understanding hair loss caused by grooming and chemicals

understanding hair loss caused by grooming and chemicals

understanding hair loss caused by grooming and chemicals

Alopecia is a general term that refers to hair loss from a variety of causes. The many causes of hair loss include, infection, scalp diseases, chemicals, trauma, medications and natural aging. While most scalp hair loss in males is caused by natural balding, for African American females, hair loss is more commonly caused by trauma and chemicals.

Tight ponytails, rollers and braids contribute to hair loss among African American women and is referred to as traction alopecia. This form of alopecia can occur in young children and is most likely due to pulling the hair back too tightly in a ponytail. Repeated styling of the hair in this manner will eventually result in loss of hair at the temples and occasionally, the nape of the neck. The use of rollers, especially sponge rollers affects hair in the forehead area as well. Quite often, many or all women in a single family may have this condition and believe that it is hereditary. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a cultural phenomenon that has more to do with the practice of pulling the hair too tightly along the margins to make it appear straight or to “hold a set.” This type of hair loss is entirely preventable and the practice should be discontinued.

Although follicular degeneration syndrome is the most serious form of hair loss caused by chemicals, breakage is actually a more common occurence. Breakage can be caused by either relaxers or dyes and is more commonly caused by the use of both. In breakage only the length is affected. With proper care the hair length can be restored.

Treating hair follicle loss can be a very difficult and sometimes an impossible problem to resolve — obviously the best treatment is prevention. Discontinuing the use of relaxers would certainly solve the problem but how many women are willing to give this up? Certainly, in this situation, a better technique is required, as prevention of follicular degeneration syndrome relies heavily on the skill of the person applying the relaxer.

Decreasing the frequency of touch-ups to eight or more weeks and getting the relaxer in and out of the hair as quickly as possible will help tremendously. For those of us old enough to remember when relaxers first came out, they were not applied directly to the scalp and we did not have this type of hair loss problem. As a preventive measure, I recommend the use of the DPL Hair Root Conditioner as a base and neutralizer during the relaxing process. I designed this product to chemically neutralize the relaxer that seeps into the pores and to neutralize the hair after the relaxing process while keeping the hair straight.  The DPL Hair Root Conditioner forms an acidic barrier between the delicate hair follicle and the relaxer, thereby decreasing hair follicle scarring and preventing hair loss.
dr. wesley s. wilborn, md  

*Dr. Wilborn is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine.

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