By: Nikki D. Hill, MD, Board-Certified Dermatologist and Hair Loss Specialist
Solutions for thinning hair and edges is a common question with no easy answer.
Traction alopecia caused by tight hairstyles is one of the most common causes of breakage and thinning. When hair is forcibly removed prior to the natural shedding phase, inflammation and scar tissue may develop. Scar tissue does not preserve follicles which leads to permanent hair loss in the affected area.
Related: Hair Life Cycle
Traction Alopecia Prevention
Prevention is key. Therefore, you should consider low-tension styles to preserve hair follicles.
When there is inflammation, steroids can be injected in the area to calm the inflammatory process.
To stimulate growth, a topical medication like Minoxidil can prompt regrowth. However, it requires patience due to the time it takes to see results. In some cases, stronger medications or hair transplants are required.
Black weave glue contains rubber, latex, and a black dye called paraphenylenediamine, three of the most allergic ingredients you could put in a product. Try finding hair glues without these ingredients to reduce the risk for allergic reaction.
Red flags are itching, inflammation and pain. You should use adhesive removers to break down the glue. Then, gently and patiently work the glue out of your hair. Be sure to use caution when removing hair weaves to reduce risk of traction alopecia.
Relaxers & Texturizers
Other processing chemicals such as relaxers and texturizers can lead to scarring. Leaving a relaxer in until it burns is not wise. And, it’s definitely not indicative of a “good burn” or “straighter hair.”
Relaxer burning, tingling or pain means something isn’t right. Sodium hydroxide in professional-grade relaxers burn and are irritating to the scalp. Home relaxers use guanidine hydroxide which does not “burn.” However, this does not mean you can leave it on longer. All relaxers can have detrimental effects on the scalp. Therefore, you should base your scalp before a relaxer, relax your edges last because they are the most fragile and extend the time betwen touch ups to prevent overprocessing.
Allergies to dyes are difficult to manage because it’s attached to the hair. This irritation can last until for weeks or months, until the hair grows out and away from the scalp.
If you experience burns, scabs, or sores on the scalp, apply vaseline or an ointment to the affected areas. It may also be necessary to seek medical attention. Topical steroids can be given to calm inflammation.
Hair loss from hair dyes may recover once the inflammation has resolved. When follicles are destroyed, hair transplants are the best solution.
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition that can affect the scalp, facial or body hair. Patients usually notice a patch of hair loss that is smooth and without symptoms. Continuous monitoring is required to make sure new lesions are identified and treated early. The longer these lesions persist, the more difficult treatment becomes.
Alopecia Areata Solutions
Treatment regimens include topical and injected steroids. I also use a sensitizing agent to remove inflammation from around the hair follicles. This diversion allows the follicles to remain free of inflammation and the natural process to grow hair ensues. Treatment can be successful with ~70% of patients going into remission with treatment.
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia affects the scalp, eyebrows and body hair. Early detection and treatment are important to prevent progression to permanent hair loss. Treatment includes injected steroids as well as oral anti-inflammatory medication.
Breakage can occur for numerous reasons including scratching your scalp, wearing tight hair wraps, dry hair and over-processed hair. Any of these can lead to the perceived idea, “my edges that won’t grow.”
You should wear silk or satin wraps under knitted caps to protect your hair from friction.
Moisture control and keeping low-tension styles is also recommended. Think of it this way, if you pull a single hair with force, it will snap from the stress placed on the strand. If you pull a cluster of strands with the same force, they will be resistant to break because less stress is placed on each strand.
Frequently alternating hairstyles is a perfect way to reduce tension and breakage. You can still wear weaves and protective styles, just make sure they are low-tension.