LIFESTYLE/INSPIRATION

Traction Alopecia

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Hey guys, I want to share the results of a mini observational study I did for the last month. It was just me observing the different hairstyles and choices black women made, my intention was not to judge or shame anyone. I was very interested in seeing how many women chose to wear their hair out. By hair I mean their real hair- whether natural, relaxed etc without any extra hair i.e. weaves, braids, wigs, clip ins, pony tails etc. In short I was looking for how many women actually wore their OWN hair WITHOUT anything added to it.

WHAT DID I FIND?

The MAJORITY of black women had some sort of hair extension added. Mostly wigs/weaves. Braids were very popular among the younger generation. I did see a few women with their OWN hair out but majority had something added. In fact of the women I personally know, those that had their own hair out often were natural (And no I don’t only know women with natural hair).

This worried me a bit.

Then I started to think, how many of my friends have I actually seen with their OWN hair out? Most of the older women in my church (And in fact other black churches) have some sort of extensions. I don’t recall ever seeing them with their hair out.

This worried me further.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way or form shaming the use of extensions. I have a growing collection of wigs in different textures and lengths that I love to wear. I also understand that having your own hair out takes some time to manage and in the morning if you are in a rush, you may simply not have that time. I understand to some, wearing the extensions just makes it easier to style/manage their hair. Fair enough.

I also noticed something else…. The more women I saw, the farther back their hairlines where. The loss of hair from the hairline is traction Alopecia. Traction Alopecia is a type of hair loss that is caused from constant traction (pulling) of the hair over a long period of time. What moved me to write this was when I say a girl, probably the same age as me or younger with severe traction alopecia BUT still had braids. In fact she had very a tight cornrow pony hairstyle and you could clearly tell had loss some hair from where her hair line started. It may have been caused by something else but from what I saw, it looked like traction alopecia. This usually happens around the temples (edges) and nape area at the back. We have all seen the above picture of Naomi Campbell right?

Then I thought of my own hair journey and hairline and I know one of the reasons why I became natural was to re grow my hairline. I was lucky to catch it at a point where it could be saved. Then after my BC (big chop), in attempts to get out of the twa (teeny weeny afro) stage, I started braiding my hair A LOT, I’m talking every 6 weeks, take them out for my hair to breathe for 3 days then back again. It worked though. It grew out my hair but again my edges were affected so I stopped. Then I discovered wigs and I wore them constantly in attempt to re grow them but I discovered another problem. I realised it’s easier for the hair to come out completely with braids etc but with wigs it starts to thin out and not necessarily come out. I say this because I started to wear wigs about 3 years ago, at this point my edges were in good condition and were growing back. Good right? I never braid my edges when I am doing my cornrows for my wigs and I don’t do them too tight. I always wear them for a week, taking it off at night and letting my hair breathe for a week before wearing it again. So I was taking good care of my hair. However as I got more and more into wigs, owning more than 2 or 3 at a time, I started wearing them more often. Then I discovered the elastic band method and sewing combs to the sides which make it more secure and lay flatter I became invincible (lol). I completely swore of braids for a year (my survival series) and wore nothing but wigs. Towards the end of last year (right before I started my hairfinity challenge in October), I noticed my edges stopped growing out and started thinning out.  Of course I was worried. I wasn’t braiding my hair so I wondered where it was from.  After 2 years of not braiding my hair, I braided it lol (single plaits, medium size). I took this out though 3 weeks later because I was really worried about my hairline. To cut a long story short, I realised you can get traction alopecia from wearing wigs. I realised I was wearing my elastic bands too tight and putting the comb in at the same place all this time (I almost always have a middle part). So the hair was under constant tension and started to thin out (again I caught it at a stage where it can be saved). I still wear my wigs but in different positions, not using the combs and a loser elastic band and I am actively wearing my natural hair out – which can be a pain sometimes but it is also allowing me to re discover my hair again and what I can do with it.

Traction alopecia is serious. It may not be evident straight away but give it 2 to 3 years. From what I know, it happens in stages and can be reversible if you spot it early.  So with this been a very prominent problem in our community, why are there is many women who excessively wear extensions? Could it be uneducation? But if you woke up one day and saw half your edges gone, would that not ring any bells? If every time you braid your hair is starts further back, would that not alarm you? Or do women not realise traction alopecia and its severity?

It especially pains my heart when I see little girls with the tightest of braids! I almost want to just take them out for her!  Should the hairdresser be blamed? If your client comes in with alopecia do you advise them otherwise or do you lighten your grip a bit? To be honest when I used to braid my hair, some of these braiders want to grip the most shortest of hair possible to braid (When I realised this and asked them, they actually asked if I was sure otherwise the hairstyle ‘would not be nice’) is that extra 15 mins you save not doing your own hair really worth it? Because the way I see it, it’s a cycle and what was meant to protect your hair will actually end up harming it. Then you’re spending more money on products/methods on trying to grow it back.

What happens now?

To each their own. If you want to do something about it you can. First you can start by asking them not to braid your edges when you are getting your hair done. There is also countless of products out there you can use to safely grow them back out providing it can be saved. I am currently using jbco and taking biotin supplements. There is also surgery if it’s that bad. (If you want a post of the different ways to recover please let me know)

I want to ask you guys though to observe how our women decide to wear their hair and see what you find. Let me know by dropping a comment on this post or through my twitter- @slimtings1

That’s all folks. I just wanted to share my results with you guys. Please subscribe if you enjoyed this post.

Please know I am not saying no body should wear extensions or I do not wear them myself.

Until next time

Love Sarah

 

 

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