Hair Loss In Black Women: Causes and Treatments


May 17th, 2017          Written by a Staff Writer at Hair Loss in Women

Hair loss in black woman

Hair loss is one of the most common conditions affecting African-American women. Hair loss in black women is significantly increasing every year. In fact, according to a National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a national database, hair loss and thinning is one of the major reasons why African-Americans visit their dermatologists.  Alopecia, a condition characterized by significant hair loss, lands on the 7th spot in the list of the top 10 reasons why African-Americans decide to visit a dermatologist, according to the database.

Some say that the often aggressive hair styling techniques of many African-Americans contribute to significant hair loss and thinning. These aggressive hairstyles cause excessive damage to their hair follicles. Among these hairstyles are too tightly woven braids, installing weaves with too much force and tension, and tightly pinned and pulled ponytails. If you notice small, white dots at the sides of your scalp, or in the areas surrounding your hairline, then note that these are signs of scalp injury, which is more known as traction or tension alopecia. These small white dots refer to the bulb in your hair strands that lift from the scalp.

If you have traction or tension alopecia, then expect your hair follicles to lie dormant. You can easily correct this problem if the affected hair follicles haven’t died yet. All it takes to make your hair grow again is to flush and wake up the follicles. However, understand that aggressive hairstyles in African-American women are not the only reasons why they lose their hair significantly. A lot of other factors contribute to this condition.

Top Causes of African-American Hair Loss

1. Excessive Use of Relaxers

Hair loss in black women can in some instances be attributed to excessive use of hair relaxers.  Relaxers designed to straighten hair are a big contributor among African-American women when it comes to the chemical and heat damage affecting the scalp and the hair follicles.  Excessive use of these relaxers can also trigger central centrifugal alopecia, which will eventually lead to permanent hair loss.  This happens once the hot curling iron or rolls pull the chemically or heat processed hair tightly.  Hair relaxers usually used to straighten the hair of African-Americans have lye or other related chemicals that tend to cause their hair shaft to become weak and break down.

Leaving these chemicals in the hair far beyond the time suggested by professionals may damage your hair and cause them to fall out. While you can find no-lye relaxers in the market, you still have to be extra careful when it comes to using them. Keep in mind that even if the relaxers don’t contain lye, these are still damaging to the hair because of their high pH level. This causes them to become caustic (chemically burned).

Relaxers may also cause your hair to break down. They work by breaking the bonds that strengthen your hair naturally; this is one of the major reasons why they are effective in straightening each strand. However, the effect is a set of hair that is weaker than naturally grown ones. Another negative effect of relaxers is that they tend to reduce the amount of sebum in your hair. Sebum refers to the natural oil secreted by your scalp. The damaging effects of relaxers can also be further aggravated by the use of flat irons and blow dryers. This makes your hair susceptible to breakage and thinning.

Possible Solutions: The good news is that there are safer alternatives to relaxants that tend to not damage hair in the long run. You can apply silicone creams that are gentle on your hair, so you can expect to straighten each strand without worrying about hair thinning and breakage. Just make sure that you look for the best product for you – one which can straighten your hair without making it look too greasy and weighed down.

If natural solutions don’t seem to work in straightening your hair and you decide to undergo relaxing treatments, then make sure that you do not allow your hairstylist to leave the relaxer on your hair for too long. If you feel any discomfort or you suffer from chemical burn due to the procedure, then contact your dermatologist right away. They can prescribe you with a topical ointment or perform a scalp biopsy to determine if this can trigger a permanent hair damage.

2. Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid is the butterfly shaped gland found in front of your neck. It is essential in the production of hormones necessary in regulating many bodily processes. Too little or too much thyroid hormones in the body may cause your hair growth cycle to falter. Note, however, that hair loss is not the only sign of thyroid disorders. You may also suffer from other symptoms including significant changes in your heart rate, heat or cold sensitivity and weight loss or weight gain.

Possible Solutions: If a thyroid disorder causes your hair loss, then it is best to treat the condition first to restore their normal growth cycle. If you suspect that you have the symptoms of a thyroid problem, then you should consider visiting your doctor right away, so you will receive a prescription to take thyroid hormones in pill form. There are also natural ways to treat thyroid disorders.

One possible natural solution is to increase your protein intake. Protein works by transporting thyroid hormones to all tissues in your body, so it’s possible that it can normalize and regulate thyroid function (we recommend speaking to your physician first). Among the best sources of protein are nuts, antibiotic-free animal products and legumes.

Another option is to increase the level of essential minerals and micronutrients in your body including Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, selenium, iron, Vitamin A, B-vitamins, Vitamin D, iodine and copper. These nutrients can correct any imbalance or disorder that affects your thyroid, thereby targeting its common symptom, including hair loss.

3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS often triggers severe hormonal imbalance. This condition triggers the body to produce more androgens (male hormones) than expected. This eventually leads to extra hair growing on the body and face, while significantly reducing hair growth on the scalp. PCOS is also one of the major causes of weight gain, acne and ovulation problems. However, the most obvious sign of the condition is thinning hair.

Possible Solutions: For African-American woman with PCOS dealing with its major symptom, hair thinning, addressing the syndrome should be your top priority. We recommend speaking to your doctor, but we will list some natural treatments that you may want to discuss with them.

One natural treatment for PCOS is Omega-3. Increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids because these can reduce your androgen level.

Another way to treat PCOS related hair loss is to reduce stress. Minimize stress by taking time to relax and breath. A lot of African-American women see noticeable results in stopping hair loss caused by PCOS by just reducing stress levels.

Implement proper hair care routines, and you may want to consider natural hair supplements like saw palmetto, biotin, and N-acetyl Cysteine can also help.

4. Traction Alopecia

Hair Loss in Black women can also be Traction Alopecia.  This is a condition characterized by gradual hair loss due to the application of constant and frequent abrasive pulling pressure and force on your hair. This is one of the leading causes of hair loss affecting black women due to hairstyles that often involve braiding, weaving, ponytails, barrettes, corn rows, and extensions. Those who suffer from traction alopecia usually see gradual, but noticeable hair loss affecting their scalp’s edges, including the back and the front parts of the hairline, behind the ears, as well as the temples.

Possible Solutions: You can stop whatever causes traction alopecia in your case if you stop its warning signs right away and have it treated. With patience, loving and proper hair care routines, and time, you can stop your hair from falling and restore their former glory. One solution is to avoid constantly braiding your hair tightly. If possible, try a new approach when it comes to styling your hair. Use a hairstyle that doesn’t put your hair strands under extreme tension and pressure. One option is to let your hair completely natural; this means that you should avoid using ties, slides and clips.

In case of localized or severe hair loss, taking minoxidil 2% topical treatment may help. This treatment is in the form of foam, lotion or ointment that you can apply on your scalp daily to restore hair growth. This is available over-the-counter as Rogaine. You can also seek the aid of the following preventive measures to prevent the condition from aggravating:

  • Use a wide hair band made of fabric to hold back your hair – just make sure that you avoid using the band too tightly. Note that some elastic hair bands can also damage hair. One option is to pick a hair band, which is stretchable enough to stay on, but gentle at the same time to avoid overly squeezing your head.
  • Loosely braid your hair – if you are already experiencing hair loss, then now is the time to stop braiding your hair too tightly. You will know that you are braiding your hair loosely if you can easily let your finger get under the braid’s base. Instead of creating many tiny braids, try creating bigger braids. Note that tiny braids can put your hair under too much pressure and tension. You can also use this simple activity to determine if you still need to loosen your braid. Rotate your head slowly right after you tie or braid your hair. If you feel like there is something that pulls or tugs anywhere in your scalp, then you may need to loosen your braid.
  • Use pillowcases that are made of satin – aside from causing less friction on your strands, it may also help in reducing wrinkles.
  • Properly hydrate your hair – if you are presently in a dry climate, or if you are using either central heating or air conditioning systems, then inadequate moisture in the air may cause brittleness in your hair, making them prone to breakage. If possible, use a humidifier to hydrate your hair.
  • Try scalp massage – scalp massage is also said to stimulate hair regrowth. If you plan to get a scalp massage to treat or prevent traction alopecia, then consider combining this therapy with the use of castor, Jamaican black castor, olive and unrefined and pure coconut oil.

There are other known causes of hair loss that aren’t unique to black women.  These include genetics, nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances, medications, chemotherapy, autoimmune disease, skin conditions, and stress.


What was your hair loss experience? Is there anything you done that made a difference? Please leave a comment below.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *