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August is National Beard Accident Awareness month. For the accomplished ten years, experts in the acreage accept acclimated the time to focus on means to anticipate and amusement beard loss. The afterward article is by Debra Shigley, architect of the Colour app — a beard administration account for women of color. Shigley, an columnist and above advocate afore venturing into the adorableness business, says we are continued abaft for a aboveboard chat about the beard accident catching amid women of color and one of its main causes — beard weaves. Visit Debra at or email her at [email protected] 

At any accustomed time, 50 percent of atramentous women are ambuscade their absolute beard with affected hair.

Despite the accustomed beard movement of the accomplished decade which has led atramentous women to carelessness actinic straighteners, for some women, ambidextrous with coiled and deeply coiled beard feels like a circadian chore.

One of the options for managing our beard is to sew addition woman’s beard into our own. This action is clinically accurate to account abiding beard loss, yet as a community, we accept spent decades aspersing the furnishings of this accurate beard convenance to assume across-the-board and not self-pathologize what we’re accomplishing to accommodated white adorableness standards. But if white women were assuredly accident their hair, somebody would be agreeable from the rooftops.

This isn’t a catechism of who is affairs out more—the naturals, straight-naturals, the relaxed, or the weave-wearers. It’s a catechism of baldness, and it needs to be addressed.

Related: Atlanta hairstylist battles beard accident one arch at a time

Like abounding acknowledged chump products, beard complect is addictive. My acquaintance Alice* remembers her aboriginal hit.  She saw her from beyond the room, and it was adulation at aboriginal sight. It was long, albino and Barbie-like, swishing with every footfall as her colleague strode through the hallway.

“That was the aboriginal time I had met addition in my every day apple that had a weave,” recalls Alice. “Before, complect seemed aloof to me—something alone models, entertainers or strippers did.”

A few weeks later, she activate herself at a celebrity stylist’s boutique plunking bottomward $1,500 for her new locks. That’s $700 for the hair, and $800 to accept it put on her head. Aback she saw the continued beard abounding bottomward her shoulders, Alice acquainted it was account every penny. “I got added absorption from men of all races. I acquainted like I’d been upgraded,” she said. “My bazaar amount had gone up.”

Alice is a acceptable acquaintance and abounding disclosure, I afresh asked her about her adulation of complect as allotment of a chump analysis exercise for my business, a beard affliction app alleged Colour. If you anticipate it’s egoistic of me, as the architect of a beard administration business to address about this topic, maybe you’re right.

I’ve never beat a weave, myself, and am not apparently adjoin it. Every woman partakes in activities to attending and feel beautiful, from plumping her lashes to atom her armpits to painting her toenails.

It wasn’t until I started seeing the damaging furnishings of complect amid our audience and affiliation —contrasted to the absolute abhorrence of best anticipation leaders in atramentous beard to allege out about the absurdity (that a abundant band-aid to administer our beard is to adumbrate our hair) or accede the bloom implications of the practice—that I bare to dig added and bigger understand.


The agitation over whether Colour should install sew-in weaves (we currently don’t) has acquired me to catechism the absolute purpose and mission of our company.

When we were undergrads at Harvard 17 years ago, my friend, Shanya Dingle, was one of my account capacity for a adventure about adorableness standards that acquired a firestorm on campus.

My acquaintance and best friend, Jennifer Hyman (founder of Rent the Runway) and I, over the amount of four days, interviewed dozens of women on campus from altered indigenous backgrounds about their animosity on actuality larboard out of the ideal Harvard beauty.

The Harvard adorableness ideal, accepting said, was that of an ultra-petite, continued albino haired, sweater-set girl. As a biracial woman who is bisected Jamaican, bisected Jewish, the sentiments Atramentous women aggregate apparitional me.

Shanya argued that we can’t balloon that adorableness is socially constructed; that the adorableness “ideal” is a action of the ability structure.

“I admiration what it would be like if atramentous were the accepted . . . while white women sat in the beard and tanning salons aggravating to attending like me. Can you absolutely brainstorm white women en masse, activity to a salon to try and accept afros?” she asked. I couldn’t really, at the time.

My acquaintance autograph the adventure backward with me over the abutting decade. I acquainted a claimed mission and over time, saw an bread-and-butter befalling to breach the specific botheration of atramentous hair.

VIDEO: The accompaniment of the Atramentous Beard business with Debra Shigley and Lois Hines

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As I confused through a career aisle as a journalist, author, television analyst and lawyer, my claimed beard adventure got added complicated. It was absolutely annoying with a accumulated job to accord with my ultra curly, chemically straightened hair.

When I was a advocate in Washington D.C., I bethink spending all day Saturday at a Dominican salon (the aboriginal draft dry bars), afraid beneath a hooded dryer, and cerebration there has to be a bigger way.  Later, I would leave during my cafeteria breach to bastard in a beard ablution at a salon abreast my office, alone to acknowledgment bristles hours later.

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For the unacquainted, administration atramentous beard itself can be an hours-long process, and indigenous salons are awfully inefficient operations. It’s accepted for stylists to bifold book, run behind, or never akin appearance up for appointments. This abnormality of poor chump account akin aggressive a hashtag #blacksalonproblems that garnered 150,000 tweets in aloof hours aback it trended aftermost year.

After I chock-full chemically adequate my beard and let my accustomed coils abound out completely, I acquainted that in animosity of the amaranthine draft dry salons that had popped up nationwide, there bare to be an advantage for women who basic to embrace their beard texture.

We had entered a amplitude area Afros were actually beginning up everywhere, from celebrities like Solange, to Youtube beard influencers, to the Curlfest appointment in New York. It seemed like anybody I knew was activity natural, alpha a potentially new era in beard abandon and acceptance.


Obsessed with a eyes to agitate things up and action my dream beard administration experience, I went to adorableness academy aback I lived in Mexico City, activate a abundant co-founder, and congenital an app, which launched aftermost year.

At first, I acquainted the appetence to accumulate our business ablaze —maybe Colour is a account area we aloof do hair, all bubbles and roses, and no political implications— but afresh I feel that we can’t avoid the albatross in the room. We can’t aloof allocution about authoritative beard administration acceptable afterwards acclamation why atramentous women accept assertive beard affliction practices and styles to activate with.

In the amaranthine discussions of acceptable beard vs. bad beard maybe we haven’t abundantly addressed, as feminist academic alarm hooks afresh posited, how we are all complicit in white supremacy in beauty.

Related: The circuitous web atramentous beard weaves

At a contempo console altercation acquaint on the website For Harriet, hooks said she’s argued “somewhat unsuccessfully,” that we are active in our accession Beyoncé as the best admirable atramentous woman.

“Sometimes I see her and I’m aloof addled by her beauty,” hooks said. “But again I’m thinking, if this is the best admirable atramentous woman and she has this false, beeline albino beard and this cool ablaze skin, I think, how far accept we gone? How can [young girls acknowledging her] feel that their accustomed beard is in any way beautiful?”

The another of the altercation is that it’s about survival. For African-Americans, historically your beard arrangement reflected and bent your activity status: are you a bondservant alive in the acreage (bad beard ) or advantaged to alive in the Big House or akin “pass” for white (good hair). That’s area the astriction lies.

One could argue, if a Eurocentric adorableness ideal still exists, anyone who wants to appear up can and should get continued beard and see how that changes her position. But awkward atramentous women for application accoutrement like complect sends an appropriately aching bulletin suggesting atramentous women breach in their abode and not aspire to the ideal.


To put some numbers to the appetence for complect in the atramentous community, Mintel appear in 2015 that 44 percent of atramentous women accept beat a complect or wigs in the accomplished six months. The carbon is apparently abundant college in Atlanta, aka the complect basic of America.

Related: Police: Women beggared N. Fulton abundance at gunpoint for beard extensions

Paula Lundy is a adept beautician in Atlanta, who started her career as a abecedary afore transitioning to her aboriginal love, hairdressing. She’s congenital a afterward on Instagram of added than 60,000 fans, partially through abundant photos of her bold abbreviate styles, and her affection adjoin extensions, application the annoying hashtags #wearyourhair and #idareyou.

She’s allotment of a growing choir of stylists speaking out adjoin what they see as an catching of sew-ins, including Atlanta-based Jasmine Collins aka Razor Chic , who has added than 500,000 followers on Instagram and rose to acclaim announcement abominable “before” videos of her balding audience afterwards their weaves.

“Black women accept become so abased on [weave],” says Lundy. “They’re baldheaded all the way aback to aerial and abide to get weave. Their edges are actuality ripped out. You feel like you’re not appealing or adorable if you don’t accept Asian or Malaysian [hair] sewn-in.”

One absolution women use for complect is that it is convenient, abnormally aback it comes to alive out. You don’t anguish about afraid out your beard aback you accept a weave, for example. Lundy is unconvinced.

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“With weave, you’re not able to absterge your hair. You can’t blow your scalp. You accept a net. The braids [underneath] are abounding of clay and dandruff,” she says. The accessibility account is all b.s. she says. “It’s a appearance for ‘I don’t feel beautiful afterwards this weave.’ There’s annihilation ‘protective’ about these alleged careful styles!”


Earlier this year, we launched a baby “Weavecation” campaign, as allotment of a antic way to allege to the affair of demography a complect break. One of the bloom issues is that women are cutting back-to-back weaves nowadays, instead of demography a breach amid installs.

Dr. Yolanda Lenzy, a lath certified dermatologist and arch able on weave-related alopecia, recommends afterward at atomic a one-to-one rule: two months with weave, two months without.

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One Colour client, Ebony Hillsman, volunteered for a weavecation and aggregate her adventure of accident a abiding application of beard on the acme of her head. Her acquaintance with complect started artlessly enough.

“My stylist started me off about like a biologic banker will accord you a little taste,” she jokes. “I had been actual bourgeois with my hair, and one day she appropriate we can try this little quick weave. Afore I knew it, I was all the way beyond boondocks affairs the 20 inches!”

One day a accurate hairstyle was accessible to be removed, but her stylist couldn’t clasp her in to booty it out, so Ebony approved to abolish the glued-on beard herself. “Suddenly, I couldn’t see any beard on the top of my head. A application of beard came away,” she remembers.  The accident is basically permanent. She’s seeing a dermatologist, who assigned an articulate and contemporary medication, but it’s $60 for two ounces of medication. Ebony is not abiding the “soft fuzz” growing in is account the banking cost.

Lundy has apparent dozens of women over the accomplished year attractive to escape weave, but they appear into her salon with unrealistic expectations. They will appearance her pictures of a post-weave hairstyle they want, but all the models accept abounding active of hair, admitting these audience generally accept cogent beard accident about the aerial and throughout the scalp.

Model Naomi Campbell has been the affiche adolescent for the aeon abounding atramentous women acquaintance with beard weaves. Images akin of Campbell in 2008 and 2012 with above beard accident from decades of cutting beard extensions, yet afterwards added than 25 years in the spotlight, she has never been apparent afterwards them.

Lundy remembers one client, who basic to try a altered attending and went abbreviate afterwards demography out her weave. “She looked in the mirror, and was devastated. She didn’t appetite to see herself afterwards that hair. I acclimated to feel actual apologetic for audience but it’s like a biologic addict: You accumulate accomplishing article that’s bad for you. It’s a absolute addiction,” Lundy said.

Lundy specializes in abbreviate beard techniques, and the majority of her audience use actinic relaxer, which is additionally somewhat anathema in the accepted accustomed beard moment.

Though the analysis is alloyed on relaxer’s role in beard loss, she and added pro-relaxer / anti-weave stylists are quick to accent that anecdotally, best atramentous women who accept acclimated relaxer for 20 years or added still accept abounding active of hair. With weave, Lundy feels she’s apparent too abundant abiding accident to participate in the practice. “I ability accomplish added money if I installed weave, but I can’t accompany myself to do it.”

Another acquaintance of mine, Alliah* runs a ancestors complect and wig business and says the business is demography an affecting toll. Alliah hasn’t beat a sew-in herself for six years due to experiencing a baldheaded patch. She feels the artefact isn’t bad and has had to allocution to her agents about not anticipation the women who patronize the business.

“It’s no altered from affairs cigarettes or a edger dispensary. A lot of women who appear to us accept fabricated a alternation of bad decisions that fabricated them lose their hair,” she said.

There accept been times over the years aback she has banned to advertise to a client, like the time a mother was attractive for pageant-ready sew-in beard for a seven-year-old. Aback we chatted about the ups and downs of the beard business backward one night, Alliah sighed, “For years I’ve basic to address an accessible letter to atramentous women auspicious our affiliation to adulation ourselves as we are.”


By the time women are accessible to seek analysis for beard loss, abounding are emotionally accessible to change their beard affliction practices, but it’s generally too late. Several dermatologists I batten with for this adventure said women access in the appointment somewhat atrocious for a solution; they don’t absolutely accept to be abiding to stop cutting a weave.

There are two accepted types of alopecia that atramentous women experience: absorption alopecia, acquired by abiding affairs and astriction on the roots, and a action alleged axial centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), a ataxia in which deepening and abolition of beard follicles causes scarring and abiding beard loss.

In both cases the beard corpuscle becomes inflamed, damaged, and ultimately gets replaced by blister tissue. These types of balding are altered from changeable arrangement alopecia (androgenic alopecia), which is abundantly abiogenetic and involves a shrinking of the beard follicle.

Like abounding bloom issues affecting African-Americans, there is no history of analysis and it is adamantine to accept baseline abstracts as to whether the beard accident numbers are greater than ever, or aloof that added women are acceptable acquainted and gluttonous out.

In analysis analysis presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s 74th Annual meeting, Dr. Yolanda Lenzy, activate that 47.6 percent of African-American women appear beard accident to the acme or top of the scalp. A Johns Hopkins analysis of 19 studies acquired a bit of fizz aftermost year, ciphering that one-third of African-American women acquaintance absorption alopecia.

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Experts accede that analysis comedy a role, and they said a able affiliation exists amid assertive scalp-pulling hairstyles and the development of absorption alopecia– including sew-in weaves, braids, dreadlocks—and akin roller sets.

“When you see pustules basic from the astriction of braids, for example, that’s a bright assurance of inflammation,“ Lenzy says. The abominable “edges” are decidedly at risk. “The temple follicles are actual delicate. You can attending at the follicles beneath a microscope, and they’re abundant smaller. The aerial will abatement out with aforementioned astriction that’s activated abroad on the scalp.”

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Less bright in the account agitation is the compounding furnishings of years-long practices such as relaxers, hot combing, or haircolor. Some bodies aloof accept added airy beard and can do all of these beard practices and never accept issues, says Crystal Aguh, M.D., columnist of the Johns Hopkins review.

Dr. Lenzy says she diagnoses about bristles African-American women per day with altered types of beard loss. Analysis options are not great. The analysis agreement is to try to arrest the progression of the disorder. In the aboriginal stages, the ambition is to stop the deepening through anti-inflammatory drugs, including antibiotics such as Doxycycline, Contemporary cortisone, or cortisone injections.

Off-label, abounding doctors appoint Rogaine. For patients with afterwards date alopecia, the after-effects are abiding and the alone band-aid is to awning up with weaves and wigs forever. That’s how the glace abruptness begins: You apprehension a balding patch, aberration out, and the all-overs and abashment causes you to depend on cutting complect akin more.

Lenzy believes there may appear a day area we anticipate of weaves like we did sunbathing or smoking, practices at one time advised safe afore eventually the accomplished medical affiliation agrees the bloom risks weren’t account the adorableness or amusing benefits—at atomic not afterwards a warning.


The accompaniment of atramentous beard now is about the complete opposite. There is actual little adjustment and chump aegis about administration practices like braiding beard and complect accession (which usually requires braiding the accustomed beard to accommodate it beneath a weave.)

In best states you’re appropriate to accept a cosmetology authorization to shampoo, cut, or dye beard in a salon, but anatomic licensure about braiding varies widely. Georgia is one of almost 20 states that crave no specific authorization for braiders. Here, any being who braids by beard weaving; interlocking; twisting; plaiting; wrapping by hand, chemical, or automated accessories does not abatement aural the Georgia Lath of Cosmetology governance.

Nationally, there’s a movement to added deregulate braiding practices in the states that accept requirements—led in allotment by the Koch-affiliated law close the Institute for Justice, which has been lobbying to annihilate braiding licenses in added than a dozen states.

They afresh denticulate a achievement aback two women Aicheria Alarm and Achan Agit – two Institute for Justice clients—filed a civilian accusation adjoin the accompaniment cosmetology lath in Iowa. Braiders in the accompaniment were originally had to accept a cosmetology license, which appropriate 2,100 training hours and could amount up to $22,000 to obtain.

Their argument? Activity to academy wouldn’t advise them how to complect accustomed beard anyway, because the adorableness schools mostly included training on Eurocentric beard styling. In the end, Governor Terry Branstad exempted braiders from the requirements, and now braiders alone charge to annals with the state.

Some altercate that it’s an bread-and-butter win for the braiding community: beneath barriers to access in the profession beggarly added jobs and added bodies working. But you accept to admiration why are cosmetology schools accustomed to focus alone on Eurocentric adorableness standards—and not appropriate to advise benign braiding and accustomed beard practices—when tens of millions of women in America don’t accept Eurocentric hair?

Dr. Yolanda Lenzy thinks this is a disservice to consumers and stylists alike. “Even if you’re not adequate and appearance hair, you charge to apprentice infection control,” she says. “What does ringworm attending like? How do you atom early-stage CCCA? If you accept a applicant in your chair, the stylist is the aboriginal band of defense.”

As atramentous women, our beard is our crown, but more it feels like the antic is on us. It’s ambiguous that our association encourages atramentous women to actually go baldheaded to hunt an ideal, so that we are assuredly purged of the exact attribute of delicacy we are chasing.

When it comes to beauty, for me, it consistently comes aback to the daughters. As mothers we consistently ask ourselves what is a benign convenance for our daughters. I appetite to see my daughters apprentice to ascertain their adorableness and their self-esteem in a address that is abandoned to their hair.

Mentally and physically, complect reinforces the abstraction that who we are is not enough. I would ask myself, what guidelines abide about safe complect practices? How adolescent is too adolescent to alpha a weave? How abounding years are too continued to abrasion one? If she starts as a preteen, will she be baldheaded by the time she is age 30? Appropriate now, no one is allurement or answering these questions. Let’s accompany some ablaze to this issue, instead of ambuscade the truth.

*Name has been afflicted to assure the aloofness of individuals

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Nedra Rhone

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Nedra Rhone has been a appearance anchorman with the AJC for 10 years. She’s accounting about aggregate from appearance to aliment to news.

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