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African American Women’s Hair More Fragile Than Caucasian Hair

Hair fragility is often a major cosmetic hair concern in African American women. The microscopic structural differences in the hair shaft in patients of African descent compared to Caucasian patients lead to an inherent dry, curly, frizzy texture that is often difficult to comb and style. Harsh styling methods used to comply with cultural and personal standards may be damaging to the scalp and hair shaft. Historically, most studies on the hair and scalp have looked solely at the Caucasian population.

A recent study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology looked at differences in perceptions of hair health, hair care practices, and biologic hair parameter differences between Caucasian and African American females. The study examined hair care practices as well as measured differences in hair growth, density, diameter, cycle, and scalp blood flow. African American and Caucasian females between the ages of 21 and 60 completed a questionnaire regarding their perceptions of hair health and their hair care practices. Each participant also received a baseline assessment of the scalp, a 60-second hair count, and an initial scalp blood flow assessment.

The results showed significant differences between both groups in hair shaft type, hair breakage, and desire to change their hair. The majority of African American women reported dry hair shafts, a problem with hair breakage, and they were more likely to feel that they have dry hair. The researchers also found that African American women were more likely to get their hair washed at a salon and wash their hair less frequently than Caucasian women. Objective differences between the two hair types showed that Caucasian women had more hairs, a larger hair shaft diameter, and their hair grew more quickly than African American women. African American women had an average of 126 broken hairs compared to 13 for Caucasian women. The authors conclude that differences in hair care practices and hair structure among African American women may be contributing to the increased hair fragility and decreased hair growth. This research provides insight that may help develop a culturally targeted approach to managing hair and scalp disorders of African Americans.

Byline: Ellie Mentonelli, PA-S and Martha L. Sikes, MS, RPh, PA-C

Source: Lewallen, R., Francis, S., Fisher, B., Richards, J., Li, J., Dawson, T., Swett, K. and McMichael, A. (2015), Hair care practices and structural evaluation of scalp and hair shaft parameters in African American and Caucasian women. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 14: 216–223. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12157

Adapted from the original article.

[image by jessy731]

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