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Hair braiding and weaves can add a special touch to your look – but according to new research, these popular styles actually carry a hidden hazard.

An academic review conducted by Johns Hopkins University and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that wearing braids, weaves and tight wigs may lead to substantial hair loss, inflammation and scarring.

Creating tension…

Hair weaves, braids and wigs are often applied tightly, and when unnatural stress is applied to the crown of the scalp, it encourages a condition known as central centrifugal cicatrical alopecia (CCCA) – where consistent or repeated pulling on the hair roots compromises follicles, leading to hair loss and scarring.

In a classic study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Institute of Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, dermatologists monitored the hair-grooming habits and scalps of 310 African American women. The results: 28% suffered from central hair loss and 17% suffered from CCCA – a sizable proportion.

The issue is compounded by the fact that weaves and braids are often accompanied by harsh chemicals in form of conditioners, relaxers and hair colors, as well as hair dryers, hair irons and hot curlers, thus making hair follicles that much weaker.

Women often wear tight braids and weaves for extended periods because it is convenient and low maintenance. However, the resulting hair loss is often permanent. Ironically, women suffering from CCCA often using braids, weaves and wigs to disguise already thinning hair, thus compounding the issue.

Can hair restoration surgery correct the damage?

Hair transplant surgery has been clinically proven to be safe and effective for women with CCCA.

People reporting hair loss from CCCA are first recommended to consult with a dermatologist who can examine for infections, apply medications and give advice to help arrest the condition. Subsequently, they can visit a qualified hair restoration doctor to determine if a transplant will be effective.

In cases where lost hair is low to moderate, hair transplants may be a solution for woman suffering hair loss from weaves, braids and tight wigs, provided enough donor hair is still available for transplant and other medical conditions have been resolved.

As a preventive measure, people should generally avoid hair weaves, tight braids, “updo’s” and tight wigs that pull on hair  – reduce the tension and do not wear for extended periods. Also, avoid harsh chemical treatments and heat.

Educating the African American community through doctors and hair care professionals about the dangers of over-styling is key. Generally, the more natural and free your hair is, the longer it will stick around.


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