Friday, May 9, 2008

More attention should be given to African American hair care needs

Jeffrey J. Miller

Jeffrey J. Miller M.D. Associate Professor of Dermatology
Hershey, Pa. -- Hair straightening, long-term braids and frequent washing may be damaging to African American hair, and dermatologists need to be more aware and understand these differences according to a researcher at Penn State's College of Medicine.

"African Americans have different hair care regimens and scalp problems compared to White-Americans," says Jeffrey J. Miller, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and a dermatologist at the Hershey Medical Center. "The purpose of this clinical research is to ultimately better serve patients.
By understanding and appreciating these differences, we can better understand the patient's hair and scalp problem and then provide appropriate treatment."

Miller's presentation titled, "Clinical Relevance of Hair Care in African Americans," was given today (March 12) at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting in San Francisco.

There is very little published or talked about concerning the differences in dermatology literature, he notes. "African Americans hair, in general, tends to be curly and dry. If curly hair is relaxed improperly, hair shaft damage can occur. The dermatologist needs to have a background in this type of hair care practice," Miller says.

Products like relaxers are fine when used correctly. Miller reports that products that relax or straighten the hair do so by opening up the cuticle of the hair, and then rearrange the bonds that go into the hair. This process can be damaging and weaken the hair shaft.

In addition to hairshaft fragility from improper relaxing, Miller also reports that another common problem is traction alopecia. "When people braid their hair too tightly, the constant tension on the hair can cause hair loss which can be permanent. Braids often need to be loosened, and hair should be rested by removing and redirecting the tension on the braids every two months," says the Penn State researcher

African Americans generally shampoo their hair less frequently than other ethnic groups, usually once or twice per week, Miller notes. If a dermatologist recommends that a patient shampoo daily, their credibility is undermined because they did not understand the needs of the patient. Because the hair is drier, shampooing more often would damage the hair, he says.

"I do know since I have been doing this research the past few years, I have a better understanding of their hair and scalp needs," says Miller.

His presentation covers hair care regimens of African Americans, treatment regimen for cosmetic alopecia or other clinical problems and a reference guide to certain hair styling terms. ###

Contact: Leilyn Perri 717-531-8604 Penn State

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