This post was originally published on 16th October 2019. Due to its popularity, it was updated on 23rd June 2021.
Hair loss is something we all worry about but, for most of us (provided we look after our afro hair), hair loss won’t occur until much later in life.
And yet, despite this, it’s a major issue amongst black women and the topic “tends to be shrouded in silence”.
What Causes Afro Hair Loss?
But what causes afro hair loss? In most cases, afro hair loss is a result of bad hair practices or mistreatment. In others, it’s down to stress, diet or conditions that require a different approach.
So, to help you avoid afro hair loss wherever possible, we’ve taken a look at what causes afro hair loss and what you can do to combat it.
Of all the things that cause afro hair loss, stress might be the trickiest to deal with – not because there aren’t solutions (there are), it’s just that everyone deals with stress differently.
Now, when it comes to stress and afro hair loss, there are two types that can be attributed to stress:
This is a temporary form of hair loss that usually happens after stress, a shock or a traumatic event.
Trichotillomania is when someone can’t resist the urge to pull out their hair and feel “growing tension” until they do. This may be done in response to a stressful situation.
What can you do to manage your stress? Avoid things like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Have a balanced diet. Try to get more sleep. Try relaxation techniques. Talk to someone. Manage your time more effectively. Take a holiday where you truly switch off. Meet some friends.
Do everything and anything you can to reach a level of comfort and calm that makes you happy. Taking control of the situation is often the best thing you can do. Doing nothing can just make problems worse.
Keeping your stress levels under control will do wonders for your health and, in turn, your hair. You’ll be noticeably more chirpy and your hair, vibrant.
If your stress levels reach a point where you begin seeing symptoms of stress in other areas i.e. excessive tiredness, distraction/forgetfulness, excessive worry or irritability, or your health begins to suffer (headaches, chest pain or shortness of breath), please see a medical professional.
Scalp Conditions And Disorders
Scalp conditions can be an absolute pain. From dry scalp and dandruff to eczema and dermatitis. They’re all annoying.
Now you might say, “but none of these conditions cause afro hair loss, surely?” and you’d be right. They don’t directly cause hair loss, but the itchiness they cause can lead to scratching, which can damage your hair follicles and scalp, leading to partial hair loss.
What can you do to manage your scalp conditions? Fortunately, the above can all be managed and treated with the right afro hair care (which includes natural shampoos, moisturisers and oils). As with everything, it’s all about having the right products and routine.
We’ve put together a blog on the subject of treating dry afro hair (which you can find here) but the main things to remember are: use a sulphate-free shampoo and get natural moisturisers and oils. The natural products will provide your hair with the nutrients it needs to grow long and strong, while a sulphate-free shampoo won’t strip your hair of its sebum, ensuring it’s not dried out.
Traction alopecia is a form of alopecia that (by definition) “is caused by pulling force being applied to the hair.” It usually occurs as a result of the sufferer frequently wearing their hair in tight ponytails, pigtails, braids and the like.
According to a study in the medical journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, traction alopecia affects one-third of women of African descent - and is mostly caused by tightly knit/wound styles.
What can you do about traction alopecia? It’s a major problem, for sure, but with the right afro hair care, you’ll ensure the longevity of your afro hair and avoid afro hair loss.
Rather than pulling at your hair and going for tight, compact styles, consider something a little more relaxed or natural. Let your hair loose! For more on alopecia, read our Afro Hair Science post on the condition.
A healthy and balanced diet is essential to hair and your health. If you’re consuming too many sweets and fatty foods, your hair won’t be getting the nutrients it needs to grow and flourish.
What can you do about your diet? Make sure you’re having five portions of fruit and veg each day and try to avoid sweets and fatty foods.
Protein-rich foods are known to support hair growth; think spinach, almonds, matcha tea, whole grains, eggs and fish. This is because when you eat protein-rich foods, your body produces amino acids, which in turn produce keratin (which is the structural material that makes up hair). Naturally, this ensures your hair is healthy, strong and shiny.
Also, get plenty of vitamin B, C and E. Vitamin B is responsible for the overall health of your hair, including its moisture, smoothness and production of sebum (your natural hair oil). Vitamin C ensures hair growth, renews tissues and helps your body to absorb iron (which transports oxygen to your hair follicles). And vitamin E stimulates circulation on the scalp, helping to repair your hair and avoid afro hair loss.
Excessive Styling And Processing
Just like you, your hair needs a break every now and then. If you’re constantly blow drying your hair, using straighteners, having it permed or coloured, you’ll weaken and thin your afro hair over time, leading to afro hair loss.
What can you do about excessive styling? We’re not telling you to stop. It’s about having everything in moderation. So, when possible, make sure to (literally) let your hair down and give it some TLC.
When you want to give your hair a break but still rock a cool style, consider short twists or buns. For inspiration, you can always check out our blog on protective styles.
Afro hair loss will eventually happen for all of us, but never before its time. If you follow our afro hair care tips and develop a routine you should be able to protect your hair for longer and show it off in all its glory.