I stared at my hair in the mirror in horror on that fateful day and tears welled in my eyes. Small bald spots on my hairline stared back at me, and I could not believe the amount of hair that had come off with my braids.
And my story is not a unique one. If you are a woman of colour keeping your hair natural, you’ll know that one hairstyle can be the difference between a thriving and a thinning hairline.
The official term for this condition is ‘traction alopecia’, a form of gradual hair loss that is caused by tension, stress and pulling on the scalp and hair fibres [Source].
Traction alopecia can happen anywhere on the head, but today I’ll be focusing mainly on the hairline area.
What are the leading causes of thinning hairlines?
Unless there’s a medical reason, most women, myself included, experience thinning hairlines due to the following reasons.
- Poor styling techniques – tight braiding, ‘laying edges’, using the wrong tools etc
- Postpartum shedding – when the baby hormones wear off, some women will experience crazy shedding
- Poor grooming techniques – relaxers, heat overuse
- Anxiety and stress – which is why self-care is so important
But first, what are ‘baby’ hairs?
In case you are newer to natural hair lingo – baby hairs is a term used to refer to the short and softer, unruly hairs that are usually found along the hairline.
This is what people usually ‘slick down’, or ‘lay down with gel and pomades for that sleek look.
What can you do if your hairline is gone and you need to recover it?
For this, I usually recommend these simple steps:
- Stop plaiting, braiding and generally doing any pulling on your hair. My recovery took about 6 months, but for some people, it can take up to a year.
- Massage your scalp daily. You can use peppermint, Vicks Vapor rub (yes some people swear by it), anything menthol-y, eucalyptus, castor oil. The whole point is that you want to stimulate blood flow to your head. So about 5-10 mins should be good. Set a timer for the same time every evening to build the habit.
- Look after yourself – eat a well-balanced diet, take your vitamins, drink water, lots of it.
- Be patient. I know the shame and desperation that settles in when hair loss occurs, but don’t give in to trying everything under the sun – products, potions and hairstyles, there is no miracle. If you wait it out, the hair will eventually grow back normally.
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It is important to note that sometimes a hairstyle in itself may not be bad, but the technique can be that eats at your hairline.
So if you do decide to go and try out a hairstyle, make sure that you or whoever is doing the style has a good grasp of natural hair.
- The ‘puff’
The simplicity of this hairstyle is what makes it lethal. 5 minutes tops and boom, you are out of the house.
I don’t think wearing it occasionally would hurt, but spotting it 5days a week is bound to do some damage.
What you can do instead: If you want a similar effect with less damage, pull up the back, and leave the front loose, like this.
The year was 2014, and I decided to get some box braids done by someone with little experience with natural hair. I keep the style for 3 days, but my hairline took a serious beating.
I had even convinced her to leave some baby hairs out, but the braiding was too tight, and since the braids were too heavy, the damage was inevitable.
Box braids aren’t necessarily bad, but when you do get them, it’s best to make sure that you leave the baby hairs out, and you get more hair than the extension to avoid the heaviness and having your hair pulled by the extensions.
I got them done again recently, and the experience was a much better one.
3. Carrot/Feed-in cornrows
This style was trending a few years ago, but I don’t think people do it as much anymore.
I used to wear it all the time because I looked great it in, and my hairdresser could do it faster than most hairstyles 🙂
‘Neat’is synonymous with the style, and neat usually means ALL hair must be tucked in.
I know that some stylists will start with your own hair without the braid, which is supposed to make the style less harmful, but I wouldn’t do it if I was on the process of recovering my hairline.
4. Micro Braids
The appeal with microbraids is that they last longer, and they do look great.
Personally, I’ve never had them done for this one reason. The thought of sitting down for hours getting them done makes me what to curl in a corner and suck my thumb.
And I imagine taking them down will probably take a similar length of time. Again, curl in a corner and cry for me 🙂
The closest I’ve come to micro-braids is this style below, for my first trip to Canada, before I knew anything about natural hair, or care.
This is one style that I don’t have the patience nor the time to do and undo, so my advice would be that it’s better to leave it until you’ve nursed your hairline.
Hairstyles that usually involve doing tracks to install involve pulling on the hairline, so I rarely do them.
At the end of the day, I invest time, energy and money on my hair, so I’ll avoid anything that compromises it’s health, no matter how cute that style can make me look for a few days.
Have you had experiences with losing hair on your hairline? How did you recover them? And how long was the process?
Leave a comment in the comments below!