In many cultures, a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. It can define how the world sees you and also, more importantly, how you see yourself. That’s why hair loss can be so devastating for women, whatever their ethnicity.

In a recent article published in the American Academy of Dermatology, statistics from a study conducted revealed that a staggering 50% of African American women had some degree of hair loss.

A total of 5594 African American women completed the survey which was carried out by Dr Yolanda M Lenzy, clinical associate at the University of Connecticut, in conjunction with the Black Women’s Health Study at the Slone Epidemiology Centre based at Boston University.

Why are African American women more likely to experience hair loss?

The study found that styling preferences were the major reason behind the high numbers of African American women experiencing hair loss. One of the main problems experienced by the respondents was a condition termed central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA).

CCCA causes the hair follicles to become inflamed and eventually destroyed, leading to permanent hair loss.
It is usually caused by styling techniques such as “relaxing”, which is popular among the African American population. Traction alopecia is also another condition that is prevalent. It is caused by hairstyles that pull on the hair strands too tightly.

Researchers believe that there is also a genetic component, which is a major contributor to hair loss in African American women.

Other key findings from the study

Of the 5,594 women who responded to the survey, a whopping 47.6% listed hair loss on the crown of the head.
About 81.4% responded that they had never considered seeking medical advice for their hair loss.
Out of the 40,9% that had symptoms equal to CCCA only 8.8% said their doctors had positively diagnosed CCCA.

Dr Lenzy believes that part of the reason that these problems often go undiagnosed is that women do not realise they should visit a dermatologist for hair-related problems.

The results from the survey illustrated clearly that women who notice any scalp tingling or itching or changes in their path or the width of their ponytail should seek medical care. Your regular hairstylist is in the best position to notice any changes to your hair, so don’t forget to ask him/her for their opinion next time you’re at the hairdressers.

Hair loss can also be minimised by sticking to hairstyles that don’t pull onto the hair strands and avoiding chemical relaxers.

Treatments like minoxidil and topical corticosteroids can also help with hair loss if you seek medical assistance.