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Mending ‘crowns’: How a Dallas hair stylist is fostering hope for Black ladies with alopecia

6 Min Read

Merdie Nzanga is a 2023-2024 Frances Ellen Watkins Harper reporting fellow. Discover her work.

Bridget Alem, a hair stylist in Dallas, is making a secure area for Black ladies who expertise hair loss to really feel lovely once more.

Alem’s store, Girl B Salon, focuses on alopecia — the medical time period for hair loss — and most of her purchasers are Black ladies who battle with shedding what they take into account their “crowns.” She serves a multicultural clientele who search her out for her care.

“Hair is our creativity,” stated Dr. Hope Mitchell, a Black dermatologist in Toledo, Ohio, who has handled folks with alopecia. “It makes me feel powerful, it makes me feel special and important. And when we don’t have it or when it’s falling out in front of our eyes, it’s very painful.” 

There are greater than 10 kinds of alopecia, and Black ladies are extra vulnerable to have at the very least two of them: traction alopecia and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA). 

About 15 % of Black ladies expertise CCCA, based on a JAMA Dermatology report, and half of Black ladies expertise some sort of hair loss, based on the American Academy of Dermatology. 

Dermatologists say in search of assist early is essential. 

“The sooner that we’ve these sufferers in our workplace, the extra profitable we’re going to be by way of reversing the hair loss situation,’’ Mitchell stated.

For a lot of, nonetheless, the primary cease earlier than a health care provider’s workplace is a store like Alem’s.

Alem begins every consumer’s journey with a session in a non-public room away from the openness of a conventional salon, and that’s the place she makes them comfy, even those that “don’t want to remove their wigs, or their hat, or their scarves,” she stated.

“I tell them no matter what condition your hair is in, I’m a hair stylist. I will take care of you,” Alem stated.

Ladies additionally clarify that they’ve been rejected at different hair salons by stylists who mistakenly believed hair loss was contagious, or they’ve been made enjoyable of due to their hair situation. Some share that they don’t really feel lovely.

“We do everything to make sure they feel loved, because most of the time they don’t feel loved, they don’t think they’re beautiful,” Alem stated.

Alem explains the chances of how she will be able to type their hair, together with customized wigs or pixie cuts, she stated. Alem doesn’t solely empathize along with her purchasers, she makes it private. 

“I tell them I take you like my own sister, my own mom or my own friend. What if this happened to my own mother or child? It’s a way to make them feel comfortable,” she stated. 

Alem additionally refers purchasers to discover a good dermatologist who can diagnose their situation, saying, “I’m not a doctor.”

For Mitchell, the preliminary session is about analysis and growing a remedy plan, the aim of which is to stop the development of the situation and develop new hairs to enhance density. 

She understands that culturally, hair is essential for Black ladies. 

Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, a Black dermatologist based mostly in Chicago, agrees.

“Hair is our crown, it’s the way we present ourselves to the world, it’s the way we think of ourselves when we look at ourselves in the mirror,” Kaminska stated. “When you can’t wear your hair the way you want to, for any patient, anybody, it can make you feel devastated.” 

That stigma can stop Black ladies from in search of skilled assist. Some mistakenly consider that chopping off all of their hair will assist it develop again, which doesn’t deal with the underlying subject, Kaminska stated. 

Nonetheless others flip to unproven merchandise they will purchase on-line or in shops. Each dermatologists recommend that if individuals are experiencing hair loss, they need to see an authorized dermatologist. 

“Finding a dermatologist that focuses on hair loss that has a good track record of dealing with patients with hair loss would be preferable,” Kaminska stated.

The dermatologists warning towards trusting TV commercials for hair loss therapies that aren’t science-based. False commercials “prey on our emotional sensitivity,” Mitchell stated, promising that they are going to assist develop hair again, giving typically not simply Black ladies however anybody experiencing hair loss false hope.

Actual hope could be discovered of their workplaces and in locations like Girl B Salon, the place Alem stated that probably the most thrilling half about her job is boosting her purchasers’ self-confidence and making them really feel liked. 

“Once their hair is done, it boosts their self esteem,” she stated. “They appreciate my professionalism and confidentiality, and they feel beautiful.”

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