Most women know about alopecia and female pattern balding, the two most commonly-cited culprits for female hair loss. More and more people are starting to learn about trichotillomania, the underpublicized hair-pulling disease. However, too few people know about a very prevalent and completely preventable hair condition called trichorrhexis nodosa (pronounced “TRICK-or-EX-iss no-DOE-sa”).
Trichorrhexis nodosa is a disorder marked by weakening and clumping of the hair shaft, so that an individual strand of hair affected by this condition will have thickened nodes or bulbs alternated with thin, weak points in the hair shaft. These changes in thickness lead to easy breakage and hair damage, and can create difficulties when trying to grow your hair.
There are two forms of trichorrhexis nodosa (TN). The first, which usually strikes people of African descent or other people with kinkier hair types, shows itself with nodes or swellings near the scalp, making it seem as it the hair simply won’t grow. But the reality is that the hair is growing – it simply keeps breaking off before it can achieve any visible length.
The second form of TN is more common amongst people of Asian or European descent, with naturally straighter hair. On these types of manes, TN strikes the ends of the hair, creating nodes or weak spots at the tips, leading to split ends and breakage down the hair shaft.
Some common symptoms of TN include:
- hair that breaks easily,
- patches of hair loss or extremely short hair,
- hair that seems as if it won’t grow,
- thickened or thinned areas along the hair shaft, and
- chronically split ends with whitish discoloration.
Simple visual and manual inspection should help you detect nodes or weak spots in your hair; a microscope may be helpful in finding the actual nodes, but is not entirely necessary.
Fortunately, TN is almost always completely preventable and reversible. While some people may suffer TN symptoms because of a genetic or other body disorder, such as an underactive thyroid, most cases of the condition are self-inflicted. Tress mistreatment is usually the number one cause of trichorrhexis nodosa; excessive brushing, blow drying, straightening, and chemical exposure are all notorious for leading to TN, along with overuse of harsh shampoos and unhelpful conditioners. Cutting back on or eliminating the use of chemical straighteners or permanents and direct heat on the hair will usually remedy the problem at home, as will brushing and combing more gently with soft-bristled brushes and wider-toothed combs. However, if you try these home remedies and find the problem persists, you should see a doctor and find out if there is a deeper issue at play.
Hair loss can be difficult to deal with, especially for women. Yet a good number of people who believe they are losing their hair or that their manes simply won’t grow, especially Black women, have cause for renewed hope, as it is estimated that a great number of these ladies are simply suffering from TN – and, with better care and maintenance, can grow their own locks again!
Take care of yourselves,