Hair Care Can Pose Health Risks for Black Women

Certain hairstyling practices can result in serious hair and scalp diseases for some black women, an expert warns.

“Hair is an extremely important aspect of a black woman’s appearance. Yet many women who have a hair or scalp disease do not feel their physician takes them seriously. Physicians should become more familiar with the culturally accepted treatments for these diseases.” States Dr. Diane Jackson.

Black women tend to shampoo their hair less often than other ethnic groups, and about 80 percent of black women use chemical relaxers, Jackson said.

She also said frequent use of blow-dryers and hot combs, combined with popular hairstyles such as weaves, braids and dreadlocks, cause physical stress to the hair and contribute to scalp diseases such as alopecia, or hair loss.

This is what Alopecia looks like
This is what Alopecia looks like

Proper hair care can help prevent diseases such as alopecia and an inflammatory skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis.

She said dermatologists need to become more aware of the hair and scalp issues that can affect black women, and also offered the following grooming tips to reduce the risk of developing a hair or scalp disease:

  • Wash hair weekly with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, and limit the use of blow-dryers, hot combs and other heated hairstyling products to once a week.
  • To detangle hair, use a wide-tooth comb while conditioner is still in the hair.
  • Use natural hair oils with jojoba, olive, shea or coconut oils.
  • Allow two weeks between relaxing and coloring.
  • Wash braids or dreadlocks every two weeks. Don’t wear braids too tight and don’t wear them longer than three months.

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