An article published by Medical News Today highlighted the dangers that certain hairstyles can pose in women. Tight braids, corn rows, and weaves can bring on a condition called traction alopecia which results in permanent hair loss. This type of loss is usually seen around the frontal edges of the scalp and progresses further back with time. Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) is a type of scarring alopecia that is found most often in black women and may be caused by the strenuous nature of these popular hairstyles on the scalp which required heat and chemicals to get the ultra-curly hair under control.
CCCA was first called “hot comb” alopecia in the 1950s when black women would straighten their hair by coating the shaft in petroleum jelly and then detangling and straightening the hair with an iron comb heated on the stove. The hot petroleum jelly was would travel down the hair shaft to the scalp often burning and damaging the follicles and causing permanent scarring. Frequently, straightening chemicals would also be added to this mix. Some evidence suggests that the hot oil and chemicals caused hair loss that could be progressive, resulting in a permanent loss of large amounts of hair.
In a study published in the Archives of Dermatology, over 300 African-American women completed questionnaires regarding their health and hair grooming methods and underwent scalp examinations. Of the women in the study, nearly 60% showed signs of hair loss. These women were more likely to wear hairstyles like tight braids and weaves and use hot combs, petrolatum, and chemicals that put stress on the hair and follicles.
Neil Sadick, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College believes that these types of hairstyles “can lead to excessive trauma to the hair shaft of predisposed individuals [and] interfere with hair integrity and are major culprits in causing this cosmetically debilitating scarring hair loss.”
As soon as you see signs of scarring or hair thinning, it’s important to seek the help of a dermatologist who specializes in hair restoration like Drs. Edmond Griffin and Ashley Curtis. Because this type of balding is progressive, the sooner patients seek treatment, the more likely the process can be stopped before severe damage has been done. The damage caused to the hair follicle by these hairstyles means that non-surgical options like topical and oral medications like Propecia® and Rogaine® are less likely to be effective in treating CCCA.