Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Eczema & Relaxers

Q: I have been relaxing my hair for 4 yrs now (I'm 24). Generally, my hair has been in good condition except I suspect that seborrheic dermatitis (eczema) causes my hair to be fragile if not constantly tended to. Right now I am at school and have not been able to relax or steam/condition my hair for 6 months. There's quite a bit of growth but the problem is my hair is really weak and a lot of it is coming out or breaking when I comb.
What can I do to curb this until I can afford to relax it again? Also is using a relaxer safe for a woman who has eczema issues in the scalp area? What sort of alternatives are there to using relaxers that could give the same texture and look for natural hair. In the past when my hair was natural I tried using hot combs but even when done professionally the effect would not last. My hair is mixed in texture with some areas being straighter, coarser, and wavier than others.

A: First of all, it is important to clarify whether you have seborrheic dermatitis or eczema, as the two are not precisely the same condition. Eczema is seen as scaly, itchy rashes and blisters with oozing and crusting. Its treatment varies depending on the appearance of the lesions.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common, inflammatory condition that can cause hair loss and affect hair growth. It is generally treated with over-the-counter medicated shampoos and although it is a chronic, life-long condition, it usually can be controlled with these treatments.
Unless you have had the condition definitively diagnosed by a health care professional, I strongly urge you to do so before attempting to self-treat your skin condition. Many skin irritations can have similar symptoms, with vastly different causes and serious risks if left untreated or improperly treated.
Given the situation you describe, the first thing you should focus on is treating the condition and getting it under control. Follow your doctor's advice and make sure you take care of the scalp before you suffer more loss of your hair's integrity.
As for an alternative to your traditional relaxer treatments, I can only suggest products that I know of, which include the BodipHier product which is a highly alkaline product that gently relaxes the hair without lye. It does not straighten the hair as well as traditional relaxers and only boasts about an 85% straightening on the hair (compared to traditional relaxer). There is also the Thermal Ionic straightening, which uses a heated appliance and a solution containing ammonium thioglycolate to reconfigure the wave of the hair.
However, knowing that you have had your hair straightened with a traditional relaxer previously, you CAN NOT use a product containing Ammonium Thioglycolate on your hair. In fact, you must be careful to make sure that any product you use is verified as safe for hair that has been treated with a traditional relaxer.
Finally, until and unless you get the skin irritation treated and under control, I do NOT recommend using ANY chemical process on your scalp. The risk you run is damaging the scalp, losing the hair you have and losing the ability to re-grow hair.
Related posts:
Scalp problems
Hair and scalp diseases
Non-lye based hair relaxers