Hair Loss In African American Women

Traction Alopecia|Hair Loss|Risky Hair Styles
Hair Loss In African American Women : Many African American women take pride in their hair. Women in general spend an abundance of time and money on this important feature. For African American women, adequate hair care often involves some combination of processing, straightening, moussing, gelling, hot oil conditioning, relaxing, coloring, braiding, weaving, etc. Ironically, amid a culture in which the ladies care so much for their hair, hair loss is especially prevalent. African American women already have to contend with the typical worries of female pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia), which exists amongst 21 million women in the U.S. Additionally, African American women also have to deal with two other rampant hair loss conditions:

  • Traction alopecia
  • Central cicatricial centrifugal alopecia

Causes Of Hair Loss In African American Women:   TRACTION ALOPECIA

Traction alopecia is the gradual loss of hair due to a frequent or constant abrasive pulling force on the hair. This is the leading cause of hair loss among African American women because of cultural hair styling, which frequently involves:

hair loss african american women |tight hair styling practices
Courtesy of| Braiding and tight hair styles is a common cause of hair loss in women of African origin
  • Extensions: When the rear lower scalp hair is tightly braided into horizontal rows to have hair additions sewn in with thread. This adds length and thickness to the existing hair.
  • Weaving: When hair additions are added all over the head, not just to the lower-rear scalp. This can be done through braiding, fusion, bonding, and netting. Whether the technique uses braid-threading or glue, both are damaging and can lead to profound hair loss.
  • Braiding and Corn Rows: This styling choice involves braiding all of the hair, sometimes braiding hair additions into the existing hair, which is knotted at the root. The hair may hang loose from the head, or be braided into tight rows of French braids, which are called corn rows.
  • Ponytails: When the hair is pulled back tightly from the face and gathered into one or more bunches with a rubber band or hair-tie.
  • Barrettes: A styling accessory to hold the hair in place can even lead to hair loss in African American women over time.
Causes Of Hair Loss In African American Women: Traction Alopecia and Hair Care For Black Women
(image- Creative Commons) Hair loss known as Traction Alopecia can occur in women of African descent due to tight hair styling practices

A sufferer of traction alopecia will begin to see gradual and noticeable hair loss along the peripheral margins of the scalp. This includes the anterior and posterior hairline, the temples, and behind the ears. Due to these popular hairstyles, many African American women will experience traction alopecia.


female hair loss|black women|harsh chemicals
Photo of woman with Central Cicatrical Centrifugal Alopecia (CCCA). This condition is commonly caused by the use of harsh chemicals which weakens the hair shaft

This condition, more simply referred to as CCCA, is a form of traction alopecia in association with chemical relaxers, oils, gels, dyes, and bleaches that essentially weaken the keratin structure of the follicle, thus reducing its tensile strength. It initially became a cause for concern in the 1950s, when the hair loss seemed a direct result of petrolatum in combination with the use of a hot comb. Other names for CCCA include:

  • Hot comb alopecia
  • Pseudopelade in African Americans
  • Follicular degeneration syndrome

This number two leading cause of hair loss among African American women is a source for thinning not only along the periphery of the scalp, but also at the center. Consistent chemical processing of the hair along with frequent “pulling” hairstyles make for an unfavorable combination with regard to maintaining a full, healthy head of hair.

Hair Loss In African American Women:  SOLUTIONS

Fortunately, there are curative options for these additional forms of alopecia. As with other types of baldness, the solutions range from the non-surgical to the surgical, from the temporary to the permanent. Treatment may include:

  • Wigs (that are not sewn to the remaining hair on the scalp, but rest on the scalp freely)
  • Minoxidil

(read more about Dr Umar’s approach to this treatment below)

  • Hair transplant

Use of Wigs

Wigs are a temporary solution. They may become displaced in adverse weather conditions and during strenuous activity, and may not be worn in water. For women who are used to having hair additions affixed to the existing hair though braid-threading or gluing, it may be difficult to resist having a wig similarly affixed to the scalp. However, to prevent further hair loss, such habitual actions must not be taken.

hair loss african american women | medications|Rogaine
Courtesy of| Rogaine (Minoxidil) can be purchased without a prescription. It may help in cases where the follicles have not been permanently damaged. But patients need to be wary of potentially dangerous side effects

Rogaine (Minoxidil)

Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved pharmaceutical on the market to fight women’s hair loss. A 2% concentration of minoxidil comes in the widely known commercial brand, Women’s Rogaine, and can be purchased over the counter at any drug store. This topical treatment is usually applied to the affected area twice per day.

Hair Transplant For Women

Hair transplant is an option for most women. Dr. Umar practices an advanced form of follicular unit extraction (FUE) hair transplant using his signature tool, uGraft. His method of hair transplant is scalpel free, typically leaves little scarring, is safe, and is minimally invasive. In addition, Dr. Umar has treated patients of varying ethnic backgrounds, including African Americans, and he has also treated women. Thus he is able to navigate the curly nature of the follicle and the female-specific need for shaving the donor area in a discreet and easy-to-conceal manner.

Hair Loss In Women| FUE hair transplant|female patient- before and after
Donor area on female FUE hair transplant patient of Dr. Umar.*

Read about women hair transplantation

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