Styling practices can lead to serious hair and scalp diseases for some African-Americans, according to a new report presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Henry Ford Hospital dermatologist Dr. Diane Jackson-Richards said improper hair care can contribute to such conditions as seborrheic dermatitis and alopecia. She urged dermatologists to become more sensitive to the unique hair and scalp problems of African-Americans, particularly women.
"Hair is an extremely important aspect of an African-American woman's appearance," said Jackson-Richards, director of Henry Ford's Multicultural Dermatology Clinic. "Yet, many women who have a hair or scalp disease do not feel their physician takes them seriously."
She noted there are unique physiologic characteristics of African textured hair – for example, it grows slower and has a lower hair density than other groups. As a result, African-American women tend to shampoo their hair less frequently than other women and up to 80 percent use chemical relaxers.
Use of blow dryers and hot combs, and hair styles like hair weaves, braids and dreadlocks, can contribute to scalp diseases like alopecia, or hair loss. "Hair loss is the fifth most common condition cited by patients when they visit their dermatologist," she said.
Grooming tips to reduce risks:
• Wash hair at least weekly with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.
• Allow two weeks between relaxing and coloring.
• Limit use of blow dryers and hot combs and other heated hair styling products to once a week.
• Wash braids or dreadlocks every two weeks.
• Avoid wearing braids too tightly; don't wear longer than three months.
• 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.