This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
Hold that hot comb, say a team of researchers -- African American women suffering from scarring hair loss may have weaves, braids and other hair-grooming traditions at least partly to blame.
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia is a type of hair loss that spreads from the middle of the scalp outward. It spreads as hair follicles die and are replaced by scar tissue, and it seems to be a particular issue for African American women, though its causes are not well understood.
For the study published online Monday in the journal Archives of Dermatology, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio surveyed 326 women at two churches and a health fair, asking them about their medical history and hair care, among other things.
They found that those with little or no sign of hair loss were less likely to have used hot combs to straighten their hair than those with significant hair loss (42%, compared with 49%) and less likely to have had braids, extensions or weaves (48%, compared with 57%).
The researchers say that these hairstyles, particularly because they're maintained for long periods of time, cause “traction” as they pull on the hair, and that stress may be contributing to the hair loss and scarring. It’s almost a vicious cycle; the researchers point out that these same hairstyles are actually used “in those with the most severe central hair loss to increase hairstyle versatility while camouflaging hair loss” (emphasis added).
Another interesting finding to come out of the study: The scarring hair loss was associated with Type 2 diabetes -- so it may be a useful warning to physicians to test their patients for diabetes and other issues of metabolic dysfunction.
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For the record: 2:45 p.m. April 14: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that those with little or no sign of hair loss were more likely to have had braids, extensions or weaves.