Black women are losing their hair in droves, falling victim to what is known as tension alopecia. I recently saw a segment on “The Doctors” television show about a month ago where actress Countess Vaughn was a guest and the topic of discussion was lace front wigs and weaves and how they are damaging to the hair and scalp of the women that wear them.
Tension alopecia is a condition caused by the non-stop wearing of lace front wigs and weaves. The glue that is used to keep these wigs and weaves in place so that the hair appears to be growing out of the wearers scalp is both damaging hair follicles by placing too much friction on an already fragile hairline and often times pulls away layers of skin each time the wig and/or weave is removed.
Some people wear these glued on wigs for months at a time without having to reapply the glue while others must keep applying it because the front of the wig may lift up or move due to sweating.
Every time I see a woman with a full head of long luxurious wavy/straight/thick hair I am reminded of the lengths (pun intended) that we go through to feel accepted and beautiful. But at what cost? The methods used to apply the popular “lace front wig” or “quick weave” are creating a phenomenon of women young and old to have severely receding hairlines, scalp infections with blisters that become inflamed with puss oozing out and even skin irritation and/or discoloration.
Photo courtesy of: Blackdoctor.org
This is not to say that every woman with long beautiful hair is wearing a wig or weave, but in some cities the a large majority are. It seems that it is becoming more and more common and is almost expected; especially among African American women. Gone are the days of bad, ill-fitting wigs that your grandmother used to wear occasionally.
It was not until recently that these wigs became available to the general public and they have become very popular because they give the illusion that the person wearing it has this beautiful hair growing from their scalp. Now the implications for needing to wear someone elseʼs hair; to have long luxurious, silky, shiny straight or wavy 22 to 36 inches of hair that was once applied to someone elseʼs head is a subject that needs to be explored at another time.
For today we will simply focus on the fact that wearing these accessories if they can be called that is posing a serious threat to the health of many women without them even being aware of it.
Apparently, to some women the convenience of magically having a head full of long hair cascading down our backs is more important than the health of our own hair and scalp. This constant need to feel beautiful through the eyes of someone else has lead to a widespread epidemic of black women going bald. But how do these women feel when they see themselves without this crutch hair. Especially once their own hair starts to break off and recede which is often irreversible. It takes a certain amount self esteem to be completely secure in your own skin and not feel the pressure to look like someone else or succumb to societies idea of whats beautiful.
We have all seen children as young as three or four years old, wearing weaves and braids in order to make their hair longer. What message does this give them? Are we sending the wrong signals to little black girls and ultimately boys who will undoubtedly grow into the young men that will eventually date these young women. Are we telling them and ourselves that we women are not pretty enough without long flowing hair; and why canʼt we just take the time and care to grow our own hair?
Does growing up in a culture that admires the look and feel of someone elseʼs hair on your head instead of loving and nurturing your own hair (permed or au naturale) desensitize people to the widespread self hatred that some of these behaviors display? And where does this hair come from? A quick search online for the words “wigs” and “weave” returns 15,100,000 and 16,900,000 results respectively.
Hair factories and beauty supply stores are on every corner but the hair is almost always imported from India, China, Korea or Brazil with no guarantee that this hair is safe or free from lice and disease. What is not as readily available is the warning labels to go with the products. The salesperson at the beauty supply store will happily sell the glues and other accessories necessary for applying the hair but never mention that it may cause an allergic reaction or that repeatedly applying the glue to reattach the lace front wigs to the hairline can cause the top layers of the skin to be removed along with the glue let alone the damage the lace does to the hair follicles.
Now I am not opposed to anyone wearing wigs and/or weaves but just like anything else it should be done in moderation and with the understanding that it is an accessory; something used to change up your look occasionally; not a replacement for your own hair. The quest for beautiful hair should not lead to a myriad of health issues nor should be the cause of women young and old going bald before our very eyes.
What do you think? Are lace front wigs and weaves causing women to loose their hair in record numbers? Have you noticed more and more women with severely damaged and receding hairlines?