The natural hair community is an awesome resource. It’s full of people who want to learn what is best for their hair and scalps and people willing to help. However, there comes a time when a medical professional must enter the picture. When should you call the Dermatologist or a general medical practitioner?
- When there’s redness, swelling, heat, itching, puss or odor of the scalp, there is no ointment or grease that will help. Think of this in another area of the body. If this were your arm, leg or even in your genital region, you would be in a doctor’s office quickly. Don’t take these symptoms for granted. It usually is indicative of some sort of infection. Please don’t ignore it. Contact a dermatologist and get in as soon as possible.
- If there is sudden balding or areas that refuse to grow after applying product x, y or z for x number of days, weeks, months, years, please see a doctor. You may need to receive cortisone shots and or steroid creams to help get the follicles active and moving again. They can also look at your follicles to see if they are normal size, miniaturized or scarred. It makes a difference
- If your scalp is flaky with what appears to be severe dandruff, or scales and you have used tea tree, grease, no grease, plant based, peppermint oil, acv (apple cider vinegar) and you still have flakes, it’s time to see a doctor. You could have seborrheic dermatitis, in which the scalp is over producing oil (so adding oil may not be wise) you could have a scalp fungus that can be treated with an anti-fungal shampoo, you could have any number of things that the untrained eye would see as dandruff but it could be eczema or even psoriasis. Call a doctor.
FYI, licensed professionals should not service any head that looks as if there is an infection or communicable disease/disorder present. Stylists are also not to be the one to prescribe and treat the disease/disorder of the hair and scalp. They can, however, refer clients with hair and scalp conditions to a medical professional.
It is always nice to see a professional who has first hand knowledge of black hair. However, some cities do not have dermatologists of color or of African descent. Don’t let that keep you from going to see a dermatologist or trichologist. There are certain universal properties of the hair and scalp. Although the doctors are trained professionals they are not hair stylists and they are not always (some are, some aren’t) culturally competent. I always advocate for my clients to go to the doctor with clean unbraided hair with very little oil.
Curly/Coily hair does not receive the sebum from the scalp from roots to ends, so to keep it supple, many with this hair type add plant or commercial based oils to the hair and sometimes the scalp. If a doctor who is not of color feels the oil, he or she may think that is the reason you may have the issue. They may even advise you to use anti fungal shampoos daily, vs. when you shampoo (at least 1x every 2 weeks). Those shampoos can be harsh and strip the hair of moisture so follow it up with your standard shampoo after rinsing the medicated shampoo out and continue with a moisturizing conditioner. The hair should not be in braids, as a popular journal of dermatology did a study of tight braids and traction alopecia. If they don’t know the difference between a loose and tight braid, there could be an error and misdiagnosing. It’s better to go where they can see/feel/ and biopsy the scalp if needed.
If you don’t have insurance, contact a local clinic that may have a sliding scale for services. You can also try contacting a local university/medical training center where they train graduate level students to become dermatologists. They will usually offer clinic hours and will be supervised by a medical professional.