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Afro-Caribbean Hair

 

Throughout my trichology degree, I was fortunate to volunteer my time to participate regular work experience at the Battersea Scalp and Hair Clinic where the incredibly knowledgeable Mr John Firmage and Mr Keith Hobbs specialise in diagnosing and successfully treating a large number of the highly populated Afro-Caribbean/ Black community of South London.

The dry climate of the UK can make black skin types very itchy in this environment due to the lack of water content and low levels of natural sebum oil compared to the more oily skin produced of a caucasian skin type, this can assist in creating a number of skin problems. Black hair also suffers more in a dry UK climate making it more prone to breakage after chemicals and heated appliances as the hair too lacks water which is essential for producing elasticity and strength. Humid climates improve the elasticity of black hair types as it replaces the water back into the hair which makes styling easier whilst abroad compared to the dry central heating we have in our homes in the UK and pollution from the cities we work in which can contribute to the breakage of dry, brittle hair.

Untreated symptoms of skin conditions left ignored can have a progressively worse effect on the nature of the condition and make it hard to resolve the problem if the cause hasn’t been detected. Conditions are often made worse by rubbing in miracle oil cures possibly causing breakage to the hair and sensitising previously scaly, itchy scalps causing a contact dermatitis and possible permanent hair loss. Ointments at the NHSC are specifically made for a patient’s individual case making treatment successful and personal.

Folliculitis is an inflamed condition of the hair follicle particularly common in black males. Present usually in the back of the head, or sometimes extending up to the crown area can be itchy, sore raised pustules that when scratched can lead to scarring and in some cases disfiguring keloid scars (thickened and raised skin). It is essential to eliminate the causes of this condition and the use of specific home treatments from the clinic regularly will keep the condition at bay and prevent hair loss along with disfigurement.

Hair loss in black hair types is common due to the styling techniques of this difficult to manage hair type. The long length and straightness of caucasian hair is fashionably desired, often with a multitude of colours. These can be hard styles to accomplish and maintain in this hair type due to its natural morphological difference between other hair types of its elliptical hair shape proving greater vulnerability, prone to breakage where the hair shaft twists where it characteristically curls.

Curly perms and relaxers are popular styling procedures on Afro- Caribbean hair. Breakage and scalp burns are commonly related to these procedures if the chemical is left on too long or lack of knowledge in this area in the application methods. Complications often arise with mixed races where the hair types of black and European/ South American/or Asian are combined making the chemicals too strong as different hair types need to be treated different with different products and methods. Straightening caucasian hair involves a totally different process to black hair types. Black hair type involves the breaking of the main disulphide bonds in the hair by hydrolysis whilst the hair is under traction as opposed to caucasian hair that involves a reducing agent such as ammonium thioglycollate. Hydrolysis has a depilatory effect on the internal structure of the hair, the apparently kinder “no lye” products containing Guanidine hydroxide are as damaging as the usual sodium hydroxide lye relaxer as the pH has an extremely high alkalis level to penetrate the many cuticle layers of the external part of the hair shaft, however unfortunately is very strong for the weak inner cortex of this hair type hence the crucial timing of such chemicals. Home hairdressing with these products is hazardous so choose your hairdresser wisely as knowledge of precise timing and not overlapping over previously relaxed hair will give your hair the best chance of no breakage and scalp sensitisation. Dehydrated, broken hair can be treated in the clinic with hypo allergenic treatments and steaming to replace the lost water from the hair. Scalp treatments for scaly conditions arisen from these procedures are also available within the clinic.

Traction loss can be an area of hair that is thinning, contain very sparse short hairs or that has completely denuded an area caused by chemical, thermal or physical trauma. Factors such as hot combing, concentrated hairdryer nozzles, weighty hair extensions, weave-ons, tight cane rowing, tight hair styling or even massaging in oils can be detrimental to hair. Marginal hair loss around the front or neck hairline is extremely common. Tight hairstyles, weight on the area and usually relaxers from overlapping where the product was applied first combined with incorrect timing of the chemical are usually responsible for this form of marginal loss. Electrotherapy consisting of high frequency, ultra violet and infra red rays prove very beneficial on most traction conditions and has a good success rate for improving the condition. Hair that has been absent for a number of years may have a debatable good prognosis as it depends on the duration and aetiology of the condition.



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