Today I visited a website called Blackdoctor.org and found this very interesting article on weaves and braids (W&B). It states that W&B contribute to permanent hair loss among women of African lineage.
According to website, of the 362 participants in the study conducted, over a ¼ had hair loss on the top of their scalp and 59% of those women, had signs of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), baldness that begins at the crown of the head and leads to scarring.
It’s a known fact among people of African lineage no matter where in the world they hail from that we do all manner of things to our hair, from hot combing (pressing), to relaxing (permanently straightening) to putting in extensions (single braids/cornrows), weaves (sew in weaves or glued in tracks) to wearing wigs. It’s a ritual that at times can be a brutal experience and brutalizing to our hair.
I remember my mother pressing my hair when I was a child and mammy would say, “don’t move or you will get burn,” and I would sit stiffly dreading “the burn,” praying. I could feel the heat from the iron comb (hot comb) at the nape of my neck, forehead and ears. My mother would blow on the heated comb which she took off the stove to redirect the smothering heat away from those vulnerable areas to ensure I didn’t burn. I could smell my hair frying; hear the sizzling sound of hair as it went from tight curl to bone straight. My mom was good I rarely got burn but on those rear occasions when I did, Lord have mercy I would squeal like a pig to the slaughter. Sometimes I had friends who would show up to school/church/party with hair loss where the iron was too hot and it just took that part of the hair off completely or burnt marks around the nape of the head, forehead and ears and we would all chorus, “You moved your head.”
I am a naturalista (have natural hair) although I must confess to perming (which damaged my hair terribly), using extensions for single braids or cornrows which I did myself so it was not done tightly. One day, I went with my fast self and had someone put in extensions cornrow style for me, because I wanted a particular fancy do. It looked so good but holy mother of God, it was mad tight. I couldn’t smile or blink my eyes. I vacillated between ‘ooh it look so good to father Jesus help me I can’t bend my head the pain was so intense’ as the back would pull as if someone was trying to deliberately tear my hair right out of my skull. I took all that I could take, by the time I reached home I couldn’t stand it anymore and I sat down and removed every single one. I was in too much pain. I had bumps around the nape of my head and around my ears it was so tight (I do not ascribe to the “beauty is pain” ethos, not this sistah). I guess that’s the blackdoctor.org website are referring to, the excessive tightness that is akin to murder on the scalp and then it is left in for months!
“Black women often maintain these styles for long periods of time, and the stress they exert on the scalp can lead to the development of pus-filled bumps, and “Over time, these bumps can develop bacteria” that can lead to scarring.”
So ladies (and gents), be mindful and careful about styling your hair. Be kind to your scalp and it would be kind to you by letting you keep your hair! I know many of you love your weaves and braids but you got to give your hair a break from even that sometimes. Why not rock some wraps or if you can afford it wigs, the kind you can just pull on but please, please, please, comb your hair before dawning wigs just in case it comes off.