From Black Voices — For centuries, long, lush locks have been seen as a symbol of great beauty. We frequently perm, curl, and weave in strands to help enhance our appearance, oftentimes without much thought about what life would be like without a perfectly coiffed crown. Now imagine the shock and surprise of suddenly losing it all.
37-year-old Sonya Weekes found herself holding back tears as her dermatologist explained that her thinning hair was a condition called alopecia, and that it would likely never grow back. Six years later, she’s educated herself and others on her emotionally and physically distressing condition and has gained a different outlook on what beauty really means.
As told to Nykia Spradley
About 6 years ago, I was experiencing hair loss and slow growth in the center of my scalp. That area has always been weak, but I kept perming my hair. Then, about 7 years ago, the thinning got really bad. I read an article that said you should visit a dermatologist if you are experiencing hair loss, but it had never occurred to me before that I should visit a doctor.
When I found out why I was losing my hair, I thought I was going to cry in the doctor’s office, but I didn’t. However, I was very depressed. Women look to their hair for beauty, and I didn’t feel attractive. I thought I wouldn’t find a husband with short hair, but then I decided that I didn’t want someone who can’t see past my hair and not see my heart.
I wasn’t at all familiar with alopecia, so I looked online for more information about my condition. I also started seeing a doctor that was conducting research on my specific disease. The most surprising thing that I learned about alopecia is that there is no cure, and doctors aren’t sure what causes it. There are guesses that braids, over-processing from relaxers and weaves contribute to it. I have stopped perming my hair, but my scalp in some areas is permanently damaged, so now I wear my hair in a short Caesar cut.
There are many African American women that suffer from alopecia. Hair thinning and hair loss affects as many as two-thirds of African-American women by age 50, according to R. Martin Earles, M.D., a Chicago-based dermatologist who specializes in hair-loss treatment.