Don't pull your hair out to look good

By . - Monday, April 22, 2013

Via - Sunday World by MOSA MOKHEMA

IT is an unusually quiet and cold morning at one of the dozens of hair salons dotted around the noisy Randburg taxi My aim is to canvass both stylists and their clients on their thoughts about hair loss in women. Even though it is during office hours on a weekday, there are four ladies - the professional types - in the salon getting their hair done - from new weaves to maintenance and styling.

How to take good care of your hair

According to research by head of dermatology at Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town professor, Nonhlanhla Khumalo, at least 25% of black women have some form of baldness because of hair loss.
Though many studies have linked hair loss to a variety of hairstyles, there is a general perception among black women that weaves are the number one cause of the epidemic, commonly known as injibaba.
"Listen here, my sister, it is not weaves that mess up your hairline, it's braids," says hairdresser Helen Okpe, who is wearing a Brazilian weave.
"No, no, no," interrupts barber Hubert Eluemelem, "it's all these fancy hairstyles women do - weaves, braids and hair chemicals.
"Many come to me for a haircut once their hair gets damaged. It starts breaking and their hairline starts disappearing," he says.
All the while, the four customers, two of them with hairlines that look like they are beginning to recede, remain tight-lipped. Their silence is loud; it is a clear sign that the epidemic is indeed a touchy subject.
Typically, much has been written about some weave-loving South African celebrities such as Bonang Matheba and Dineo Ranaka who have been on the receiving end of banter about their so-called "vanishing" hairlines.
Matheba was not interested in discussing the subject while Ranaka failed to respond to queries sent to her.
Dr Larry Gershowitz of the Medical Hair Restoration Clinic in Cape Town says he has seen a surge in the number of black patients in recent years.
"An increasing number of mostly young, black, professional women are coming to me for surgical hair transplants as a last resort."
He says transplants are performed in his rooms using a local anaesthetic because they involve the removal of hair-bearing scalp from the back of the head, and then transplanting it into the hairless areas.
According to Gershowitz, women seeking this intervention come to him after years of using "relaxers, straighteners, braiding and weaving".
"They will try every lotion and potion to try to get their hairlines back but obviously you can't expect hair to grow where actual hair follicles have disappeared because of the trauma many of these hairstyles cause," Gershowitz says.
In 2010 Khumalo published the results of her study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatologists. The study found a link between the use of chemical hair relaxers and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia or "messy bald spots".
This, according to the research, is because relaxers break down the amino acids [building blocks] that make up a strand of hair.
Khumalo's study found that injibaba is a result of hair styles that pull the hair too tightly - such as tight ponytails, braids and weaves. Weaving or braiding of relaxed hair accelerates hair loss because further pressure is exerted on already weak strands.
"People are not going to reputable and professional hairstylists who know the science of hair," Mashishi says.
"It is a personal choice whether a person goes all natural, uses chemicals or extensions.
"What really matters is that they must invest in their own hair by regularly moisturising and conditioning it with products that contain natural oils such as olive, jojoba, coconut and marula," he says.


  • Minimise pulling back your hair too tight;
  • Apply natural butters or oils and then massage two to five times a week;
  • Don't sleep in a ponytail, bun, or updo;
  • Avoid wearing elastic headbands, bandanas and tight scarves too often;
  • Redo braids or twists along the edges weekly;
  • Don't make braids or twists too small and tight along the hairline.



According to the South African Hair Foundation, there are numerous lotions available for the supposed treatment of hair loss in women, but in reality there is only one medication that has an effect on female hair loss - and that is Minoxidil.
Prices at leading retailers range between R73 and R142


The cost of hair transplants depends on the extent of your hair loss and the texture and the amount of your donor hair.
It also varies from patient to patient. Prices range from R22000 to R40000.

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