Informing Your Client About Hair Loss in Black Women

Informing Your Client About Hair Loss in Black Women

As stylists, we do more than create incredible looks in our chairs.  Hair loss is an unexpected and traumatic experience. We are often our client’s primary source of applicable hair knowledge. That means when our expert eye notices conditions such as alopecia, we need to bring it to their attention. Black women’s hair loss can be disheartening and difficult. It often creates feelings of shame and embarrassment. Some clients may not even realize they have hair loss or are too uncomfortable to address it with you, their stylist. Hair loss in Black women is common, so we shouldn’t shy away from discussing it. It’s our job to create a safe space where we can have an honest discussion about any hair conditions that may be affecting our clients.

Society often ties a woman’s perceived beauty and equates it to morals and worth. Our society pushes women to believe that long, thick, flowing hair is the highest perception of hair beauty. That description usually places the image of straight or wavy hair, not tight curls. For tight curls to be considered beautiful, they must be long, full, and often manipulated into an alternative style to prove that the hair is, in fact, long. This notion combined with contradicting hair advice within the Black community causes a lot of women to struggle with accepting and feeling beautiful in their natural hair. It makes it even harder when certain styles and techniques that are meant to make the hair “acceptable” can lead to hair loss.

Common Types of Hair Loss in Black Women

If you primarily serve Black clients, it’s almost certain some have come to you with a form of hair loss. Some hair loss is genetic, like androgenetic alopecia. Other forms of hair loss are caused by poor hair health habits. Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) is caused by the continual use of weaves, braids, corn rows, extension styles, and chemical relaxers. These practices can cause hair follicles to become inflamed. Traction alopecia is caused by the long-term wear of tight hairstyles. These styles pull at the hair’s root and can cause it to prematurely leave the scalp. It can happen anywhere on the head and often occurs in patches.

All of these forms of hair loss or damage can become permanent. Another common form of hair loss is breakage. Breakage can occur from mishandling the hair, poor product use, excessive chemical treatments, certain hairstyles, heat, and more. Breakage can occur anywhere along the hair shaft, causing uneven hair that struggles to retain length. Other conditions result in excessive hair loss, so both you and your clients need to be well informed. You can learn more about hair loss in Black women on our podcast.

The first step as a tight curl professional is starting a dialogue about your client’s hair health. Here’s how.

Show Your Client the Hair Loss

You should be candid with your client about the state of their hair. If you notice missing patches, thinning hair, or breakage you should politely inform them. We suggest asking for permission to take a video of their entire head on their cell phone. Show them the specific areas where the hair has thinned or missing. If your client has thick, dense hair it’s harder for them to notice the loss. Watch the video together and explain what you’re seeing to your client. You must treat them with kindness and gentleness. Hair loss may come as a massive shock to them. It may be a good idea to take regular videos and pictures of their hair and scalp so that both of you can see any progression of hair loss over time. Alternatively, you can monitor the hair’s recovery if styling and treatment were the cause of hair loss.

Suggest Healthier Hairstyles

If hair loss is occurring, it’s important to promote healthier hair choices. Ideally, your client should hold off on wearing extension styles or styles that are too tight. Avoiding harsh chemical treatments during this time is also important. Wearing loose styles such as the wash-n-go will prevent further damage from tension. If they still want extension styles, such as braids, make modifications to lessen the chance of damage. Regardless if your client has hair loss or not, you should always prioritize comfort when installing a style. If your client has a sore scalp or painful sores and bumps after you do their hair, you’ve done it too tightly. Women who have been diagnosed with traction alopecia have expressed feeling the symptoms above after getting a hairstyle.

As a stylist, it’s important to teach the warning signs of potential hair and scalp damage. Pain is one of them.

Show Empathy and Understanding

Hair loss is a touchy and difficult subject. Stylists need to have compassion for the clients in their chairs! Use your knowledge and experience to help guide your clients in the right direction. It’s also up to us to help them feel beautiful in their skin. I suggest you find ways to work with the available hair and find styles that your client adores. I make sure my clients with hair loss walk away feeling confident.

You can also provide hair care tips. If your client is suffering from breakage and loss due to styling, help them find products that work well with their hair. You can also suggest taking a break from such treatments so you can work on a hair health program. Last, but not least, you can encourage them to seek professional help.

Encourage Seeing a Dermatologist

Tell your client to see a dermatologist. An early diagnosis is critical for hair loss. It’s necessary to determine exactly how and why it’s happening. If your client is a Black woman, we recommend she seek out a Black dermatologist or at the very least, a dermatologist familiar with Black skin. Because the Black community is underserved in healthcare you should see a specialist who is committed to serving it. Medical conditions are frequently misdiagnosed, overlooked, or ignored. We love this site, which helps you locate a Black dermatologist near you.

Hair Loss in Black Women is not a Stigma

Hair loss should not be stigmatized no matter the root cause. The way society regards and jokes about Black women’s hair loss makes it harder to get properly diagnosed. There are so many women who could not come to terms with losing hair because they wanted to avoid confirmation. The damage may have spread and has become irreversible by the time an appointment is made. The general rule of thumb is the sooner you can get a hair loss diagnosis, the more hair you have a chance of saving. Informing our clients about hair loss, its various causes, and how to manage it is imperative work.

If you want to better serve and protect tight curls, we recommend our Tight Curl Pro training. We emphasize the importance of hair health and safe practices that can benefit each and every client, regardless of hair loss.

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