The vicious cycle of braids, hair weaves and hair loss – Musings of a NYC dermatologist

Hair weaves and braids, usually with extensions,  are popular hair styles especially among African American women.  Sometimes these styles are for fashion.  Other times they are to mask the problem of balding.  The real problem is that these styles can cause hair loss–permanent hair loss.  A study published in the April issue of the Archives of Dermatology supports what many dermatologists have already been observing.

Central centrifugal cicatritial alopecia (CCCA), formerly known as follicular degeneration syndrome and “hot comb” alopecia, is a type of permanent hair loss usually found in African American women.  It generally involved the crown of the scalp and extends out radially.  Although dermatologists have not fully understood what causes CCCA, it was known that inflammation was involved.  Back in the 2000 the controvertial dermatopathologist, Dr. Bernard Ackerman, declared in a paper that this condition was in fact a form of traction alopecia.  More recent studies indicate that he was in fact correct.

Traction alopecia is a form or hair loss caused by pulling trauma from tight hair styles such as braids, pony tails, curlers, heavy dreadlocks and weaves.  Tension on the hair causes inflammation which can eventually destroy the hair follicle.  CCCA appears to be a particular pattern of traction alopecia that has a particular pattern and runs in families.

Styles come and styles go.  Unfortunatley, by wearing tight styles such as braids and hair weaves one can eventually become dependent on wearing artificial hair.  Although there is not currently a cure for CCCA, a board certified dermatologist is able to treat and perhaps prevent the condition from progressing to baldness.  If you think you are losing your hair, see your dermatologist sooner than later.

Posted in: Commentary, General Dermatology