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Erma L. Benitez, M.D.
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Black Skin

Hair Loss
Hair loss or broken hairs at the scalp margins in women may be a problem. It is caused by repeated or frequent tight braiding (traction alopecia), hair straightening agents (e.g. perms, relaxers) or tight rollers, or as a result of hair styled in a pony tail or single braid style. Dr. B usually recommends changing hair styles if the ahir is falling out or braking off along the scalp margins. In most cases, the hair will grow back.

The use of a hot comb and oil to straighten hair can cause hair loss on the top of the haed. Inflammation and scarring can result from the application of hot oil. If scarring occurs, the hair loss will be permanent. otherwise, the loss may be only temporary.

​Hair Breakage
Hair straighteners use strong chemicals to change the structure of the hair. While straightening hair is easier to style, it may also be brittle, breaking easily. Used accordingly to package directions, hair straighteners usually do not cause problems. If used improperly or on previously damaged hair, hair breakage or other difficulties may arise. Excessive brushing, back-combing, or other stresses also cause breakage. Most hair loss from breakage is temporary, because it does nto affect normal hair growth. Hair will usually grow back, just as it does after it has been cut.

Tinea Capitis (Ringworm)
Ringoworm is not caused by a "worm" but by as fungus. When it occurs on the scalp, it produces itching, scaling, and redness. It occurs most commonly in children and can cause hairs to break off. Sometimes severe inflammation and boil-like cysts develop. It's contagious and family members, as well as classmates, can catch it easily. It usually requires many weeks of oral medicine to cure.

Ingrown Hairs of the Beard (Razor Bumps)
The hair roots of blacks are curved. This is true of beard hair as well as other body hair. After shaving, the beard's sharp pointed hair, may grow back into the skin. This causes a reaction resulting in bumps. Dr. B calls this condition "Pseudofolliculitis Barbae."

Growing a beard is another solution. This will permanently cure this condition, but is not always an option.

Men with ingrown hairs should try different methos of hair removal.

Shaving with a safety razor may help. After spplying lather or shaving cream, wait to let the soap soften the beard. Shave only in the direction of the hair growth, not against the stubble. Don't stretch the skin during shaving and don't shace on a daily basis. If hairs begin to ingrow, left them up with an alcohol-cleaned needle (don't tweeze or pluck) just before shaving. Occasionally using a toothbrush or rough washcloth before shaving or bedtime may loosen hairs about to grow inward.

Chemical depilatories remove hair, but should only be used every two days. They are not for everyone. The must be wiped off promptly according to package directions. Wash your face twice with soap and water immediately afterwards to gaurd against irritation.

Electrolysis, the permanent removal of hair performed by an experienced operator, may be an effective solution for this problem. Consult Dr. B about treatment options.

Dark streaks or bands in African-American fingernails and toenails are normal. They tend to increase in number as a person ages. Increased darkening around the base of the nail could be a sign of a dangerous type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma and should be checked by Dr. B.

The skin, hair and nail conditions common among African-Americans are generally not serious. They can easily be recognized and usually are successfully treated. If you have any questions about skin problems, see Dr. B.