CHEVY CHASE, Md. (WUSA) -- For years Michelle Levy wore her hair in tight braids and changed her hairstyle every month. As time went on, the stress on the roots of the hair, plus stress in her day-to-day life, led to a new problem.
Levy says, "For about 5 or 6 years I was dealing with hair loss. I actually had baldness, like my scalp was shining. There were areas with no hair."
Michelle was diagnosed with scarred alopecia caused by grooming practices and stress. Monte O. Harris, M.D. of the says this diagnosis is fairly common.
Dr. Harris says, "When we look at hair loss, particularly in women of African descent, it's reaching epidemic proportions. We see hair loss in an alarming rate."
He says the culprits are weaves, extensions, and ponytails used for long periods of time that create tension on the hair.
"I've seen women of all different ethnicities and ages come in with thinning whether it's in the temples or the frontal hairline related to traction and it is readily reversible," shares Harris.
He notes the causes of hair loss is more complex in women than in men.
He says, "It can be hormonal issues, it can be things related to grooming practices, it can be stress related or childbirth. It's a full spectrum and when we look at that in comparison to male hair loss, male hair loss tends to be hormonal."
Just like any other medical condition, early diagnosis is key.
Harris says, "One of the goals that we have is to catch things early so we can really avoid surgery."
Surgery means hair-grafting procedures, which is what Michelle needed. Dr. Harris placed over 600 hair graphs into the area where Michelle's scalp was showing.
Overall, a multi-tiered approach was used including light therapy and topical treatments to stimulate the hair follicles and strengthen the scalp.
She started to see the results about 3 weeks later.
Levy says, "You're excited you know, you're like 'it grows, it's alive!'"
Levy wishes someone told her years ago that having your hair styled simply shouldn't hurt.
Dr. Harris says, "Any time there's any degree of pain associated with whether it's an extension, whether it's a weave, whether it's braids, whether there is even some sort of blow drying or combing if you feel it, if there's pain associated with it, usually that means that there is some level of trauma that's happening beneath the scalp."
He also says be mindful of drying out your scalp. He recommends staying away from alcohol-based hair products.
Written by Thomas James
WUSA9 & wusa9.com