By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom
Women with natural hair often manipulate their hair quite heavily when it comes to styling. Care has to be taken to be gentle to hair as certain practices can lead to damage to the scalp and hair loss which can be irreversible. Here are some conditions to watch out for:
Weak hair at the temples ( Proximal Trichorrhexis nodosa)
Signs: Hair at the temples fails to reach a normal length and is abnormally fragile. Often people with this will have at one point seen white flecking (white dots) at the area of concern.
Reasons: For natural hair, this form of weakness arises from physical trauma such as excessive brushing/combing, styles that stress the hair (e.g tight braiding, braiding hair that is not sufficiently long enough, tight ponytails/puffs), excessive scratching or massaging. Chemical trauma is also a possible cause for example from hair dye or bleach.
Treatment: Removing the source of trauma and letting the area affected recover. New hair is needed to take over the area and do remember that a full hair cycle can be quite long. A full hair cycle is estimated to take upto 3 years but can be much longer for some (for example if hair grows to waistlength or longer, the hair cycle is around 5 years). Therefore it is estimated that complete recovery can take 2–4 years i.e the time period for the hair follicles in the region to get to a new anagen phase.
Signs: Gradual hair loss around the temples or in an area of stress (e.g where a ponytail is normally secured)
Reasons: The most common cause in natural hair is tight braiding and tight hair styles.
Treatment: Traction alopecia can take several years to become noticeable. It is a scarring form of alopecia which means that the hair follicles are destroyed and therefore new hair will not grow. Preventative action is best (i.e avoid tight braiding/hair styles that pull hair tight). Hair transplants are a possible solution for some cases.
Razor bumps (Pseudofolliculitis capitis)
Signs: Bumps that appear where hair was shaved. These bumps can appear as pimples or become fluid filled if infected. Permanent scarring is possible.
Reasons: The curve of curly natural hair makes it able to grow into the skin instead of out of the follicle especially if it was shaved to a very short length.
Treatment: If you wish to cut your hair very short, avoid going for a clean shave. Try to keep at least a quarter of an inch or so of visible hair to minimise in growth.
Ladies, have you dealt with any of these conditions? How did you treat them?
Dermatol Clin, pp 387–95, 1988.
Arch Dermatol, pp 328–329, 1977
Dermatol Ther, pp164-76, 2004