Experiencing hair loss as a black woman is incredibly alarming for anyone but is especially for black women, where the cultural importance and emphasis of hair goes back centuries.
Surprisingly enough, when you’re experiencing hair loss, you should take it as a sign from your body that something isn’t quite.
And while there are some quick, temporary fixes to hair loss (green tea rinses, for example, has shown a reduction in hair loss but this is only temporary), the hair loss will continue to until you address the root cause.
Hair loss is just the symptom. It’s reported that almost half of black women will experience hair loss at some point in their lives.
Let’s get into hair loss as a black woman from a scientific perspective and what you need to know.
What Is Hair Loss
On average, we shed about 50-100 hairs a day.
Because Afrotextured hair doesn’t need to be brushed every day (many naturals actually detangle their hair every 5-10 days on wash day), you will see more than this amount of shedding on your comb.
Nevertheless, this amount of hair loss is normal.
Hair goes through a cyclical growth and falling cycle – our hair will be in the anagen (growth phase) for a significant amount of time before it enters the telogen phase (loss phase) and the hair falls out.
The length of time your hair spends in either of these cycles are purely determined by genetics.
Hair Loss vs Alopecia
However, alopecia is when the hair falls out in patches, either all around the head (diffuse alopecia) or in patches (focal alopecia).
Common types of alopecia include female and male pattern hair loss, telogen effluvium (where a traumatic event results in 30-50% of hair falling out at once), and traction alopecia (hair loss around the perimeter of the head due to tight and tense hair styles).
Causes of Hair Loss
There are many reasons why hair loss occurs, but overall the most common causes of hair loss are:
- Nutrient deficiencies – iron, Vitamin B and Vitamin D are the most common;
- Hormonal – birth control, post-partum;
- Inflammation – in the body or on the scalp;
- Autoimmune disorders – lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease;
Because of the shape and size of our hair follicles (it’s actually what makes our hair coil), Afrotextured hair is susceptible to hair loss, especially breakage at the follicle. This may explain why hair loss looks particularly striking and noticeable on black women.
It’s important to note however that science tells us that genetics plays a large role in the advancement and perpetuation of hair loss.
Genetics plays a large part in whether we will be genetically predisposed to hair loss, but this doesn’t imply predetermination.
In other words: you may be genetically predisposed for hair loss but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to experience it. This is called epigenetics, which dictates that the hair loss gene in your body was turned “on” by environmental triggers.
By understanding what triggered your hair loss, you can then create a solid plan that will curb the hair loss AND regrow the hair.
5 Easy Ways To Address Hair Loss (All Backed By Science)
Keep Your Scalp Clean
Keeping your scalp clean is the first thing you should do when dealing with hair loss.
The “curly girl method”, which discourages the use of shampoo, can result in increased hair loss due to product buildup.
Not keeping your scalp clean can cause chronic scalp conditions such as dermatitis, follicle inflammation, itchiness, and ultimately hair loss.
If you are experiencing hair loss as a black woman, do not stop shampooing your hair! It is imperative that you cleanse your scalp and hair every 5-7 days.
Mielle Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing Shampoo
Best for TYPE 4
This shampoo is one of the most moisturizing shampoos on the market. Key ingredients such as honey and panthenol reduce friction between hair strands, providing additional slip and promoting moisture retention throughout the shampoo process. A must try for Type 4 naturals!
TGIN Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo
Best for TYPE 3 – 4
Best suited for coilier textures, this shampoo will ensure no product is left behind. Best of all, most of the hydrating ingredients (such as amla oil extract and sugar cane), are right up front in the ingredient list, meaning your hair won’t feel stripped after using it.
See Your Doctor
Don’t rely on social media doctors and gurus to tell you what you should do with your hair.
It’s important to understand the root cause of your hair loss, which only a doctor can help pinpoint.
Ask your doctor to conduct a blood panel to inform you of key nutrient levels such as iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin B. For women, low levels of these nutrients are usually the cause of hair loss.
Your doctor can also let you know if you may be dealing with a deeper issue such an autoimmune disorder or hormonal issues.
Your body does not function in isolation – there are complex relationships between varying parts of your body that contribute to healthy hair.
Preliminary studies are suggesting that inflammation can affect hair loss in many ways.
In addition to scalp inflammation (having a chronically dirty scalp), inflammation in your body from stress, a poor diet, and/or nutrient deficiencies can cause free radicals and inflammation mediators to be produced in your hair, turning “on” the genes for hair loss.
Some of the best things you can do to address your hair loss is to address your lifestyle.
Eating a diet of anti-inflammatory foods (fruits, vegetables, complex carbs), reducing refined and white sugars, and addressing your mental health have all proven to contribute to addressing hair loss.
Once you get your blood panel, speak to your doctor about what lifestyle changes you can do to target your hair loss.
Use DIY With Caution
Social media doctors and self-proclaimed gurus are all over the Internet with advice on how to curb hair loss.
And while some of their advice can be sound (depending on their credentials), everyone’s hair loss journey is unique and general advice on the Internet, if implemented, may pose more harm than good.
Green tea rinses, rosemary oil and rice water have been situated as hair loss cures. Scalp-stimulating massages, for example, have been linked to regrowth due to increased blood circulation and oxygen delivery.
While these DIY solutions offer some temporary hair loss benefits, the hair will continue to fall unless you address the root cause (i.e. confirm with a doctor(.
Be wary of DIY solutions that are extreme and suggest harmful routines (i.e. no shampoo).
Stop All Traumatic Hair Practices
Here’s a non-exhaustive list that summarizes some common traumatic hair practices that are known to cause hair loss:
- Hair dyes
- Tight hairstyles that pull at the scalp – braids, wigs, weaves
- Hot combs
As a general rule of thumb, anything that is directed at your scalp should be avoided in order to keep the area undisturbed (other than shampoo).
Chemicals such as relaxers, dyes and lyes are harmful to your scalp during this time, and should be avoided indefinitely.
We know hot heads, hair steamers and other heat providing tools are great for product penetration, especially for low porosity natural hair. But the heat application may not be the best for your hair.
Style your hair in low manipulative styles such as wash and go’s and twists. Avoid using hair extensions that weigh down the hair and create tension on your hair.
If possible, see a local stylist on your journey. There are stylists who specialize in styling around alopecia that educate naturals style their hair with hair loss.
Final Thoughts on Experiencing Hair Loss as a Black Woman
Experiencing hair loss as a black woman is alarming. However, with seeing a doctor and incorporating healthier lifestyle changes that support a strong physical and mental fortitude, hair re-growth is 100% in the realm of possibility.