How To Prevent Hair Loss– According To Dr. Ugonabo



Hair shedding is a natural cycle regardless of your texture. You may notice this especially when taking down braids, while you shampoo, or detangle your hair. “It is normal to shed about 50 to 100 hairs in a given day,” board-certified dermatologist and SheaMoisture education partner, Dr. Nkem Ugonabo tells ESSENCE. The average hair growth cycle occurs in three phases: the growing phase (anagen) which can last up to six years until the regressing phase occurs (catagen), before the hair sheds in the (telogen) resting phase. 

“Normally, about 90% of our scalp hairs are in the anagen phase, but our growth cycles can be interrupted by numerous things,” Ugonabo says. Excessive shedding (known by dermatologists as telogen effluvium) can be triggered by issues such as a recent illness, stress, postpartum, medications, and weight loss. But unlike excess shedding, “true hair loss is when something is preventing the hair from growing the way it otherwise would,” she says. Think: conditions like alopecia. From traction alopecia (often caused by tight/ high tension hairstyles) to alopecia areata (commonly caused by your immune system), it is important to note what category your hair falls into. 

While losing hair is common in all hair types, Afro-textured hair faces a particular threat. “[A] common type of cicatricial alopecia is called Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA), which is classically characterized by hair loss that begins in the crown area and spreads outward,” she says. This is sometimes associated with burning, itching or pain. “Afro-textured hair is more fragile and prone to damage during grooming and styling [because of] structural differences in the hair shaft.” Because of this, hair breakage caused by a damaging hair care routine (like use of excessive heat, chemical relaxers, and hair dye) can lead to hair loss. 

While an expert diagnosis is recommended to appropriately treat hair loss, below are a few general tips Dr. Nkem Ugonabo recommends, for textured hair, to help reduce breakage and strengthen your tresses. 

Shampoo and condition every 1-2 weeks

How frequent textured hair should be washed is a constant debate. For Ugonabo, “this will vary by patient and hair type,” she says. In general, every 1-2 weeks is the dermatologist-approved guideline for shampooing and conditioning kinkier textures. The new Shea Moisture Bond Repair Shampoo and Conditioner is a sulfate-free option infused with restorative HydroPlex for 84% less breakage, making the hair six times stronger. 

Use deep or leave-in conditioner for additional moisture

“Keeping the hair moisturized in between washes is important in order to prevent breakage,” she says. “In addition to regular conditioners, consider a deep and leave-in conditioner to add additional moisture to the hair.” As seen in our March/ April Issue, the Cécred Moisturizing Deep Conditioner targets dehydrated hair with 12 African oils and butters for multi-level moisturization after shampoo and conditioning. “[Textured hair] can get drier faster compared to those with straight hair types, which can result in breakage,” she says. This is why deep conditioning is a necessary step to prevent hair loss. 

Always use heat protectant

Trending silk presses and flipped-ended bobs may have you using heat tools more than usual. “[But] breakage can be propagated by excessive use of heat (e.g. flat irons) particularly without a heat protectant,” she says. “Always use heat protectant prior to applying any hot tools such as flat irons or hot combs.” From the Oribe Gold Lust Dry Heat Protectant Spray, which shields damage up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, to the award-winning Ceremonia Guava Rescue Spray, protecting against UV damage and heat, prepping your hair against aggressive tools will reduce the amount of hair you lose. 

Try to limit tension when styling hair

We all know the headache and stiff neck combination after a high tension hairstyle, which, as mentioned above, can cause traction alopecia. “When getting braids, cornrows or extensions, choose your stylist carefully and communicate if there is pain when you are getting your hair done,” she says. If our go-tos are causing hair loss, we should consider an updated approach to how we style our hair. Your hairstyle can be neat, long-lasting, and comfortable– so try to limit or reduce tension when possible. 

“If you’re someone who likes to switch up your hair, it is important to use products to help moisturize and strengthen your hair,” she says, especially with protective hairstyles. Ugonabo recommends the SheaMoisture Bonding Oil enriched with amla oil to lock in moisture, prevent frizz and protect from heat (think: pre-braid blowouts) which can be applied before and after a high-tension hairstyle is installed. 

Protect your hair while sleeping

“Sleep with a satin scarf and or pillowcase at night to reduce friction on your hair,” Ugonabo says. If your bonnet or durag is prone to falling off at night, a silk pillowcase is an extra guard to prevent friction. If you do not cover your hair, cotton sheets not only cause friction but can dry out your coils, which in turn causes breakage.


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