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Primp with caution.
It’s hard to enough to make your bun look good without worrying about whether or not your hairstyle will make you go bald. But new research shows that African American women, in particular, are at risk for developing bare patches from their ‘dos. And some styles are more damaging than others.
About one-third of African American women suffer from traction alopecia (TA), a type of gradual hair loss caused by damage to the hair follicle. But TA can happen to anyone who regularly wears their hair in tight ponytails, pigtails, or braids.
In a scientific review of 19 studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, scientists urge doctors to learn which hairstyles can lead to TA, so that women can be educated before their hair loss becomes permanent.
In their paper, scientists categorized hairstyles and styling practices into high, moderate, and low-risk categories. According to their findings, greater levels of tension, weight, heat, and chemicals (like those used as straighteners) all raised a woman’s risk of developing TA.
Braids, dreadlocks, weaves, and extensions were all categorized as high-risk, and applying them to chemically-straightened hair was especially bad. Why? The added weight and constant pulling can cause breakage, especially if a woman’s hair has been damaged from chemicals. Luckily, if you’ve got natural, unprocessed hair you can rock most of these styles with only moderate risk.
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Hairstyles with the lowest risk were those that created the least amount of tension, like loose buns, evenly distributed updos, or wearing your hair down.
Researchers say you’re not totally screwed if you love to wear your hair in braids or dreadlocks. Instead, they recommend that women with those high-risk hairstyles try to loosen things up and ease the weight on the hair follicle periodically. They also suggest that braided hairstyles be in place for no longer than two to three months and weaves and extensions be removed after six to eight weeks.
Finally, scientists recommend mixing up your hairstyle, and trying to reduce or even avoid updos in order to let your hair follicles recover from the stress of a high-risk hairstyle. And avoid those chemical relaxers whenever possible.
Damn. No one ever said beauty was easy.