Balding in Black Women linked to Braids, Weaves

Erin Benjamin 

A recent study of African-American women shows that scarring and baldness at the center of the scalp could be caused by weaves and braids pulling the hair too tight. Over thirty percent of the women in the study suffered from scarring, baldness, or both, and according to Dr. Angela Kyei, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic where the study was conducted, the findings indicate that African-American women should be careful about the hairstyles they choose to wear. Kyei said that women have to really consider the hairstyles they are choosing, as well as the hairstyles they are giving their children. She added that many African Americans also put relaxers and a number of other chemicals in the hair and the hair of their children, and should consider what can happen over time.

Balding in Black WomenAccording to Kyei, baldness of the center of black women’s scalps is becoming more and more common among African American women, although there has not been significant research as to what is causing it. Dermatologists have thought that hot combs, hair oils, and other products could be responsible for the hair loss, with one suspect being the chemical used to relax hair and cause curly hair to straighten. However, Dr. Jerry Shapiro, a professor of dermatology at the University of British Colombia whose specialization lies in problems of the hair, says that there are a number of women who do use hair relaxers, and who do not experience the same problems.

According to Kyei, once the problem manifests, it is permanent. She adds that this is probably the main reason so many African American women hide their hair with wigs, or through other means. The Cleveland Clinic examined the hair of three hundred and twenty-six black women, who answered questions about their hair as well as their personal health. Twenty-eight percent of those examined had some hair loss in the center of their scalps, and sixty percent of those with hair loss had severe symptoms. It was also determined that many of those with severe hair loss also suffered from type 2 diabetes, and were also more likely to have infections of the scalp as well as to have hairstyles such as weaves and braids.

The study’s findings conclude that the primary culprit appears to be hairstyles that pull the hair very tight, which in turn can cause scarring and hair loss. While the study does not condemn relaxing chemicals and other agents used in hair, this does not mean that they do not play a role, says Shapiro. According to Kyei, women who are experiencing hair loss should have it evaluated as quickly as possible by a dermatologist. She also says that if these women are using hair relaxers or hairstyles that can pull and damage the hair, they should stop until they can determine the problem.