Warning: Braids and weaves can make your hair fall out
Living in a culture eternally obsessed with braids, extensions and 'catching up the hair' so tightly that the temples bulge, we are sometimes not aware that there are consequences, until our hair starts protesting.
Repetitive use of these procedures, unbeknownst to many Jamaican women, can lead to traction alopecia, a form of hair loss caused by excessive tension being exerted on the hair shaft.
"The area where it is most noticeable is along the hairline," said dermatologist Bridgette Ffrench from Apex Skin Care Centre. "This is the area where most of the pulling occurs."
Traction alopecia is not an infectious disease, nor is it caused by a dietary deficiency. The condition is also not restricted to any particular race. "It is common in black women because of their haircombing practices," Ffrench explained. Blame the cane rows, braids and weaves.
The condition is not only unsightly but it can become severe and may even result in permanent hair loss, doctors warn.
"It can get very severe because as you pull and the hair breaks, then the front of your hair goes backwards," said Ffrench. She cautions that as the hairline recedes, 'catching up' the hair only worsens the condition. It's the quality of the hair that is important, she said. And if your hair is already damaged and weak, then you are only exacerbating the situation.
With traction alopecia, the hair loss may be anywhere on the scalp depending on the nature of the hairstyle, and where the pressure (traction) is being applied.
The good news is that if caught early, the condition is reversible.
"Once you remove the cause, the hair will grow back," Ffrench assured. "It's about accepting or accommodating to a hairstyle that will not create a lot of traction."
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the hair will grow back rapidly, so it is best to ignore all the 'wonder' creams in supermarkets and pharmacies that promise long tresses, doctors warn.
According to dermatologist Dr Neil Persadsingh, most of these products do not work.
And said Ffrench: "There is always a genetic control over how fast the hair will grow. Somebody with Indian or Caucasian hair will always have faster growth than somebody who has black hair. So people will have to accept that hair growth will take time."
Traction alopecia is not confined to women alone - Jamaican men are now adopting cane rows and other elaborate hairstyles, so they too should be careful. Also, mothers who tightly braid or cane-row their child's hair are placing them at risk of alopecia.
The doctors warn that it is important that women not braid their hair to cover the effects of traction alopecia, as unappealing to the eye as it may seem.
Instead they can try the wig option, wear their hair out if it is always tightly bound, or buy some pretty scarves.