Monday, March 8, 2010

Women of Color: Are You Loosing Your Hair To Get “Good Hair”?

This weekend; my wife and I watched “Good Hair” starring Chris Rock. In the movie Rock visits beauty salons, hairstyling competitions, science labs and India to get various perspectives on the hair weave industry. He also interviews a bevy of celebrities, salon owners and their clients.

At first I thought this was just another low budget “let’s watch this because nothing else is good out” movie but I was wrong—the movie was actually entertaining and enlightening. It also got me to thinking. Here are just a couple of tidbits I picked up from the movie:

  • Black hair care is a $9 billion industry.
  • 30% to 34% of all hair products in the U.S. are purchased by black women. And weaves, worn by women of all ethnicities but especially by black women, account for 65% of hair-care revenue!
  • The hair comes from a variety of sources: India, Asia, Russia, Brazil, Mongolia and Malaysia.
  • There are only a handful of black hair care product manufacturers—most are international conglomerates.
  • Korean vendors have cornered the market on the sale and distribution of hair weave through their beauty shops.

But I bet there’s something you didn’t know… and it wasn’t discussed in the movie. Did you know that your quest for good hair could be contributing to a rising health problem among African American women? Well it is and it’s called traction alopecia.

What is Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia is loss of hair—most commonly in the outer regions of the forehead and face—caused by excessive pulling of the hair. Has your beautician ever mentioned this risk?

What Causes Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia is caused by damage done to the hair follicle by continual pulling and tight tension for very long periods to the hair. It occurs in people who wear tight braids, especially dreadlocks that lead to pulling, tension and breaking of hair. Of note, many men suffer from this problem too. In addition chemical processing of your hair can cause traction alopecia that can be irreversible if prolonged damage has occurred.

This type of hair loss has been on the rise among black women and children. Yes kids, the movie “Good Hair” asked several women how young were their children when they first braided their hair—one woman said her child was three! I believe on of the beauticians said a mother asked her to add extensions to and braid the hair of a two-year-old! How young was your child when you first had his or her hair braided?

What Are The Treatment Options?

Much of that depends on how long the problem has been going on. If you’ve had this problem for a long period of time your only option may be a hair transplant. Your Dermatologist may also try Minoxidil (Rogaine) or Finesteride. But I believe the best option is to opt out of this hairstyle. I mean, is it really worth you loosing your natural hair?

This issue has really hit home in my family—my wife has just been diagnosed with this disease.

“A women’s hair is her glory” or so the old saying goes. This is a disturbing trend that’s perfectly preventable—just wear your own hair. After all, do you want to look like this?

traction alopecia

How about it; are you suffering from this disease?

How are you dealing with it?

What treatment option(s) have you tried?

Have you had success with any particular dermatologist?

9 comments:

Anji said...

I'm so pleased to see you back again.

It's not just black women who suffer hair loss trying to be beautiful. I lost some hair at the front a long time ago when I was burnt by the chemical used in a perm. I hope that your wife can grow her hair back soon.

“A women’s hair is her glory” I think that it's in the Bible somewhere.

Iam Robert said...

Hi Anji!

It's been a long time (for both of us)! Thanks so much for continuing to follow and comment--yours mean the world to me.

Wow! I didn't know caucasion women suffered from this problem which is exaclty why this information needs to get out.

One thing that really bothered me was that my wife's beautician never said anything about the possibility of this happening to her. I wonder how many more women are operating in the dark on this.

Anji said...

I wonder if all of the people working in the beauty trade are aware of the problem too. I'm a typical anglo saxon with blue eyes blonde hair and fair skin. Even moving to the south west of France I've noticed that products are geered towards darker skins and hair. I think I got burnt because the hairdresser just didn't realise. A nurse at the hospital told me that fairer skin is harder to stitch up because it tears easily. We all have our problems.

BTW my eyebrows dropped out just over two years sgo because of stress, they are growing back very slowly.

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Brian Speer said...

Great article. I have been looking for information on this and it's rather hard to find.

Brian said...

Every orientation suffers problems due to trying to be beautiful, but I believe we are all confused, since true beauty is who we are. I know hard to believe it when what we see everywhere tells otherwise.

Brian said...

Society is obsessed with beauty, and it is sad that women jeopardize their health to fit someone else's idea of what is attractive. Beauty falls in the eye of the beholder, yes, cliched but no less true because of that. Everyone finds something different attractive, and beauty magazines and other media outlets should not tell us how we should look.

Brian said...

Anji, I am sorry you had to run into an Owie (as i say to my 3 year old) to find out how delicate your hair is. Glad to know you are feeling better though. By the way, you are beautiful to me without curls.

Brian said...

The you listed at the beginning of the article was quite interesting. I knew that India was a big contributor of hair, but I did not know about the rest. Keep up the good work by teaching us important things, like the Korean hold on weaves, and the sad point that a few large corporations are part of the problem ruining peoples' hair