The health implications of plaiting, braiding, combing African hair
A leading dermatologist has warned that African hair requires specific maintenance and that care in combing, plaiting and braiding be taken to avoid negative health implications.
This includes conditions like Folliculitis - where hair follicles become inflamed.
Dr. Evanson Kamuri is president of the African Society of Dermatology and Venereology (ASDV), chairman of national Kenyan Association of Dermatologists, a consultant dermatologist at Kenyatta National Hospital and director of Prime Care Centre in Nairobi. He also lectures at the University of Nairobi.
He recently addressed the 2nd African Society of Dermatology and Venereology (ASDV) held in Durban where he spoke about the trend for wearing natural hair in Africa and a need to understand issues around maintaining natural hair.
He said even the maintenance of natural hair requires work because simple mechanistic actions like combing can cause damage.
In an interview he explained: “African hair has high fibres, it is very hard and it's curly, so the first thing is to maintain the curliness.”
Kamuri said because removing the curl proves difficult Africans mostly use chemicals to relax or treat the curliness. “But this mostly makes the hair hard. But also the styles that Africans use, especially in plaiting, also has a negative effect on the hair,” he said.
“We are also getting a lot of hair loss, especially because of the plaiting. We encourage people not to plait very tight. Also because of the structure of African hair the more you comb, the more you actually pluck off,” he explained.
Kamuri advise people to maintain the hair by using natural products. “Tose that don't destroy the texture of the hair. The good thing is people are realising the more natural the hair the better. We move towards the naturalness of the hair because it it healthier and more beautiful.”
He strongly discouraged using chemical treatments like relaxers on children and pulling their hair too tight: “Their hair is simply not strong enough. the more you pull, children scalp is more vulnerable, you get Folliculitis. Even if plaited, children’s hair must be plaited loose,” said Kamuri.