How Braids and Weaves Are Causing Black Women to Lose Their Hair

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“I couldn’t agree that it’s primarily braids and weaves,” she said. “It’s bad braids or weaves. I’ve worn natural styles for twenty years and never had any hair loss, and neither have any of my clients who listen to their stylist’s advice.”

Proper implementation is crucial because these styles can permanently damage the scalp if they are not done correctly. Common poor practices include braiding or weaving too tightly, using too much hair, and stylists submitting “to clients who become addicted to a particular style,” Prestonia explained. “They could be having quality braid styles done by someone who is really skilled, but three years down the line they’re getting the same braid style. That will cause traction alopecia,” she said.

Harris concurs. “Having one particular style puts prolonged tension on the hair follicle. You really shouldn’t feel [any tension]. That’s one of the signs that there may be some inflammation.”

Inflammation caused by tight, repeated traction styles leads to subtle hair loss that often goes untreated. “Someone may not have an obvious loss, because it usually takes a decrease by almost 40% to see something visible,” said Harris. “Folks with an invisible loss end up being more susceptible to further damage from traumatic styles.”

Harris added that hair loss could also be related to genetics. For someone with a genetic susceptibility, weaves can exacerbate hair loss. Thus, understanding overall health history and tracking the state of one’s scalp over time is essential to maintaining healthy hair. Both should influence the styles a woman chooses. Seeing a doctor in conjunction with a stylist is necessary to develop an individual sense of one’s particular hair needs. Without this understanding, women seeking to cure a hair loss issue in its nascent stages might use a traction hairstyle, making things worse.

“I hear this all the time,” said Harris about this regular practice. “‘Put a weave on top of that area because it’s thinning.’ The thought is that underneath, it will grow.  Maybe the third time around, the weave will go in, and then when the weave comes out the hair is gone,” he said.

This is why an open dialogue and persistent communication between the stylist, physician and patient is crucial, or unfortunately, one may end up with an undesired outcome.

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