A good friend of mine was living the black-girl magic dream. She was in her mid 20’s, had disposable income, her natural curls were beautiful and shiny.
But then she started to notice more and more hair coming out in her comb. The hairballs stuck to the side of the shower were getting bigger and bigger. Over a few months, she stopped detangling as often because it was scary to see such big clumps of hair coming out.
As her hair got thinner, she started wearing a lot of headscarves and hats. They looked really cute and I didn’t notice her hair loss. But she opened up to me about what was going on. She felt like if this one problem was solved, she’d be happy. Finding a solution started to take over her life.
She went to every kind of western doctor possible. Then she started going to holistic doctors. She switched hair products, she went on antibiotics, she changed her entire diet. She stopped drinking. She got her fillings replaced. She even started to do coffee enemas…
Listen to Your Body
My friend’s hair loss got worse. Then it got better. Then it got worse again. The problem is that she didn’t know what was causing it. She tried every single solution possible to try to fix her problem.
She tried many solutions at once. Some of them worked. Some of them made things worse. But she didn’t know which was which. She was so overwhelmed, it was hard for her to tell what was working and what wasn’t.
Often our bodies try to tell us things. We spend so much time and energy trying to eliminate the message (or the symptoms) that we don’t listen to it.
Your hair loss could be a sign of something in your life that needs to change. Or it could be a change your body is making that you have little control over.
Some Hair Loss is Normal
The average person loses 150-200 strands a day. People with straight hair lose it all day long. It falls out onto clothing, the couch, everywhere. If you’ve ever had a straight-haired roommate or gotten relaxers, you know.
But curly-headed folks still “lose” this hair every day. But rather than falling out of our head, it will stay attached in the bundles of curls. So naturalistas notice more hair loss when detangling.
Hair Loss Causes Outside of Your Control
Some things are not within your control. We all lose hair as we age. And female pattern baldness can also be genetic. If your parents or grandparents have thinning hair, you might also experience it.
Hormonal changes can also cause hair loss. They can have an impact on the strength, length, and thickness of your hair. For instance, if you’re pregnant, you’ll often have increased hair growth. Postpartum hair “loss” is normal. Some common reasons for hormonal changes are:
- Birth control
- Thyroid issues
- Hormonal treatments
There are also several different types of Alopecia. Alopecia can be a frustrating diagnosis. It has so many different sources, from autoimmune disorders to physical tension.
Things You Can Change
Some factors are within your grasp! Not that it’s easy to do, or we’d all do them all the time. I’ve listed them from easiest to hardest. Take your time with the list and try using the action plan below rather than trying to fix everything at once.
Start a hair journal. Here you can list what you’re noticing, how you’re feeling, and what changes you’re making every day.
Track your other symptoms. Are you gaining or losing weight? Is your skin breaking out? How is your mood?
You can bring this journal with you to the doctor and the salon so you can ask specific questions. When you’re ready to take action, start with the easiest things first. Give it time, and pay attention to the way your body reacts.
You should be doing something to avoid friction when you sleep. Friction can cause dryness, exacerbate split ends, and promote hair loss. Whether you have a satin pillowcase or sleep in a bonnet or silk scarf.
Your Detangling Method
If you’re a new naturalista, you might be detangling incorrectly. Be gentle with your hair. Follow a few general rules when you’re detangling to prevent excessive hair loss.
- Detangle regularly (at least weekly).
- Detangle when your hair is wet.
- Use a conditioner or “slip” agent to help your comb glide through your hair.
- Detangle with your fingers at first.
- Section your hair.
- Use a wide-toothed comb.
- Comb from bottom to top.
Your Hair Products
Check the back of your hair product bottles and see what is in them. Many hair products marketed towards black women include harmful ingredients. I started Mello Hair because I was horrified when I realized what these chemicals did.
Some pervasive ingredients that might be stunting your growth:
Parabens: These promote estrogen. Hormonal changes can have an impact on your hair growth. Studies are showing a link between parabens and early puberty in girls, as well as an increased risk of breast cancer. Ditch the parabens.
Sulphates: Mello products are all sulphate free for a reason. Sulphates are harsh and will dry out your hair. This can lead to dryness, brittleness, and breakage.
Petroleum: Petroleum doesn’t allow any moisture to go in or out of your hair shaft. It eventually dries your hair out, which leads to breakage. But many hair products marketing towards black women contain petroleum because it’s cheap.
Not Getting Trims
Even though we all know this, it’s worth a reminder. Getting regular trims will help your hair grow. When we don’t, our split ends split even higher up the shaft. As the hair grows, the split grows, and it can mask our growth. Make sure that you get your hair trimmed (or dust it yourself with good shiers) every 8-12 weeks.
Braids Ponytails, and Protective Styles
Too tight braids (or ponytails) can lead to tension alopecia. This is a type of hair loss you might notice as your edges decrease. Your body will give you warning signs. You might see stress bumps form near your hairline. You might get headaches. Your braider should listen to you and loosen up the braids if this is happening. If they don’t, you should find a new braider. It’s not worth losing your hair.
Diet and Supplements
There is no need to buy every supplement at the store and completely change your diet. But you should investigate what you’re eating. Sometimes hair loss or lack of growth can be a sign up a nutrient deficiency. Foods are a natural source of nutrients. But you can supplement things you’re not getting if you can’t squeeze them all into your diet.
You can’t always change the medications that you’re taking. Sometimes they are the only thing that works for you. But hair loss is a side effect of many medications. If you’re noticing hair loss while taking one of these types of medications, ask your doctor if you have alternatives.
- ACE inhibitors
- Cholesterol Meds
- Naproxen (anti-inflammatory meds)
- Birth Control Pills (or any other type of hormone-altering medication)
Life can be incredibly stressful. If you’re losing hair, it can be because of stress while also exacerbating stress. It’s also something that goes along with other factors. There are a million reasons to try to manage your stress level, and hair loss is just one of them.
- Practice mindfulness or meditation.
- Go see a therapist or talk to someone you trust.
- Take some things off your plate, or re-prioritize.
- Get some exercise.
Take it Slow
Sudden hair loss in women can be scary. It feels like your body is betraying you. There are so many different things that can cause hair loss, which makes it hard to figure out the real culprit.
You just want your hair to go back to normal. It can be hard not to try everything at once. But you should take it slow so you can see what’s going on and address the actual issues.
Try to slow down and take a systematic approach. You may have to visit your salon, your doctor, or the store for new products. But you don’t have to do it all at once.
Hopkins Medicine Hair Loss in Black Women: Tips From an Expert
Medical News Today: What to know about thyroid function and hair loss
What to Expect: Postpartum Hair Loss
The Independent: Four Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Your Hair Products
Trials and Tresses: 7 Benefits of Trimming Your Natural Hair
New York Times: What Black Women Need to Know About Hair Loss
The Mayo Clinic: Can Stress Cause Hair Loss?
Medical News Today: What medications cause hair loss?