Hair loss is a hot topic in the curly world. The problem has been explored by the New York Times, Johns Hopkins, and Essence Magazine. In her brilliant presentation Hair Loss: Myths and Realities, UCLA Dermatologist, Caroline Goh, surmised that a type of hair loss which primarily appears in women of African descent, Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA), may be caused in part by curly hair itself. The thought of curly hair being at the root of its own demise is frightening to say the least.
What causes hair loss?
Current research tells us that hair loss reasons tend to fall under these categories:
Hair care practices and styling techniques
This includes hair washing frequency and product build-up, and trauma and breakage caused by tight protective styles, ponytails, etc.
This can include diseases of the scalp such as Psoriasis and Seborrheic Dermatitis, primary autoimmune conditions such as Alopecia Areata, and hair loss as a symptom of an autoimmune condition such as Lupus.
Stress and emotional trauma
These types of hair loss tend to be episodic in nature and occur within six months of a traumatic event such as surgery or loss of a loved one.
If you are not consuming adequate calories or protein or are deficient in certain nutrients such as Zinc or Iron, this can lead to a type of excess shedding called Telogen Effluvium.
Both post-partum and post-menopausal hair loss are common. Thyroid issues can also cause hair loss.
Certain types of hair loss such as Alopecia Areata and Female Pattern Thinning have a genetic component.
Certain drugs can cause a type of hair loss called Anagen Effluvium.
Of these, only a few are reasons are more likely to cause hair loss in curlies than in our straight-haired friends. In addition to CCCA, Alopecia is a type of scarring that destroys the hair follicles and can occur through the following which tends to be problematic when you have curls.
What causes alopecia?
Too-tight ponytails, braids, or other styles that put tension on the hairline can cause breakage and/or a type of hair loss called Traction Alopecia. If you are experiencing this issue, you may also want to avoid putting your hair in a pineapple at night and opt to sleep with your hair in a satin bonnet or wrapped in a satin scarf instead.
Not cleansing the scalp properly, or frequently enough, can cause a slew of problems from breakouts to hair loss. This is especially problematic when you are also experiencing Female Pattern Hair Loss due to hormonal imbalances around the time of, and after Menopause. With FPHL, there is a build-up of DHT in the hair follicles that is basically choking the hairs and preventing them from accessing vital nutrients. If other impurities such as dirt, debris, and hardened (or oxidized) sebum are not removed, this can result in further hair loss.
Ingredients commonly found in some shampoos can cause serious build-up that can lead to hair loss. They include dimethicone, xanthan gum, guar gum hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, glycol distearate, and glycol stearate. This does not mean that you need to stop using your favorite shampoo or co-wash, particularly if these ingredients are low on a product’s ingredients list but be sure to clarify regularly and thoroughly.
Experiencing hair loss? Speak to a trichologist, your hair stylist, or doctor to learn more about what could be causing your specific hair loss concerns.
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This article has been updated with additional resources.