Let’s talk about alopecia … and not be ashamed.
Alopecia is one of those topics that people shy away from talking about. Some don’t understand what it is, some have it and feel ashamed. This is something that needs to change. No one should feel ashamed to suffer from alopecia. The more it is talked about and understood, the less people will feel that way about it.
So what is alopecia?
Alopecia is the name given when hair loss is present. There are many different types of alopecia, each with their own causes and symptoms.
Androgenic Alopecia – the most common type and is better known as male/female pattern baldness and is passed down genetically.
Alopecia Totalis – total baldness, which in extreme cases can include the entire body.
Ciatrical alopecia – known as scaring alopecia and is when hair follicles are destroyed and replaced with tissue. Primary ciatrical alopecia is caused by an inflammation of hair follicles, whereas secondary ciatrical alopecia is caused by the result of burns and infections.
Alopecia Areata – when the hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by your immune system, resulting in patchy hair loss.
Traction Alopecia – Hair loss that commonly affects black women caused by aggressive styling. Tight ponytails, weaves, braids etc. all pull on our hair and can result in hair loss. Each time hair is pulled out, damage is caused to the hair follicle and will eventually stop. In most cases, if hair hasn’t began to grow back within 6 months, then it probably will never come back.
Photography Provided by Candi Curls
I first started to notice a thinning on my edges a few years ago. Back then I lived with tight buns and straightened my hair often because I couldn’t handle it. I had no idea that I was causing possibly life long problems. As a woman, finding balding and thinning patches in your hair, isn’t something you are ever prepared for. I just ignored them hoping they would go away.
On a salon visit I decided to bring this up with the stylist. She said she had noticed one or two areas where the hair wasn’t growing but didn’t want to say anything and cause embarrassment. In her experience and after a closer inspection on the areas, she said that the hair looked like it has completely stopped growing. The surface is flat and smooth. She checked my whole head and it was found that I have one or two patches at the back middle of my hair and the same on my right side. The left side is a little thin but nothing compared to the rest. In her opinion this hair would grow back and was possibly traction alopecia from how I was styling my hair.
After the salon visit, I went home and looked into alopecia. Online there is a lot more information about it and how to treat it and a lot of people going through the same thing. Many steps are available that you can take to reduce and prevent it from getting any worse, although it is usually irreversible.
Step 1: Loosen your hair – If braids and weaves are your thing, make sure that they aren’t being pulled too tight.
Step 2: Hair vitamins and scalp massages have also been proven to help.
Step 3: 2-3 times a week I do a scalp massage to stimulate growth. It has made my hair thicker, which means the bald patches are a lot less noticeable.
Step 4: If you like your hair tied up:- try wearing it a little looser. I have to wear my hair tied back for work, but I now opt for a pineapple or low pony with a satin scrunchie tied around just the once.
Personally, I have found that sometimes the hair grows back, sometimes it looks worse. Worrying about it, is not going to help. I worked up the courage to see a doctor and found that I have an under-active thyroid. I get this retested every 3 months and it is always up and down. This could be causing my alopecia (I haven’t worn my hair tight in over a year and a half) and it could be alopecia areata not traction alopecia.
I have done a full article about this on my website www.candicurls.com.
To hide my patches I would color it in with brow pomade and wear headbands. I posted a photo one brave day, of the big patch on the right hand side of my head. I was actually surprised to see how many people in-boxed me and commented saying they had the same thing going on. I realized how I was not alone. This made me feel less ashamed, and I stopped trying to hide it this way.
More and more influencers on instagram have started to open up about their experiences with alopecia, and I think it is wonderful. The more it is spoken about, the more stories get shared and the more relaxed we suffers feel about it. You would be surprised to find out just how many people suffer with a form of alopecia at some point in their lives.
As black women we are at risk from traction alopecia more than any other race because of the hair styles we like to rock. From braids, cornrows, weaves, ponytails the dangers we pose to our hair follicles is so strong. Going natural means for many, eliminating that factor. Looking after our roots and our scalp can immensely start to repair any damage.
Do not ever feel ashamed and embarrassed about suffering from something. If in doubt speak to your stylist or doctor and find out their advice on causes and treatment. If not then speak to someone who is/has been through it before. Follow me on instagram and feel free to drop me a DM.