Having beautiful hair is a big part of Black culture and a huge boost for most individuals. We spend hours on hair grooming rituals to ensure we appear neat, well-kept, and attractive. Unfortunately, unexpected hair loss can ruin those efforts.
If you’ve ever researched the causes of hair loss before, there’s a good chance that you may have come across sources listing the wearing of durags as a contributing factor.
Apart from worrying about typical male pattern baldness, Black men also have to worry about hair loss caused by traction alopecia. So, the big question is, are your protective styles really as protective as claimed? Or does that durag cause hair loss? Let’s dive in.
Is a Durag Really Necessary?
Durags are deeply ingrained in African American history and have remained important in Black men’s hair care and fashion statements. Their use has been heavily influenced by Hip-Hop and Rap artists such as Nelly, 50 cent, Jay Z, and several movie stars.
Since their first emergence as a fashion statement in the 1960s, durags have gone on to become a major player in Black men’s hair grooming.
They are used to keep curls and wave patterns. Durags can also prevent cornrows and braids from frizzing out and keep your locs neat.
The use of the durag is no longer just limited to male adult African Americans as it was before. It’s now a free-for-all fashion item for other Black people irrespective of sex, age, or nationality.
Importance Of Durags For Black Men
There are so many benefits to wearing a durag. For the average Black man, a durag transcends a fashion accessory or headband. It represents a symbol of strength and pride in their natural hair and its beauty.
The strength to rock the durag with such swagger and confidence is a big part of the look. For the Black community, the durag is an expressive cultural piece, and can even be considered a representation of a misunderstood culture.
A durag is a symbol of artistry and creativity. A simple piece or finesse that doesn’t translate to crude or criminal. It’s a tribute to black tradition and history. There’s even an annual durag week celebration set aside to celebrate durags.
Apart from its rich cultural history, other benefits that Black men can get from wearing durags include:
- Maintenance of wave pattern
- Straightening hair
- Protection from sun damage
- Braid maintenance
- Hair texture improvement
- Unhampered movement during physical activities
How can a creation meant to maintain perfect hairstyles and aid style be fingered as a source of hair loss?
Does A Durag Cause Hair Loss?
Haircare has become such a sensitive subject in the 21st century and it doesn’t come as a surprise that we now have many self-made millionaires who simply capitalized on people’s need for full and thick hair.
Thick afros, silky long, curly, or wavy hair is evolution’s gift to the Black race. Unfortunately, navigating the many do’s and don’ts of caring for our hair type can be frustrating, especially as there are so many conflicting tips out there.
While some Black men are very comfortable rocking the bald look, it’s a general notion that nobody ever really wants to unintentionally lose their hair or struggle with bald patches.
General conversations and polls over decades from both sexes have driven a conclusion that nobody wants to deal with losing hair. Unfortunately, bad durag wearing habits can, indeed, lead to hair loss.
Hair loss can be split into 2 main categories, natural and manmade. Natural hair loss, even though treatments are available, is sometimes unavoidable. On the other hand, you can prevent man-made baldness.
A durag induced hair loss falls into the manmade subcategory simply because its an externally influenced hair loss that can be completely avoided before it even appears.
How Do Durags Cause Hair Loss?
There are three established major causes of manmade hair loss. They are:
- Scalp conditions
- Bad hair care habits
Here is how bad durag wearing habits directly play into causes of hair loss.
To wear a durag, you have to firmly tie it onto your scalp. Most people assume “firm” means “tight” and will pull the ties of their durags too hard when wearing them.
That tight pull against your scalp impacts blood and nutrient circulation to the hair follicles, killing them in the process. All of these are stress conditions that can cause the hair follicles to die, or worse, completely pull out the strand of hair from its roots.
Some people wear durags to hide the poor condition of their scalp underneath. At one point or another, we may have experienced a dry, itchy scalp. However, it becomes a source of concern when the itchiness is constant and recurring.
There are some causes of dry, itchy scalps including, alopecia areata, dandruff, allergies, among other things.
Dandruff is perhaps the most common among these hair conditions. It causes the skin on the scalp to flake. While it isn’t contagious or serious, it can sometimes be embarrassing and difficult to treat.
Alopecia areata closely follows and is simply translated as hair loss in small patches. This can sometimes go unnoticed. However, once the patches start to connect, it becomes noticeable and sometimes results in baldness if not treated early.
Wearing a durag can make these conditions worse because it can cause irritation (because of the product on the rag), or just rub against your scalp.
Bad hair care habits
Tying your durag too tightly pulls your hair from the scalp and can cause it to break away. In some cases, this can cause traction alopecia and make your hairline recede.
Additionally, not washing your hair frequently may cause the build-up of products, oil, dirt, and dead skin on your scalp. These will clog the hair follicles and affect the growth of hair.
Wearing a durag does not mean you have to forsake good hair hygiene or develop bad hair care habits. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for some people and the result is hair loss.
Durags and Traction Alopecia
This is our main focus due to its relation to durags and hair loss. Traction alopecia is medically explained as bald patches caused by excessive tugging or pulling of the hair at a particular spot.
This can be caused by tight braids, ponytails, or constant use of headwear (including durags) over a period of time. Constant strain on the hair follicles can pull out strands of hair or sometimes damage the follicles.
The durag is often worn tightly around the base of the head, and when excessive force is applied constantly, this can lead to traction alopecia.
Signs of Traction Alopecia
Some common signs of traction alopecia include:
- Receding hairline, typically around the forehead, temples, or nape of neck
- Appearance of small pimples on the scalp or at the base of braids
- Redness and itching on the scalp
- Patches of thinned out or broken hair in places where the hair has been pulled tight
- Bald or shiny patches
How To Avoid Durag Induced Traction Alopecia In Black Men
The major cause of traction alopecia has been established to be constant tight pulling. However, it’s highly possible to wear the durag in a comfortable way and still avoid hair loss.
A couple of ways to do this include:
- Do not wear your durag too tight around the base of the head. It’s completely okay to leave just enough room for movement.
- Wear a durag made out of silk or satin material. Silk and satin materials have been proven to be the best material for hair care due to their ability to help the hair retain moisture.
- Moisturize the base of your hair before and after wearing the durag.
- Massage the base of your hair with essential oils such as peppermint or mint oil to aid in blood flow and hair growth.
- Shampoo regularly to get rid of residues such as sweat or dust, and don’t forget to condition or even deep condition afterward.
- Avoid tight hairstyles beneath the durag. Try to keep your hairstyles as relaxed as possible — this helps to reduce traction or friction on the hairline.
These methods have been tested and have been proven to be extremely effective in reducing or completely erasing durag-included traction alopecia for Black men.
The damages caused by traction alopecia are sometimes expensive to treat or, in some rare cases, irreversible. This is most often due to long-term negligence or carelessness.
Severe cases of traction alopecia may sometimes require methods such as hair transplant, injected corticosteroids, laser treatments, platelet-rich plasma, and anti-inflammatory injections.
These methods can be expensive, so the easiest way to treat massive hair loss is simply to prevent it. While it might seem like a lot of work to just throw on a simple headpiece for a few hours, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
So, does your durag cause hair loss? While wearing a durag has many benefits and can protect the Black male head, it can also arguably contribute to hair loss in individuals. Your fate heavily depends on the habits you practice while wearing a durag.
Remember that it’s perfectly possible to wear the durag in several forms, over an extensive period of time, and still have a head full of hair. All you need are good hair practices, a durag made from quality fabrics, and consistency.