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Dermatol Ther. 2004;17(2):164-76.

Medical and surgical therapies for alopecias in black women.

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Department of Dermatology, Howard University College of Medicine, 2041 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20060, USA.


Hair loss is a common problem that challenges the patient and clinician with a host of cosmetic, psychological and medical issues. Alopecia occurs in both men and women, and in all racial and ethnic populations, but the etiology varies considerably from group to group. In black women, many forms of alopecia are associated with hair-care practices (e.g., traction alopecia, trichorrhexis nodosa, and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia). The use of thermal or chemical hair straightening, and hair braiding or weaving are examples of styling techniques that place African American women at high risk for various "traumatic" alopecias. Although the exact cause of these alopecias is unknown, a multifactorial etiology including both genetic and environmental factors is suspected. A careful history and physical examination, together with an acute sensitivity to the patient's perceptions (e.g., self-esteem and social problems), are critical in determining the best therapy course. Therapeutic options for these patients range from alteration of current hair grooming practices or products, to use of specific medical treatments, to hair replacement surgery. Since early intervention is often a key to preventing irreversible alopecia, the purpose of the present article is to educate the dermatologist on all aspects of therapy for hair loss in black women--including not only a discussion of the main medical and surgical therapies but also an overview of ethnic hair cosmetics, specific suggestions for alterations of hair-care practices, and recommendations for patient education and compliance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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