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Skin Care and Diseases

Please assist

11/22/2006

Question:

Hi there, I hope you can help. I have a hair growth question that I hope you will assist with. I am a 35 year old female African American and have worn extensions/braids for quite awhile. As a result, my hair is thin and weak and I would like to restore and grow my hair. The only medication I take is 5mg folic acid a day (for Sickle Cell Disease). I have no other medical issues. There is no history in my family of hair loss. My hair is thinning around my temples and my hair has sloooowwww growth. I was thinking of trying Rogaine but have not as yet. Pls pls assist! Thxs in advance

Answer:

Your story is not uncommon and you are suffering from what is known as traction alopecia.  Over many years, the weight of your hair and the tension that has been put on the hair with the braids has resulted in damage to the growing follicles in all likelihood.  Some of the follicles have been destroyed and others are not functioning well as you have indicated, and the hairs are becoming thin and increasingly brittle, giving the impression of hair loss. 

If there is to be any restoration it will have to be with improved hair care.  You really must go without traction of the hair, and maybe some of it will regrow.  The prognosis, as I understand your problem, is not a happy one.  Rogaine has an impact on hormonal alopecias and rarely on mechanicals.  It does cause hair follicles to stay in the growing phase and there is a possibility of some return to normal hair diameter at your age. 

For an accurate review, I would suggest that you see your board certified dermatologist for a complete review and possible scalp biopsy to very accurately determine the cause of the changes in your hair.  There are several international experts in hair loss that you might wish to consult:  Dr. Wilma Bergfeld at the Cleveland Clinic (bergfew@ccf.org) and Dr. Vera Price at UC San Francisco (pricev@derm.ucsf.edu).

Good luck.

 

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Response by:

Charles L Heaton, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati