“Thinning edges have stopped me experimenting with my hair for years – not any more”

Written by Lateefah Jean-Baptiste

From fear to knowledge – how one writer reframed her relationship with her hair.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always feared my hair breaking or, more specifically, my edges thinning to the point of a receding hairline. I know I’m not alone in this worry. Edges, the word commonly used to refer to the shorter hairs around the hairline in textured hair types, can be prone to breakage and tension-induced damage.

Recently, I stumbled across a video by influencer Sincerely Oghosa, in which she explained that almost every hairstyle that Black women try could potentially break their edges, something I deeply related to. 

While watching, I couldn’t help but think about all of the hairstyles I haven’t attempted as an adult, mostly out of fear of the effect it would have on my edges. For example, I’ve wanted to try faux locs or have a texture release treatment for ages but the thought of something going awry and my hair breaking regularly stops me from booking the appointment.

Part of my hesitation is that I know what it’s like to damage my edges. After years of relaxing my hair and wearing sew-in weaves and wigs, I decided to try and restore my natural curls. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing and it showed. 

For months, I would sport the same hairstyle: a slicked-back high bun with an afro puff. At times, I would have headaches from how tightly I had packed my hair up. The constant pressure on my edges when pulling back my hair resulted in my edges thinning to the point of balding spots along the edges. When this happened, I grew embarrassed of my hair and would wear headbands to hide the visible patches of thin hair and I eventually started wearing wigs to cover it up.

For many Black women, associating pain and discomfort with getting our hair done is normal. I remember being told that my hair had to be done very tightly to look fresh and last longer. This is something many of us still believe to be true.

“When doing your hair, if it’s painful and uncomfortable, this is usually a sign of the hair follicles being excessively pulled, which can result in breakage or traction alopecia,” says Ebuni Ajiduah certified trichologist and owner of Untype Your Hair salon.

“It’s important to remember that the hair around the perimeter of your head is not as strong as the rest of your hair. For those who wear wigs, avoid tight or ill-fitting wigs and use a wig fix or wig cap to protect the hair. Also, make sure braids and the cornrows underneath your wig are not excessively tight.”

Ajiduah recommends that any chemical, colour or relaxing treatments are best determined by a professional: “If you’re unsure if your hair can handle a particular style, I recommend booking an appointment with a qualified hairdresser or trichologist who can offer you a consultation and further advice on what hairstyles your hair can manage.”

For me, the fear of losing my edges intensified when I stopped using chemical relaxers and went completely natural for the second time. After years of hiding my natural hair, I’d finally grown to love it and I didn’t want to do anything that could potentially harm it: exactly the reason I kept returning to the same hairstyles.

“One of the primary causes of thinning edges is traction alopecia,” explains afro hair specialist Stephanie Sey.

“Traction alopecia is when the hair is pulled out repeatedly in one area, usually the edges. Eventually, the hair follicle starts to scar, and the hairs become thinner and thinner. To combat traction alopecia, the best thing is to stop the poor hair care practices. The more you continue, the more likely you will suffer lasting damage. 

“Hair care practices that can cause this are wearing lace wigs as the glue can rip out the hair. Regular wigs can also rub the hairline away as they move from side to side as the day progresses. Other styles that can be problematic are tight braids, weaves and ponytails.” 

When it comes to my stance on hair now, I remind myself that it’s just hair. Hair that can grow back and in my experience always has. I’m aware of the risks and will do everything I can to adopt healthy haircare practices when experimenting with new styles. As an adult, I refuse to let fear dictate the choices I make in any aspect of my life, and that includes my hair.

Main image: Getty

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