Hair weaves and braids, usually with extensions, are popular hairstyles, 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 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 cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), formerly known as follicular degeneration syndrome, or hot comb alopecia, is a type of permanent hair loss usually found in African American women. It generally involves 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 2000 the controversial 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 of hair loss caused by pulling trauma from tight hairstyles such as braids, ponytails, 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.
So remember the vicious cycle of hair, weaves, braids, and hair loss next time you look in the mirror. Styles come and styles go. Unfortunately, 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.