An all-too-real issue surrounding life as a black female celebrity is the possibility of hair loss, something which model-turned-actress Phina Oruche has recently opened up about.
Liverpudlian Oruche, whose most famous role was probably playing supermodel Liberty Baker in the 2006 series of Footballers Wives, was talking to Female First about things that had affected her life. The very first thing she listed was hair loss.
“I struggled with Traction Alopecia in my mid-twenties and after childbirth, and stress-related alopecia later in life,” she says. “All the thread plaits and cornrows, the twist and the dreads took their toll on my hair.”
The solution, she says, was learning to work with her hair and start sporting the natural or afro look. “When I finally gave up the pretence,” she says, “I soared.” Work flooded in, and today she says she has a full, strong head of healthy natural hair… and a bag of wigs for TV roles.
Styling can damage follicles
When women straighten their hair using heat stylers or chemical relaxers they can damage the follicles (and also cause hair breakage). This can lead to a well-known hair loss condition named Traction Alopecia, which is also frequently caused by hairstyles that are very “tight”, thus putting prolonged pressure on the roots of the hair. Common culprits are braids and cornrows, which tend to be more favoured by black women than white. As a result, black women who shun the natural hair look are often at risk of losing hair to Traction Alopecia.
Many supermodels have been affected, and some have suggested that part of the problem is that stylists often don’t really know how to treat black hair. British supermodel Jourdan Dunn once told HELLO! magazine that she had been wearing wigs for a year to try and let her styling-damaged afro hair recover. “I had no hair around my hairline – it was like baby hair it, was so damaged,” she said.
Naomi Campbell has also been photographed on several occasions with what what looked like fairly severe hairloss mostly concentrated around her hairline. She recently spoke about this being caused by hair extensions, a key cause of Traction Alopecia. In fact, so bad is the situation that some black models take their own products to photo shoots. British model Leomie Anderson told the Guardian: “Sometimes hair stylists take offence if I bring my own hair products, but they have to be conscious that we do have different needs.”
Former Chanel model Oruche (pictured), who has appeared in Hollyoaks, Doctors and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, has also been the face of Gap in the US. Interestingly, the hair loss she mentions that she suffered “after childbirth” is unlikely to have been Traction Alopecia but another condition named Postpartum Alopecia. While this affects the whole head, it can be most noticeable at the temples – the same area commonly affected by Traction Alopecia – and at the parting, which can appear wider. It will also cause an overall dip in hair density.
Postpartum hair loss often has a lot in common with another condition named Telogen Effluvium, which can be caused by stress – something else Oruche mentions. This all-over shedding condition is caused when the body is overburdened by such things as stress, pregnancy and extreme dieting. In an attempt to protect itself, the body neglects “non-essential” functions such as hair growth, and thinning can ensue. While this typically only lasts a matter of months, it does sometimes last longer. When the condition becomes chronic, it is reclassified as a condition known as Diffuse Thinning, or Chronic Telogen Effluvium.
Regular and Chronic Telogen Effluvium treatment courses, which can be personalised to the needs to of each individual client by hair loss specialists, as well as treatment for postpartum alopecia, can be effective at accelerating regrowth. A key part of a client’s recovery is also trying to identify the cause of the problem so that steps can be taken to eliminate it. Whilst this is clear in the case of hair loss following childbirth, in other cases it may not be quite so obvious. For Oruche, a qualified hatha yoga instructor, this practice may help her to manage any tensions and thus avoid any recurrences of stress-related hair loss.
Treatment for Traction Alopecia takes a slightly different approach, and needs to begin with some rather tough love: the very first step to recovery needs to be commitment from a client that damaging hairstyles which cause undue stress on the scalp need to be stopped immediately.
In many cases, Belgravia experts find that hair lost to Traction Alopecia can be regrown using a bespoke treatment plan based around topical applications of high strength minoxidil, which can be combined with various hair growth boosters to promote good hair and scalp health as well as regrowth. It is equally true, however, that when damage is too severe Traction Alopecia can cause permanent hair loss so it is always best to seek professional advice from an experienced hair loss clinic at soon as any worrying signs appear.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.