Dealing with alopecia

I know it’s been a little while, so before I begin, I’ll update you on a couple of styles that I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks or so.

I rediscovered a style that I used to do rather frequently, but hadn’t done in months mainly because of time constraints, which is the braidout. It’s easy to do. I prefer to do my twistouts and braidouts on damp hair because the resulting curls are more defined. So while damp, I simply put my hair into 8-12 plaits, let them dry overnight, take them down the next morning, fluff my hair and go. The thing is that it takes a long time for braids to dry and because each braid consists of three strands of hair, the takedown is longer. If braids are taken down before they’re fully dry, they can be a frizzy hot mess, so half the time, braidouts were a miss for me. During the work week, the style was affecting my ability to get to the job on time, so I stopped doing it. Until a couple of weekends ago when I was meeting a friend for dinner and another friend for karoake and I wanted to do something different with my hair. I washed my hair one Friday night, put my hair into 12 plaits and let them dry overnight before taking them down. That time, I was able to let my hair dry for about 18 hours before taking them down, so upon takedown, the plaits were 100%. I don’t remember exactly what products I used, though, since it’s been awhile. I know I either used the Curl Junkie Honey Butta or the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the pink Ecostyler for more hold. My hair looks very voluminous, something that doesn’t happen all the time.

I revisited Kinky Curly Curling Custard (KCCC) today for the first time since Christmas. My hair doesn’t look as full here, but the curls are defined.

If you notice, I often wear my hair out and have the front of it pulled forward. It’s mainly to disguise the alopecia I have along my hairline. I’ve alluded to it in the past but this post will be a more thorough discussion about it. It’s not an easy thing to talk about or deal with, primarily because society doesn’t expect women to go bald. Some forms of alopecia are hormonal or hereditary in nature and the hair loss often appears along the crown. That isn’t the kind I have. Mine is mostly mechanical in nature, due to years of relaxers, tight braid extensions and weaves. Hair loss resulting from hair styles that aggressive rub and pull on the scalp is known as traction alopecia. It’s easy to think that once you stop wearing hairstyles that pull on your scalp that the hair will recover and grow back but that doesn’t always happen. If your hair follicles get scarred, the oxygen and nutrients needed for the hair to grow are cut off, meaning that the hair won’t be able to grow back. If an area along your scalp appears shiny and smooth, chances are that the follicles are scarred and your hair won’t grow back there. That’s the case with me along parts of my hairline. Some my hair has grown back in along that area, but I’ve long known that the hair my edges will never come back in completely and that they’ll be thinner than they should be. Black women in particular are more prone to this type of hair loss because some of our hair practices are extremely harsh. It hasn’t been easy to deal with because frankly, in the past, I’ve felt unattractive and freakish. This picture from about a month ago illustrates what I’m talking about:

This is an updo I recently attempted. If you notice from the lighting and this side angle, my edges appear to have been obliterated. I often slick them down with Ecostyler but by the end of the day, when the gel wears off, my hair appears partly bald.  In a world that often values women more for their appearance than their intelligence, it’s not a great look.

As my edges have grown in some, my feelings of inadequacy and unattractiveness around my hair have dissipated some, but the shadow of those feelings still persist deep down. There are times when it feels hopeless when I know that I’ll have limited success with remedies touted to regrow hair, such as cayenne pepper, castor oil, Biotin vitamins, etc. The last time I saw a dermatologist about the issue was around 10 years ago, when I was still perming my hair. All I was given was a prescription for a special shampoo that I had to use at least twice a week. At that time, I had thinning patches along the back of my hair as well, but they grew back in fully. The doctor also suggested that I stop perming my hair, but I scoffed at the notion because at the time I still felt that my hair needed chemicals in order to look presentable because it was “bad.” These days I wonder if my hair would be longer and my edges would be in better shape than they are if I had taken his advice at the time, instead of seven years later. I am considering going to a different dermatologist to ask about a different treatment to see if I can regrow more hair because the other doctor I saw was kind of up in age and may have retired by now. Years ago at a previous job, a co-worker had gone to a dermatologist regarding a bald spot along his crown. He’d stated that his doctor had given him injections in his scalp. It sounds foreboding, but his hair did grow back some. I have nothing to lose. I just have to find the time. If and when I do go, I intend to update y’all.

What’s kept me going through all this is the belief that I’m more than my hair or lack thereof. It isn’t always strong and I have to work on my self confidence in that area, but it’s better than it was awhile ago. I think the more women that come forward about hair loss, the more likely that the shame and stigma surrounding it will dissipate and possibly, more effective treatment options will be developed.

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One Response to “Dealing with alopecia”

  1. Jaleesa Devino Says:

    Alopecia is described as a condition in which the immune system eradicates the hair follicles. Alopecia can lead to hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. In most cases, the hair is lost in small, quarter-sized amounts and usually does not exceed the amount of a few patches. In more extreme cases, Alopecia can progress to cause complete hair loss of the scalp and other areas of the body. White blood cells in the immune system rapidly attack cells in hair follicles that make the hair grow. These affected cells become small and slow down hair production.;

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