Temporary Damage vs. Permanent Baldness

Baldness with scarring
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How to Tell the Difference

No one wants to experience hair loss, but it happens on a daily basis as part of the normal phases that hair follicles go through.  Our hair goes through a normal growth cycle that involves hairs falling out and new ones growing in their place.  But sometimes your client loses more hair than occurs with normal shedding and the hair grows back and on other occasions it is the beginning of permanent baldness.  Knowing the difference can help you take action to help your client avoid losing their hair for good.

Understanding why they are losing hair and noticing the appearance and textural changes in the skin on the scalp is critical to being able to tell if the hair loss is associated with scarring that can lead to permanent hair loss.

What Is Happening to Your Clients’ Hair?

Sometimes you know exactly what caused the problem.  If their hair starts breaking off soon after they’ve tried a new product or a severely stressful period, there is not a lot of mystery there. In these cases the scalp itself looks healthy without areas of redness, puffiness, thickened skin or discoloration.  The hair growth will usually return to normal within 6 to 12 months after the factors that caused it have been eliminated.  Some tender love care, conditioning and a new hair style to protect the hair will help your clients’ hair recover.

Traction alopecia is the result of pulling hair into tightly braided styles over time.  The hair loss is actually preceded by traction folliculitis which is associated with the presence of pinpoint pus bumps around the hair follicles in the areas where tension is present and stretching the hair shafts.  If this condition is caught early, it is reversible, but if it goes on too long more severe injury occurs, and the follicles will become so badly scarred they are not likely to grow hair anymore.  No hairstyle should hurt, and small bumps on the scalp along areas where the hair is braided are a big red flag that a style is too tight.  This goes double for children – don’t ignore their complaints about hair styles hurting or you are increasing their chances for permanent hair loss down the road.

A range of medical problems including lupus, thyroid conditions, polycystic ovarian syndrome and severe stress can cause hair loss, and so can some medications.  Autoimmune problems and infections can also be the problem.  Some of these conditions cause the scalp to be dry, scaly or flaky while others are associated with a normal looking scalp.  If you come across areas on your clients’ scalp where the skin feels tight, looks shiny, and the hair follicles are missing, there is a strong possibility that scarring is developing and your client is on the way to developing permanent baldness. When you notice these types of changes occurring, it is best to refer your client for medical evaluation and treatment.  A skin biopsy of the scalp may or may not be necessary to make a diagnosis and develop the best treatment plan.

Keeping these tips in mind, you should be on the lookout for any abnormal areas on your client’s scalp so that any underlying medical issues are noticed and treated quickly.

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