Did you know that an aluminum can dipped into a bowl of chemicals commonly used in hair relaxers melts? According to an investigation by the BBC, black women are likely to spend about three times more on their hair than other women while also putting their hair and scalp at risk, perhaps unknowingly.
About 40% of women experience hair loss and while some of it is genetic, a lot of it is the result of poor hair care. Chemical relaxers have the potential to cause hair loss if they burn the scalp and leave the follicles in a deteriorated state, or they can lead to temporary loss through breakage if the hair becomes dry and brittle. Still, many African women or women of African descent turn to chemical relaxers to keep their manes under control.
Hairstyles and chemical relaxers
In fact, many African women wouldn’t be without their regular chemical maintenance. Kenyan citizen Olivia told the BBC she’s had her hair chemically straightened at Queens Hair Design in Nairobi for the past 10 years: “It’s so easy to manage because I have a lot of hair. I love it,” she says.
And according to South African Elma Titus, who specialises in African hair and scalp problems, chemical relaxers are not solely to blame for the problem of hair loss: “It could be the chemicals or it could be the extensions that you’re putting in your hair all the time without giving your hair time to recuperate,” she says.
Indeed, weaves, extensions and braids are all culprits when it comes to avoidable hair loss in women and even receding hairlines. However, after spending a few weeks in Kenya myself, it seemed to me that African women don’t realise the potential damage they are doing to their hair and scalp.
Almost all the women have braided or chemically straightened hair (even young children) and many of the hairdressers along the streets try to encourage tourists to come into their shops and get their hair braided. After a couple of weeks of being asked, I had to explain why I didn’t want it done. I told them how the constant pulling of the tight hairstyle on the hair follicles can sometimes lead to a condition called traction alopecia and even cause irreversible hair loss and they seemed genuinely surprised. “Really?” they said.
Permanent hair loss
Of course it is unlikely that one treatment will cause irreversible damage, but it isn’t unheard of. Jane Lopez successfully sued celebrity hair stylist Ricky Reyes when she lost her hair after a session of chemical relaxing. There are hair loss treatments that can help regrow hair lost to chemical or tension damage, but it is vital that help is sought as soon as possible and that proper hair care is learnt and maintained in order to prevent irreversible damage. Because if the hair follicles are badly burnt or scarred, it is unlikely that anything can be done.
Alternative hair styling practices for African women are being employed by some and Cherish Angula from Nigeria is one of them. On the BBC’s Africa Have Your Say program, Cherish said that the $750 she’d spent on a lace-front wig was a good investment.
“It lasts three, four times as long as ordinary weave-ons and so it works out cheaper for me… It is basically a whole head unit, you attach it with glue around the circumference of your head and it gives it a more natural appearance like the hair is growing from your head. It’s basically the same thing that celebrities like Beyonce wear.” What? Did you think that Beyonce really was blessed with all that unachievable hair?
To learn more about how to regrow hair lost to damaging hairstyles and how to look after your locks, contact the Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or send an email. Alternatively, fill out an online diagnostic form from anywhere in the world to find out what can be done.
The Belgravia Centre
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.