Mechanical Damage And Hair Loss
Mechanical Damage is a form of hair loss that is self-inflicted and sometimes can be permanent.
Sudden Hair Loss
Hair loss can be devastating and embarrassing to say the least. Speaking from personal experience it took me at least a year to finally accept the fact that I was losing my hair; and fast. Instead of addressing the issue “head-on” I continued to wear extensions and wigs because I did not want to face my truth. Alopecia is hereditary on my maternal side. Usually around the age of 35 most women in my family would start to experience severe shedding and thinning in certain areas. At the age of 33 I started to notice that my crown was breaking off and becoming extremely thin. Instead of caring for my natural hair (like I do now) I continued to wear extensions in an attempt to cover up my sudden hair loss.
Even though I had a genetic predisposition to lose my hair; there was also another underlying issue that contributed to my hair loss which was Mechanical Damage. This form of hair loss (in my opinion) is self-inflicted. Normally Mechanical Damage happens as a result of chemical processing like applying relaxers, bleaching the hair or using excessive heat to straighten or dry the hair. All of these things cause follicle stress and if they are not done professionally or too frequently may result in hair loss.
The Price Of Beauty
Mechanical Damage can be permanent if the follicle root has died. Another form of this type of hair loss comes from Traction Alopecia. The tension and friction of applying hair extensions and wearing wigs causes strain to the follicle. Even wearing head scarves or wraps too tight can cause damage. Over time the follicle becomes weak and fall out. In more severe cases the root can die and again this can prevent hair from returning. Regardless of why one choose to wear hair extensions; there has to be time allowed between installments to nurture and care for the natural hair. When I look back at all of the years that I wore braids and weaves there were very few “breaks” between installments because I had become somewhat addicted to my “extra” hair. I would literally feel naked when it was removed and wouldn’t go longer than a week or so before I had my extensions re-installed. Not only was I wearing my extensions too frequently; but I also failed to care for my natural hair while I wore weaves.
Ever since I could remember my hair had been straighten either by heat or chemical treatments. At the tender age of nine I received my first relaxer; not knowing that I would become enslaved to straightening my hair for the next thirty years. For years I assumed that the waves and humps of my roots in between relaxers meant that it was time for another treatment. In actuality it was simply my God given hair screaming to be freed. It took me three years to learn how to care for my hair with nature instead of chemicals once I stopped using relaxers. The fact that I was able to recondition my mind about wearing my natural hair after three decades of straightening is still astonishing to me.
Learning How To Care For Natural Hair
My dependency on chemical treatments and hair extensions came from a lack of knowledge. I wore these things because honestly, I didn’t know what to do with my own hair. Growing up I was never taught to embrace my natural hair which meant I was clueless when it came to natural hair care. The beginning of my natural hair journey was extremely difficult; it was like trying to hold a conversation with someone who spoke a foreign language. My hair was always dry and seemed as if it wasn’t growing. I had been taught for years that “oil” equaled moisture and as long as I kept my hair “greased” it wouldn’t be dry. Now I realize that my hair needs, craves, wants and desires water.
African-American hair can be very porous and the last thing our hair needs is excessive amounts of oil without real moisture. Oils are great because they are nutrient-rich and they help to nourish the hair follicle, but using them without moisture can cause issues as well. Oils are also a sealant; not only will they help seal in moisture but they can also keep moisture out. They can cause the hair to become even drier if they are not used in combination with something water based. One of my favorite home-made moisturizes is Rosewater with a little castor oil mixed in. This combination is great because the castor oil helps to soften and thicken the hair while the Rosewater moisturizes. Aloe Vera Juice is also a great base for a moisturizer; it's extremely hydrating.
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There is always a fear of the unknown and not knowing enough about how to care for “African-American” hair I believe can lead to Mechanical Damage. There are a lot of great guides on the market today for those who are interested in learning more about textured hair. The choices for natural hair products are also tremendous. So many companies are starting to take notice of the natural hair community and finally are starting to cater to our needs. Being natural is not a fad; its a choice and a lifestyle. I could have easily continued to chemically treat my hair or wear hair extensions, but I chose not too. I was at a point in my life where I felt like I was ready to "embrace and love" my texture and pass that same love on to my two daughters.
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My Four Basic Principles Of a Simple Hair Regimen
Everyone handles hair loss differently. Some people choose to simple allow it to happen while others stand up and fight (like me). It’s all about how you educate yourself when it comes to hair care. A few of my family members were told by their dermatologists that there was simply no hope for their Alopecia; they would have to sit back and enjoy the ride. Without self-education and research these individuals have resorted to wearing wigs while their hair continues to fall out; and unfortunately from what I can tell their hair loss may be permanent.
Even if follicle roots become weak just like with anything that’s living they can be revived again. Eating the right foods and finding a solid hair regimen can help resuscitate weak roots. I sat on my laptop for months until I felt like I was educated enough to gain control of my hair loss issue. I'm still learning and finding new ways to care for my hair. It took me quite some time and lots of trial and error but I’ve finally found a great regimen and combination of natural hair remedies that have given me my hair back.
My Four Basic Principles Of A Simple Hair Regimen
I believe if you can find one good product for each principle and use them consistently and properly you will be able to grow your hair and retain your growth. These principles can will work for anyone no matter if you are relaxed or natural. I apply these four principles throughout my week by doing the following:
Cleanse and deep condition once a week (usually on Sundays)
Apply my growth oil daily (see How To Make Your Own Hair Growth Oil)
Moisturize as needed (moisturizer should always be water based)
As you can see my regimen is EXTREMELY simple and only requires 4 different products. My regimen has not always been this simple and I quickly became a product junkie when I first started my hair journey. Over the years I have learned how to create my own products and have tailored them to the needs of textured, coarse, and porous hair. I've taken these basic principles and incorporated "protective" styling and my growth and retention has never been better.
Protective styling can vary from person to person. How you style your natural hair will vary depending on so many things (length, texture,etc.). My favorite protective style after washing and conditioning my hair are the Granny Plats. This style helps to keep my hands out of my hair which can also cause breaking and shedding; I'm compulsive when it comes to touching my hair. I've learned that the less I manipulate my hair between washes/co-washes the more progress I make.
I'm Glad I'm Finally Here
I can truly say that for once in my life I am at a place where I am truly happy and proud of my hair. No more expensive visits to the hair salon. No more chemical burns and scalp irritation. No more cringing at the site of new growth; I love my texture and I welcome it! Oh yea and when it rains no more ducking for cover! Mechanical Damage can happen to anyone; relaxed or natural. Just make sure that if you choose to wear wigs or extensions you take care of your hair beneath. Even if you have experienced hair loss from these things; it’s never too late to give your hair the T.L.C. it needs to thrive again.