Black Woman Alopecia: All You Need To Know About This Hair Disease

Black woman alopecia

Table of content

  • What is Alopecia?
  • Who is susceptible to hair loss?
  • Types of Alopecia
  • Androgenic alopecia
  • Causes of androgenic alopecia
  • Treatment for androgenic alopecia
  • Alopecia areata
  • Causes of alopecia areata
  • Treatments for alopecia areata
  • Postpartum alopecia
  • Traction alopecia
  • Causes of traction alopecia
  • Treatment for traction alopecia
  • The emotional impact of alopecia
  • How to prevent certain types of alopecia

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a catch-all term for any condition that is associated with hair loss. Throughout this article, the term alopecia refers primarily to abnormal hair loss of the scalp. 

Now, if you’re studying this article in dread because you found your hair strands in every room of the house, breathe! Alopecia is not the natural shedding process of our hair. Shed happens! In fact, the estimated rate of normal hair loss is between 100 and 150 strands per day. 

Wonderfully designed, our hair undergoes a natural growth cycle of three stages: the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. These stages repeat, allowing our tresses to shed and continuously grow anew. Alopecia occurs when scalp hair does not properly complete the aforementioned phases.  

Many people wonder if alopecia is a genetic condition. Note that there are various kinds of alopecia and not all have a genetic cause. Two main types of alopecia influenced by genetics include androgenic alopecia and alopecia areata.

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What is CCCA? Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia is a common cause of hair loss in black women.

Who is susceptible to hair loss?

People from any race can develop alopecia. However, traction alopecia, a type of hair loss, is especially common among black women. According to dermatologist Crystal Aguh, who specializes in hair loss, nearly 50% of black women experience some form of hair loss. 

Renowned women of color, Jada Pinkett Smith and Representative Ayanna Pressley recently went public with their challenging hair loss battle. Even celebrities are not exempt from acquiring alopecia. This further emphasizes that abnormal hair loss is something anyone may experience. 

It is imperative that black women know how common alopecia is in their community. Awareness of these statistics equip women of color to act prudently against avoidable types of alopecia. It also provides a measure of consolation, as many black women with alopecia feel self-conscious and isolated. This is your reminder: you are not alone!

Types of Alopecia 

Three common types of alopecia are androgenic alopecia, alopecia areata, and traction alopecia. Let us briefly dive into each type! 

Androgenic Alopecia 

Androgenic alopecia, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the technical term for male or female pattern baldness. This type of hair loss is characterized by miniaturization or shrinking of terminal hair, the thick visible hair on the scalp. In other words, terminal hairs on the scalp are converted into short, fine, unpigmented vellus hairs. 

This form of hair condition looks different in men and women. In men, hair begins to fall out around the temples and then continues to fall out until the hairline resembles an “M”. In women, hair loss from androgenic alopecia manifests in thinning all over the head. A receding hairline is not as common in women like it is in men.

Androgenic alopecia in women presents itself as hair thinning all over the head. A receding hairline, typically seen in men with the disorder, is not as common in women. Female androgenic alopecia can begin as early as age 12. Though, it is frequently seen by the age of 40.
 

Black Woman Androgenic Alopecia

 

See the chart below for the three progressive stages of androgenic alopecia.

Stage Description
Type I Type I androgenic alopecia is characterized by thinning hair around your part.
Type II Type II androgenic alopecia exhibits widening hair loss and additional thinning around your part.
Type III Type III androgenic alopecia consists of thinning throughout the entire scalp, with balding around your part.
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Black Woman Androgenic Alopecia

 

Causes of Androgenic Alopecia

According to Science Direct, Androgenic Alopecia is caused by androgens in genetically susceptible women. Women can inherit the gene that causes this hair loss from either one side or both sides of the family. This means that it’s hereditary. 

The leading causes of this condition are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, the “androgens” that give the hair disease its name. 

Androgenic alopecia occurs as a result of genetics, age, or hormonal changes. The risk of developing this hair disorder increases with age.

According to Science Direct, androgenic alopecia is caused by androgens or hormones in genetically susceptible women. Increased levels of sensitivity to the androgens, testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone, prompt miniaturization of the hair follicles. Women can inherit the gene contributing to hair loss from either or both sides of the family.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley Reveals Beautiful Bald Head and Talks Hair Loss for the First Time

In a video released in January 2020, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley spoke about the trials of having alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley reveals a beautiful bald head and talks about alopecia for the first time.

Treatment for androgenic alopecia

Androgenic alopecia has no cure. Still, there are a wide array of treatment options. These options range from over-the-counter and prescription drugs to surgical procedures. 

You may be surprised to know that in a sea of treatments professed to counteract hair loss, only two products, minoxidil and finasteride are proven to encourage hair growth. Both products are approved by the FDA and sold in the United States. 

Minoxidil, commonly known as Rogaine, is a popular over the counter treatment for hair loss. It is a liquid or foam treatment that is rubbed into the scalp daily. Minoxidil may be used by both men and women and takes about six months to show results. 

Unfortunately, products such as minoxidil and finasteride have limited success at remedying hair loss. Though they may slow the rate of hair loss and even renew hair growth, once an individual stops using them, hair loss returns.

Speak to a doctor or appropriate professional before using any prescription product. Finasteride should not be used by women, it is a medical prescription for men only.
 

Alopecia Areata 

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks hair follicles on any part of the body. A distinct characteristic of the condition is spot baldness on one or more areas of the body. In most cases, the hair will fall out in relatively small patches no larger than a quarter. Yet, in some instances, alopecia areata can cause alopecia universalis, where all hair on the body falls out. 

Alopecia areata may occur at any age. It typically begins in early childhood, before the age of 30. Like androgenic alopecia, there is currently no cure for alopecia areata.

Relating to the scalp, alopecia areata can cause any number of small, round, smooth patches to occur. Individuals coping with the condition usually report only a few bald patches. However, those patches can lead to alopecia totalis, total hair loss of the scalp.
 

Causes of Alopecia Areata

Since alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, it is caused by both genetic predispositions and environmental factors. One intrinsic cause of alopecia areata are rogue white blood cells within the body. Those misguided cells stop hair growth in the anagen phase, the phase of the hair growth cycle where new hair is produced. As a result, no new hair can be generated. 

Alopecia areata may also be triggered by environmental factors, such as extreme stress. It is a highly unpredictable skin malady that does not discriminate based on age or gender. Often, there is no obvious reason why a person has developed alopecia areata.

Treatments for alopecia areata

Many seek treatment to stop alopecia areata from spreading. It is important to note that alopecia areata is a medical condition. The best line of defense against the spread of the disease is a doctors' evaluation. Medical professionals can best diagnose and treat any perceivable underlying cause of the immune disease.

Traction Alopecia

Traction Alopecia is hair loss brought on by outside influences. It occurs when a pulling force is repeatedly applied to the hair. Sufferers of traction alopecia will often have thinning hair along their hairline. There could also be hair loss on any part of the scalp, where the hair was pulling too tight.

Black woman Traction Alopecia

Causes of Traction Alopecia

As touched on a bit earlier, traction Alopecia is caused by tension placed on your hair strands. 

Excessive tension on the hair strands, usually from hairstyling, is the main case of traction alopecia. Though seemingly routine and harmless, regularly pulling the hair back into a ponytail or bun can gradually cause damage and hair loss. This is because the hairline is particularly sensitive to undue friction.

Many black women adorn hairstyles such as cornrows, hair extensions, and weaves. It is a common misconception that those hairstyles cause hair damage. Rather, they make great protective hairstyles and encourage hair growth! It is the abuse of hairstyling that results in hair loss. This is why any hairstyle must be installed with care and worn in moderation. Poor styling practices include overly gripping or pulling the roots of the hair. 

You might develop traction alopecia if you do the following often:

  • Pull your hair back into a ponytail or bun. 

  • Wear weave in your hair. 

  • Sleep with hair tools like rollers or Flexi rods in your hair. 

  • Wear your hair in cornrows, box braids, or other styles that put tension on the hair and scalp.

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The following video shows the journey of Josiphia Rizado on how to regrowth her edge back from traction alopecia. Using the right treatment, your hair can grow back again strong and healthy.

Traction alopecia - how I regrew my edges back rapidly on low porosity?

 

Treatment for traction alopecia 

Hair stylists offer a variety of options to cosmetically treat hair loss. What is more, numerous salons today specialize in hair care for black women! This includes natural hairstyling and nonsurgical hair replacement methods. Hair stylists can enhance a client's natural hair and create appealing, unique looks that boost self-esteem!

During the styling process opt for looser hairstyles. Wash and go’s and twists are low tension styles that protect hair from roots to end. Protective styles prevent traction alopecia by minimizing manipulation and friction of the hair.

Hair oils are natural products that also encourage hair growth. Castor oil is an easily attainable oil that boasts many benefits. It moisturizes the hair shaft, increasing hair flexibility and decreasing the chance of hair breakage. Moisture treatments are another product that keeps hair hydrated. Alternate between the use of a good moisture and protein treatment. Protein treatments strengthen the hair and prevent future hair loss. 

Last but not least, hair transplant surgery is the most common permanent option for moderate to severe hair loss. During this surgery, hair is removed from a section of the head or body with sufficient hair. Next, the extracted hair is transplanted into the bald parts of your head. The newly implanted hair is then encouraged to grow permanently. Hair transplant surgery can range anywhere from $3000-$20,000. Due to the higher price range, hair transplant surgery is not an option for everyone.

 

Other Types of Alopecia

  1. Anagen effluvium alopecia caused by chemo, radiation, or poisoning
  2. Alopecia mucinosa and alopecia neoplastica caused by cancer
  3. Tinea capitis caused by an infection

How to prevent alopecia?

I naturally cured my alopecia - 2 years alopecia free - no bald spots

There are several things that we can do to reduce our chances of developing some types of hair loss. 

Wear Relaxed Hairstyles

We black women love our unique, intricate hairstyles. However, since traction Alopecia is caused by mechanical stress on the hair and scalp over time, wearing loose hairstyles is ideal for preventing the condition. This means avoiding consistent weaves and tight braids. Instead, opt for a wash n go or twist out. 

If you prefer weaves or braids, that’s okay. Just make sure that your stylist doesn’t pull your hair tight. Also, give your hair and scalp a break between protective styles. These actions will help prevent the disease. 

Avoid Chemicals

Give your hair a break, and avoid excessive hairstyling. Allow appropriate intervals between installing styles that may cause tension. Though chemical services do not cause tension they can also aggravate the scalp. The use of chemical relaxers, perms, hair color, and any other chemical treatments should be minimized or avoided entirely if you are trying to prevent the disease. 

Keep Stress Under Control 

Don’t stress, get some rest! As seen manifested in alopecia areata, too much stress can spur adverse reactions in the body. It can lead to hair loss. Keep stress under control by utilizing stress management techniques. Some relaxation methods include deep breathing and exercise appropriate for you. 

Too much stress can be damaging to your entire body. It can lead to hair loss. So, if you find yourself stressed, use stress management techniques like deep breathing, yoga, or consult a medical professional for help. 

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eat healthy diet

Feed your body what it needs! Nutritional deficiencies contribute to some types of hair loss. Eat a well-balanced diet to ensure that your body does not lack the vitamins it requires. B vitamins are conducive to keeping our health and hair at its best. 

A nutritional deficiency can cause some types of hair loss, so eating a well-balanced diet can help to ensure that you don’t experience hair loss. 

Alopecia Treatments

Styling Restrictions. While the condition associated with the hair loss appears to be severe, if you stop wearing the styles that are causing the tension, there’s a chance that your hair will grow back. 

Alopecia box braids

Nutritional Intervention. For hair loss associated with a nutritional deficiency, dietary changes, or a nutritional supplement may be recommended by a medical professional.

Vitamins for hair loss treatment

  • Vitamin A:

Vitamin A helps skin glands generate more sebum, moisturizes the scalp, and helps keep your hair healthy.

  • B-Vitamins:

Vitamins B1, B2 and B7 specifically contribute to healthy hair. 
 
Thiamin or vitamin B1 is not made in the body. However, it is necessary for healthy hair, skin, and other important bodily functions. Thiamin can be obtained from most nutritious foods. Some foods that offer thiamin include brown rice, watermelon and soymilk. 
 
Riboflavin or vitamin B2 is another one of the 8 B vitamins that encourage healthy hair growth. Specific foods that act as a source of riboflavin are yogurt, green leafy vegetables and whole grains. 
 
Biotin or vitamin B7 is widely known as a supplement that contributes to healthy hair and nails. Biotin deficiency is rare among those who consume a healthy diet. Biotin is found naturally in many foods such as fish, soybeans and whole grains. 

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  • Vitamin C:

Vitamin C generates collagen, an essential protein for the hair structure, and prevents hair from aging. What to eat? You can get your vitamin C from fruits like orange, citrus, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, or berries.

  • Vitamin D:

Vitamin D may help create new hair follicles. Foods that are a good source of vitamin D include tuna, mackerel, salmon, and dairy products.

Medications:

Rogaine (monoxidil) is a popular and effective treatment for hair loss that both men and women can use. It’s a liquid or foam treatment that is rubbed into the scalp daily. It takes around six months to see results with this medication. Oral contraceptives and/or spironolactone may also be prescribed. 

Hair transplant surgery is an expensive option for moderate to severe hair loss. During this surgery, hair is removed from one part of the head and transplanted into the bald parts of your head. 

See a Doctor

When it comes to hair diseases, don’t self-diagnose yourself. For best results, contact a dermatologist for any concerns about your hair condition.

 

Abnormal hair loss is a personal and often distressing concern for black women. No one should ever feel alone, you are not alone! Take comfort in knowing; Ebena puts all the resources you need to look and feel your best right at your fingertips!