Hair loss is a debilitating condition that many people have to deal with. Unfortunately because most people believe “its just hair” there is little to no empathy for individuals going through it. Its absolutely devastating to find out that you are gradually losing your hair even when you still have a full head of hair. Many companies promote hair growth and many hair care strategies but few identify the underlying problems or practices that inevitably result on hair loss. While hair loss can be gradual or sudden and dramatic both processes can be equally upsetting. In this post, I will outline some of the things you need to avoid to ensure that you do not go down this common path down the road. In the second path of this series, I will discuss how you can fight and overcome hair loss to regain your once dense or full head of hair.
Most young people, male or female, start out with a full head of hair in their youth. I personally know people who had full and thick hair in their youth but as they got older, their hair became sparse and lifeless. When you interview or dig deep into these individuals or their condition, you will find out that one thing is common in their background and that is a neglect of the hair, stress, bad hair practices, poor scalp maintenance and chronic health conditions.
Hair neglect: We all have a time when we remember our hair as flourishing and blossoming. Perhaps this was the time when you recently went natural (cutting off relaxed or damaged hair) and started a “natural” hair journey. During this time, you were probably fascinated by your hair and in love with it. You nurtured it and made sure to try out hair treatments, oil treatments and several other fantastic hair care practices. However, as time went on, you became a bit more careless with your hair, stopping or reducing most of the great care routine you had. Perhaps you had kids and a growing family to care for so you neglected your hair which is totally understandable but one day you wake up to find your hair breaking and falling off at the roots. Don’t be surprised this is happening , you simply need to go back to your original care routine that was working for you initially. Unfortunately, some people start doing new things and find themselves running around in circles. If your hair condition has not become too bad, there are several tips that i will recommend you try in the coming sections so stay tuned.
Stress: stress happens to everyone and cannot be avoided especially if you are a grown adult. It can be family or work related. It could also be medically induced. However, how you manage your stress is what makes you able to rise above it and prevent it from wrecking havoc on your hair and entire life. When life struggles hit, your hair is the last thing on your mind and understandably so but to avoid the further stress of losing your hair, it is important to step up your hair care routine as much as you can. Therapy, meditation, medication and self care can help in the management of stress.
Bad hair practices: In previous posts on our blog, I have gone through several bad hair practices that cause temporary or permanent hair loss. Keeping protective styles too long, going too long between washes, failing to disinfect your hair styling tools are all ways you could introduce unfavorable health conditions for hair growth. Practices that involve tension on the scalp should be strongly avoided at all costs. Conditions like traction alopecia are a direct result of tight twists, flat braids, box braids, locks and extensions. Prolonged irritation of the scalp can lead to permanent hair loss if scars form where your follicles are. You may be able to get away with tight styles when you are young but as you grow older, your follicles may be permanently damaged and will be unable to grow hair due to the trauma.
You may think you are not installing tight hairstyles but you might be sitting under a hooded dryer for extended periods of time. You may also not wear hats in the hot sun. Both of these practices expose your crown, the top of your head to heat thereby traumatizing the follicles in that very important part of the hair. Repeated events could lead to a condition known as central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA). CCCA is a type of hair loss found mostly in black women. The condition gets its name from its presentation. It is characterized by loss of follicles that radiates outward in a centrifugal or circular pattern. It is usually gradual and could go unnoticed for a long time. However, some people experience a rapid progression of the hair loss. CCCA causes death of the hair follicles and scarring which eventually leads to permanent hair loss.
Although CCCA can be said to also be linked to low iron levels, thyroid issues and some other medical conditions, it is exacerbated by knowingly or unknowingly traumatizing the hair follicles in your delicate crown. It is mostly common in black women because of its link to tight hairstyles and hooded dryers. Something we black women are all too familiar with. Parting your hair in sections that expose or tug at your crown should be avoided so as not to develop this condition. I will discuss more about this condition in the second part of this series.
Poor scalp maintenance: Protein treatment, conditioning treatment, hot oil treatments, moisturizing treatments are all fantastic hair care practices when they lay equal emphasis on the scalp but unfortunately, especially in the natural hair community, everyone wants to keep their hair moisturized by applying all sorts of products that claim to lock in moisture. Sadly, the scalp is often neglected as some proponents aka “hair gurus” claim that applying products to scalp will lead to product build up. As a result, many people end up with dry and flaky scalp which is under nourished thereby leading to hair loss. If you have tried everything and your hair is still chronically dry, you may be neglecting your scalp. Simply paying attention to your scalp, applying scalp care/nourishing products and massaging your scalp frequently is often enough to keep your entire hair moisturized.
Unlike what some uninformed individuals think, your hair is a living entity of follicles connected to your scalp. Healthy hair begins with healthy scalp. Think of your hair like a tree branch connected to the stem. Nourishment comes from the roots and nutrients are distributed all through to the branches. Your scalp is the root and your hair is the branch connected to a stem of follicles. Without a healthy root (scalp), your hair will wilter and die like a tree branch. I will give detailed tips on how you can care for your scalp in part two of this series.
Chronic health conditions: There are several conditions that can bring about severe and extensive hair loss. When these conditions are ignored, the damage could become extensive, leading to permanent hair loss. From mild conditions like dandruff to moderate conditions like dermatitis, inflammation and more pervasive conditions like psoriasis, thyroid issues, lichen planus, specifically lichen planopilaris of the scalp and many more. Sometimes, a trip to the dermatologist is necessary in order to determine the exact cause of your hair loss and what treatment options are available. sadly, many hair loss problems would have been completely avoided or significantly mitigated if treatment is started early.
An example is dandruff. Dandruff is a common condition that people of all races and hair types experience from time to time. Unfortunately some people ignore it or simply don’t take it too seriously until it becomes chronic and pervasive. Your scalp is just like your skin. You need to care for it like you would any other part of your skin. If your face was flaky and shedding white particles, would you simply spray it with water and keeo moving? the answer for most people is NO. You would look for a permanent soliton or take steps to avoid triggering dandruff outbreaks.
In the next blog article of this series, I will let you know how you can rise above the pitfalls i have detailed in this article. I will highlight my own personal experiences and how you can fight hair loss using natural methods, products and a simple routine.