They might be sexy. They may be exotic. But if you want to prevent hair loss, you’d best avoid braids.
A recent study sheds light on hair loss and the impact that braids have on scalp health and growth of hair. Among its findings? Braids contributed to scarring and irreversible hair loss in 60% of study participants.
In addition, the study notes that this type of hair loss, central centrifrugal cicatricial alopecia, is especially common in African-American women.
About The Study
The study, published in the Archives of Dermatology, consisted of 326 African-American women, who answered questionnaires about their hair grooming methods, health status and related demographic information. The women then underwent a scalp analysis by a dermatologist, to grade scalp health and hair growth.
Almost 60% of the women had signs of advanced central hair loss with scarring. They were especially prone to hair loss at the crown of the scalp, spreading outward.
The women with hair loss were also more likely to have bacterial scalp infections and have hairstyles linked to traction on the scalp, including braids and tight weaves.
And curiously, the same women were also more likely to have type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of which lends support to the theory that hair loss may be linked to metabolic problems.
Why Was Hair Loss So Common in African-American Women?
The study focussed on African-American women, which limits study results to a specific demographic, but nonetheless illustrates a link between braids and hair loss.
Some women are predisposed to tightly curled hair. The researchers note that the participants with hair loss were more likely to choose braids and styles with hair extensions that were painstakingly interwoven with their own hair rather than wear their hair in its natural form. Yet because the styles are expensive, they’re more likely to wear them for a longer duration.
Compounding the issue is that curly hair, which many African-American women have, provides good coverage for thinning areas, so they don’t see how thin they’re getting until the hair loss is in advanced stages.
What’s the Link Between Braids and Hair Loss?
Braids and tightly woven hair styles put traction on the hair, traumatize the hair shaft and jeopardize the integrity of hair in women (and men) predisposed to hair loss from genetics. Hair loss from braids is irreversible. And over fifty per cent of women typically experience hair loss from genes, albeit in a different pattern than men experience, and typically later in life, though braids may hasten the process.
How Can I Stop Hair Loss?
When hair loss is genetic, you can’t. But as this study suggests, you can prevent hair loss from occurring earlier than it otherwise would by avoiding braids.
Other tips to reduce hair loss include:
- Avoid excessive hair treatment and traction on the hair
- If you must color your hair, keep it within three shades of your natural color
- Go longer between hair treatments, but get regular trims
- Use an experienced stylist, with sharp scissors
- Use a comb with smooth, well-spaced teeth
Remember that it’s common to lose up to 100 hairs each day. You can’t escape hair loss when it’s genetic, and that is unfortunately the most common form of hair loss in men and women. You can, however, prevent hair loss at a younger age, or at least reduce hair loss, by avoiding braids and a little care and attention.