With World Afro Hair Day arriving on Friday 15th September, this article is about the importance of continuing to address issues of diversity within the hair care industry for the sake of our health. Afro hair remains a minority hair type catered for in the hair care industry, whether this be salons on the high …
There is a hair loss condition that has consistently remained present in society and yet not been addressed. A condition that is utterly preventable and yet incredibly prevalent. It is called Traction Alopecia and now research is finally being done to clearly illustrate the damaging effects of aggressive styles such as weaves, braids, locs and tight ponytails that cause it.
Now, John Hopkins University researchers have published a study in the journal of the american academy of dermatology that identifies significant association of tight hairstyling with hair loss. The study is one of the first to finally illustrate the importance of having a strong knowledge of hair styling techniques applied to the hair, to understand the causative factors of hair loss and therefore how to best manage the condition and provide invaluable advice ongoing.
Here at the Fulham Scalp & Hair Clinic we’ve known that the continuous pulling force put on the follicle can cause it to produce weaker and weaker hairs, before eventually giving up completely leaving scarred follicles behind.
We’ve also known that aggressive styling on chemically processed and heat damaged hair can lead to even faster hair loss and breakage.
All this damage is preventable if patients are willing to change the way they style their hair and seek treatment sooner rather than later.
For years and years we continue to see patients arrive at our clinic, in desperation for their edges and hairline, and the number of traction alopecia diagnoses we reach every week hasn’t diminished, stemming mainly from black women.
Afro hair is more fragile but is by no means less healthy or able to grow than european hair. When both hair types are put under tension from heavy extensions and damaged by heat they both become fragile, however these aggressive styling techniques are currently far more common amongst black women, and as a result this group suffers disproportionately from traction alopecia.
We need to change this and it starts with educating ourselves and being clear about what will and wont cause damage to our hair.
Tight hairstyles day in, day out WILL cause damage to the follicle.
Single braiding the hair, particularly with long/heavy braids WILL cause damage to the follicle.
Weaves and extensions, attached tightly and left in WILL cause damage to the follicle.
Direct heat to the hair from blow driers and straighteners WILL weaken the hair shaft and result in breakage.
Chemical relaxers, perms and permanent colours applied incorrectly and at too high a strength WILL weaken the hair shaft, result in breakage and may also result in chemical burns.
Think about how many of the above you may be guilty of all at the same time. Now ask yourself, does your hair really feel as healthy and strong as it should?
Early intervention in treating traction alopecia can have incredible results and hair can regrow once more, but if left untreated it can scar and hair loss will be permanent. If you are worried about your hair and suspect you may have traction alopecia, please get in touch so that we can offer clear, expert advice.
Let us avoid the avoidable and enjoy strong hairlines and beautiful growth.
Our best wishes,
Teresa and Eleanore
Following the huge hormonal fluctuations that can occur in a woman’s body after pregnancy, a number of changes can be seen that includes hair loss. We call this hair loss post- partum telogen effluvium.
During pregnancy the hair can appear to grow thicker and longer than usual, this is due to the impact of increasing oestrogen levels in the expectant mothers body. Increased levels of oestrogen are believed to hold hairs in the growing phase (anagen) of their life cycle.
Whilst this is great during pregnancy, after birth oestrogen levels dramatically drop back to normal and this can be a shock for the hair. Where the hair was once being held in a growing phase, it now shifts sharply to the resting phase (telogen), awaiting its time to be shed. Cyclical shedding is normal, however the proportion of hairs that shift to this phase all together after birth is much greater than normal.
What does this mean for new mums?
It can mean a drastic amount of shedding roughly 3 months (the length of the telogen phase) after birth which can come as quite a shock. We frequently see patients here at the clinic most commonly suffering this type of hair loss to their front hairline and temples, but general density of hair can also thin and the effect can be even more stark following a cesarean delivery due to the stress of surgery and greater blood loss.
Having just given birth, recovery and caring for your new baby are priority, but noticing your hair start to fall out can be deeply distressing and emotionally draining. Do Not Panic.
This hair loss is caused by erratic changes in your hormone levels so as they start to return to normal, so will your hair cycle. Mothers may notice that in the 5th or 6th month post birth, hair begins to REGROW.
For mothers breastfeeding, they may find the shedding occurring 3 months after breastfeeding has stopped. Once again, do not worry as hair growth will return also.
How to encourage the fastest recovery?
Make sure as a new mum you are managing your stress well, as stress can play a role in hair loss. Also make sure you are taking time to enrich your diet with a variety of vitamins and minerals. This is fantastic for your hair but also so incredibly important in keeping you healthy to look after and nourish your new baby.
You may feel desperate to camouflage the thinning by creating volume with curling irons or adding extensions, but please don’t! Post pregnancy shedding is temporary and will recover, but the damage from direct heat and traction from extensions can be permanent.
So please don’t add hair worries to the stress of being a new mum. If you think the shedding has been going on for longer than usual or the hair loss is patchy and seems unlike what I have described about then please do get in touch with us for a consultation or speak to your GP as there may be another causative factor at play.
Teresa and Eleanore
When we scratch our scalps we’re not thinking about the state of our fingernails, the sensitivity or our scalp or the breakage we may be causing to our hair. All we care about is instantly satisfying that itchy, irritating sensation, and therein lies the problem. With such a short term goal of relief in mind it’s hard to weigh up the long term effects of constantly itching one’s scalp.
Dirty fingernails are the worst offenders, but they don’t deserve all the blame. Over the years I have seen combs, keys, pens and pencils, clips, pins, chop sticks, credit cards and even scissors being used to scratch an itch. None of these objects are known to be thoroughly cleaned all the time (although one would hope that the chopsticks are on the top of the list), so the likelihood that they are harbouring harmful bacteria to be transferred to the scalp is also high. Severe scratching can break the skin and transfer harmful bacteria, resulting in a messy, smelly and uncomfortable bacterial infection of the scalp.
My top tips for an itchy scalp
1. Don’t let it fester
Just because your friend says their scalp itches all the time and it’s no big deal doesn’t mean it’s normal. If your scalp is itchy, there will be a reason for it. Get it treated and the itch will go away and you will have reduced you chances of getting a bacterial infection to zero.
2. Get it diagnosed
Itching may feel all the same, but the causes can vary greatly, from sensitivity of the scalp to an oil to head lice infestations. Knowing what is causing your itch means you know the best way to treat it in the fastest time. There are specific products to be used on fungal infections such as ring worm and dandruff, bacterial infections such as folliculitis and infestations such as head lice and mites. Using the right product and treatment plan is paramount to treating the itch fast and preventing any further effects.
3. Know your scalp
If you have suffered from an itchy scalp in the past and have figured out the cause, it’s simple logic to avoid that in the future. If you are prone to a sensitive scalp there are a few things that you should consider avoiding as it can lead it irritation, such as oils or heavy hair dressings and perfumed shampoos and conditioners. If a product doesn’t say hypoallergenic on it, even if it is organic and “natural” it can still cause irritation if you are prone to allergies.
The more your scratch an itch, the more inflamed and irritated the skin becomes and the itchier it remains. The “itch scratch cycle” can exaggerate a relatively simple and treatable condition into a serious infection that, if left untreated, can result in scarring and hair loss. Nobody should lose hair over an itch!
Teresa Angelina Richardson, MIT
Mr Keith Hobbs is a white man, but he knows almost every afro hair condition going, and he knows how to treat it too. If as a professional you have worked with Afro-Caribbean patients and are comfortable with handling and treating afro hair then by experience you will have more knowledge and expertise on the matter of afro hair than someone who isn’t. Being Afro-Caribbean yourself isn’t a prerequisite.
I have heard it discussed that some Afro-Caribbean patients and customers would only trust fellow Afro-Caribbean hairdressers, or would only buy their products from Afro-Caribbean vendors.
I understand that buying a product off someone who looks like you, has hair like you and who says they have used the product themselves may put you more at ease than someone you cannot relate to. However, the important screening factor has been lost. If you want to make sure that you hair is in good hands, you need to be asking that hairdresser/ vendor/ trichologist,
“What is your experience is with my hair type?
How many years have they been working with afro hair?
Where did you study and what are your qualifications?”
It is at this point when you realise whether the person standing in front of you actually knows what they are talking about. Hair dressers and trichologists both require a deep technical knowledge, trichologists need a scientific understanding of hair and scalp physiology, microbiology, chemistry and nutrition to name but a few disciplines. If this cannot be demonstrated then knowledge, not race, is the factor that should make you question trusting the professional.
Afro hair is ethnicity specific but learning about its anatomy and physiology isn’t. If they are willing to study hard and educate themselves through the certified channels, anyone can learn about and gain expertise in afro hair or any other ethnicity of hair for that matter.
So always choose your hair specialists wisely, but remember not to limit you circle of choice.
My best wishes until next time,
Teresa Richardson MIT