Hair loss: a growing epidemic - Pay attention to your roots
Hair loss has always been an ongoing challenge for men and women of all walks of life. It can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, ageing, illness, over processing and styling choices that lead to traction or over-tightening of the hair.
However, in recent times, particularly in Jamaica, there has been a growing increase of hair loss, largely due to popular hairstyle trends that result in too much chemicals and stress on the roots and scalp.
According to Dr Jennifer Mamby Alexander, founder of the Hair Loss Clinic of Jamaica, over the last 10 years, hair loss in women has reached epidemic proportions in Jamaica due to overprocessing and styling of hair, particularly among black women.
"It really comes down to poor hair care," Mamby Alexander stated.
"Black women are paying the price for beautiful hairstyles. While the latest hairstyles and hair colours may look great, women are subjecting their hair to harsh chemicals, heated styling devices, glued-on extensions, tight weaves and braids, done in a salon or at home by friends and family without proper training. These processes, when done too frequently or incorrectly, lead to significant scalp damage and hair loss."
The most common form of hair loss in both men and women is androgenic alopecia, which is related to ageing and genetic factors. This condition leads to thinning of the hair in the crown and frontal regions of the head and, in many cases, evolve into baldness in those areas.
Mamby Alexander said men with a family history tend to experience hair loss earlier (20s) than men without a family history. It is best to visit a specialist in the early stages to determine the type of treatment needed.
The second most common type of hair loss that occurs in women of colour is traction alopecia, which is a result of stress on the roots of the hair following the tightening of braids or locks, glued-on wigs, heavy locks, tight wigs and ponytails or lace-front wigs.
"We have found that in many cases, the hairstyles just mentioned were used to conceal hair loss but eventually made the problem worse. It is also interesting to note that traction alopecia can occur in men who also braid their hair or wear heavy/long locks," she noted.
The good news is that if hair loss resulting from ageing and genetic causes is diagnosed early, the process can be stopped and reversed in many cases. The longer the process has been going on, the more irreversible it becomes.
Traction alopecia, on the other hand, is usually totally corrected by transplant procedures, which the doctor said are offered only at the Hair Loss Clinic of Jamaica in the English-speaking Caribbean.
This, of course, is determined by the extent of the damage done.
Other causes of alopecia include burns to the scalp or related to the use of medications, which is usually corrected once the medication has been discontinued or changed.
"I have first-hand experience with hair loss as a result of chemotherapy and I believe that, as women, we should always be comfortable with how we look. I am not saying that women should stop wearing braids, twists, or wigs; but it's important to wear them the right way," stated Alexander.
She concluded, "Even with the natural hair movement, proper hair care and protective styling is pivotal to the maintenance of the style; and at the first sign of hair damage, treatment should be sought. It is only through proper education about hair care and know-how in treating damaged scalps that this almost silent epidemic of hair loss will be brought under control."