addition, pregnancy, certain medications, hormonal imbalances and thyroid malfunction can cause hair to fall out. The good news: Taking a proactive approach can improve your situation, and there are scientific options that can make a difference.