Hair loss:a social issue consistently being swept under the rug

“May I help you?” asked the store clerk at Best Beauty Supply.

“Yes, I need a 1B Milky Way 10 inch,” said Teresa Williams, 21, a junior industrial engineering student from Palm Beach.

This conversation sounds very familiar to some women.

Walking through Florida A&M University’s campus you will see an array of hairstyles ranging from braids, weaves and wraps to more natural styles.

“I have to get my hair washed at least once a week or my hair feels funny,” said Jessica Fluker, 19, a sophomore English student from Miami.

In order to stay in style and up-to-date with the latest hair trends, some black women subject their hair to flat irons, curling irons, braids, weaves, bleaches, tints, coloring, relaxers and permanent waves, which all cause breakage.

According to, black women are more likely than other women to have damaged follicles and hair loss.

“My hair breaks out a little every time I get braids or weaves, but it’s nothing major because it grows back,” Williams said.

Nevertheless, hair loss is a problem that plagues women that is rarely discussed.

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss, according to the Center for Health Research Inc.

Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons such as childbirth, birth control pills, hormonal disease, illness, stress, poor diet, oil folliculitis, androgenic alopecia and traction alopecia.

“When I got my honey highlights I made sure my hair stylist did it because you never know what you’re going to get when you experiment with color,” Fluker said.

Women sometimes experience hair loss after applying chemical applications to weaves and braids without the proper training, or letting a girlfriend experiment on them.

Professionals advise to be wary of unlicensed hair care professionals.

Some in the black culture believe that getting scalp and hair oiled is vital to promote hair growth.

This is a myth.

According to, oil folliculitis occurs when pomades are heavy and they clog the pores causing white bumps to appear in the scalp.

This is sometimes known as pomade acne. Frequent use of oils can cause oil folliculitis. Oils and pomades should be applied lightly and sporadically to hair.

“Traction alopecia may be corrected if the pattern of wearing the hair tightly stops immediately, but if the pattern is not stopped the hair loss may become permanent,” said Dr. Brewster Caldwell of Dermatology Advanced Care.

According to, traction alopecia is commonly seen among women and children who braid their hair tightly and often.

The website says this is hair loss due to the hairs being pulled out of their follicles, followed by inflammation and atrophy (or death) of the follicle.

The distribution of traction alopecia tends to be characteristic to your particular hairstyle, but it is usually a symmetrical loss of hair in front of and above the ears.

Besides traction alopecia, there’s another hair loss that is passed on from generation to generation.

“About 40 percent of my patients are women suffering from androgenetic alopecia,” Caldwell said. Hereditary hair loss is called androgenetic alopecia.

Hair loss is inherited from either your mother or father and it affects both men and women.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hereditary hair loss is a condition that affects 80 million Americans.

Losing 50 to 100 strands of hair a day is normal, but any more than that should be cause for concern.

A lack of iron or protein deficiencies may result in thinning hair.

According to, avoiding certain medications, reducing stress, getting adequate protein and iron in your diet, and using hairstyles that do not damage your hair may reduce or prevent hair loss.

However, inherited hair loss cannot be prevented.

Contact Melissa L. Louis at