Unique in appearance and structure, African-American hair is especially fragile and prone to injury and damage. More than half of African-American women will cite thinning hair or hair loss as their top hair concern. Fortunately, there are a lot of things African-Americans can do to help minimize damage and keep their hair beautiful.
“A lot of what we do to our hair can actually damage hair,” said board-certified dermatologist Yolanda M. Lenzy, MD, FAAD, who maintains a private practice in Chicopee, Massachusetts. “Over the years, this damage can build up, leading to unhealthy and unattractive hair. To prevent this, it’s important to develop healthy hair habits and stick to them.”
To help African-Americans keep their hair healthy, Dr. Lenzy recommends the following tips:
1. Wash hair once a week or every other week: This will help prevent build-up of hair care products, which can be drying to the hair.
2. Use conditioner: Use conditioner every time you wash your hair. Be sure to coat the ends of the hair with conditioner, as the ends are the oldest and most fragile part of your hair.
3. Use a hot oil treatment twice a month: This adds additional moisture and elasticity to your hair.
4. Use a heat protecting product before styling: Adding this to wet hair before styling will help minimize heat damage.
5. Use caution with relaxers: To minimize hair damage, always go to a professional hair stylist to ensure that the relaxer is applied safely. Touch-ups should only be done every two to three months and only to newly grown hair. Never apply relaxer to hair that has already been relaxed.
6. Use ceramic combs or irons to press hair: If you would like to press or thermally straighten your hair, use a ceramic comb or iron and only do so once a week. Use a straightening device with a dial to ensure the device is not too hot. Use the lowest possible temperature setting that gives you the style you want. A higher temperature may be necessary for thicker, coarser hair.
7. Make sure braids, cornrows or weaves are not too tight: If it hurts while your hair is being styled, ask the stylist to stop and redo it. Pain equals damage.
“See a board-certified dermatologist if you notice any changes in the texture or appearance of your hair,” said Dr. Lenzy. “Even the slightest bit of noticeable thinning can be the start of hair loss. The earlier hair loss is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated.”