BLACK WOMEN love to sport the long, flowing locks of weaves or braids. Along with looking good, many women tout the ease of hair maintenance that it allows. But while weaves and braids may look good, they can also cause hair loss.
According to new research, very tight braiding or weaving is linked to a permanent type of hair loss that affects many black women.Prolonged pulling at the hair strands may cause inflammation of the hair follicle, which has been shown to lead to scarring. In principle, that could lead to a type of balding that dermatologists call central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, or scarring hair loss.
“We do see a lot of hair loss from braiding and weaving,” says Dr Carol Williams, a trichologist and owner of Khadija’s Hair Salon. “Certain techniques in applying the glue can cause a lot of traction. If there is scarring, there is no chance of the hair growing back because it means the follicles are damaged permanently.”
Researchers found that women with scarring hair loss were also more likely to have Type 2 diabetes, to braid or weave their hair tightly, and to have bacterial scalp infections. The Archives of Dermatology, which performed the research study, based it on health questionnaires and scalp examinations of 326 African American women.
Nearly all of them straightened their curls chemically and about one in six had scarring hair loss. More than half the women with this condition said they had braids, weaves or hair extensions, as compared to only a third of those with less severe hair loss.
Williams, who has seen and treated several cases of hair loss around the hairline and in other areas, says however there are some instances when hair can recover.
“I’ve seen people in the clinic where their hair grows back after a series of treatments, especially around the hairline,” Williams said. “If it’s a long time, they will hardly be a big regrowth. If you stop the braiding and weaving and stop giving trauma to the hair, you’ll find the hair grows back.”
Though Williams understands why women resort to weaves and braids, she also cautions them to care for and maintain their own natural hair.
“Women do resort to weaves and braids because of the convenience and the look it brings without the hassle,” she said. “When you have your own hair it’s a lot of work, and women now don’t sleep in rollers. But there has to be a balance and you can’t or shouldn’t do it to the detriment of your own hair.”