By now everyone has probably heard about what happened at the Oscars with Will Smith and Chris Rock due to his “G.I. Jane” joke about Jada Pinkett and while everyone has their opinions and jokes about it, the slap raised a bigger conversation. The slap shed a light on alopecia, a condition that affects so many Black women. This conversation is so important because so many people who experience hair loss do not seek help from medical professionals and often go undiagnosed.
Earlier this year, Pinkett opened up about her 2018 alopecia diagnosis and the challenges of publicly losing her hair and confidence.
“Look at this line right here,” Pinkett Smith, 50, said as she pointed to her scalp. “Now this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide, so I thought I’d just share it so y’all not asking any questions — but you know, mama’s going to put some rhinestones in there, and I’m going to make me a little crown.”
In a 2016 survey of 5,594 Black women, 47.6 percent of respondents said they experienced hair loss.
Out of all races, a type of hair loss called central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) affects Black women more, according to recent research by dermatologist Dr. Yolanda Lenzy of Lenzy Dermatology & Hair Loss Center. Black women also have an increased likelihood of developing alopecia areata and traction alopecia compared to white women.
According to a 2017 study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, Black women who have CCCA may be at a greater risk of developing fibroids, which may be linked to a genetic predisposition. Discoid lupus is also common in Black women and can cause scarring hair loss.
“We’re still researching the exact cause, but we think it’s multifactorial: one being genetics,” Lenzy says. “We do know that people of African descent are more prone to scarring conditions like keloids and CCCA is a scarring type of alopecia so it may be a genetic predisposition in a lot of people.”
Common hairstyles and hair care norms also play an essential part in the inequality.
“Certain hair care practices like braids, weaves and locs have been associated with this condition, and Black women tend to wear those styles more than women of other races.”
Because of Black women’s predisposition to alopecia, it’s important to understand both the risk and severity of this form of hair loss. Here are five things you need to know:
1. Your protective styles may not be so protective.
The braids and sew-ins may not require your hair to be manipulated with heat and styling as often. But when they’re too tight and done too often, your hair suffers. Instead of getting these styles back-to-back, you need a break.
“Doing certain styles to give your hair a rest is okay, but if you do that for a prolonged period of time, that’s too much weight and tension on the follicles, and that can lead to