What is Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA)?

If someone were to ask you what alopecia is, chances are, you would probably say that it’s a condition that results in patches of hair loss. And you know what? You would be right. But did know that there are many different forms of alopecia?

For instance, there is alopecia areata (coin-sized patches of hair loss on the scalp or other parts of the body), alopecia totalis (hair loss that transpires across the entire scalp) and alopecia universalis (hair loss that includes the scalp and face; including eyelashes and eyebrows).

There is also a kind of alopecia that’s known as central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA). It’s when hair loss mostly happens in the crown area; it is also a leading cause of hair loss among black women (although it affects other ethnicities and men as well).


What Causes CCCA? Can It Be Treated?

The research on this continues to be ongoing but some of the leading factors include genetics, autoimmune disorders (like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes), fungal and bacterial infections and even the misuse/overuse of chemical relaxers, hot combs and tight weaves and hair extensions.

How can you know if you’re experiencing some early signs of CCCA? Although there aren’t always clear symptoms, if your scalp feels tender, itchy, it’s burning or you’re noticing small patches of hair loss with a shiny scalp underneath, all of these are big red flags.

You should also pay close attention to whether or not it seems as if your hair growth is “suddenly” stunted. It could be because your body isn’t producing enough sebum which means your hair follicles are not getting the oil that they need in order to thrive. If any of these things are happening, you should make an appointment to see your doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible.

Once you’re with a professional, they will probably perform a scalp biopsy from the edge of one of your patches of hair loss. If any inflammatory cells in or around your hair follicles are spotted or you have some scarring on your scalp, therapy—which might be anything from topical steroids to oral medications like tetracyclines—will probably be given in order to halt the progression of the disease (although it should be noted that anywhere there is fibrosis—which is scarring—natural hair regrowth is not possible).

If CCCA is not too severe, after about a year of treatment, if the condition seems manageable, you might be a candidate for a hair replacement surgery like single-hair grafting or laser-assisted grafting. However, it should go on record that the amount of success with this approach to CCCA and hair loss is pretty low (to date).


How to Heal from CCCA

So, what should you do if you have CCCA and you want to relieve scalp irritation and/or give your scalp time to heal? The solution just might surprise you—go 100 percent natural.

  • Keep chemicals out of your hair and go without wearing extensions or wigs that require adhesives.
  • If you wear a protected style, make sure that you don’t opt for tight braids.
  • Significantly-reduce heat styling including blow-dryers and flat irons.
  • Keep your scalp well-nourished and moisturized. Don’t over-shampoo, use a shampoo without sulfates and deep-condition your hair a couple of times a month.
  • If you do decide to return to a relaxer, get it applied by a professional stylist and get on no more than every 6-8 weeks (also, make sure to wash out the relaxer before you feel a burning sensation from it).

When it comes to properly managing CCCA, something else that’s important to keep in mind is the fact that taking care of your hair follicles starts from the inside out. Cooking with coconut oil can keep your hair follicles from drying out. Putting some pumpkin seed oil into a smoothie or snacking on the seeds can increase hair count over time. Gingko biloba (in supplement form) can help to protect your hair follicles and support hair growth over time.

Another good idea is to avoid heat; not just in the form of styling tools but spending too much time in a hot shower or washing your hair in super-hot water temperatures too.

Speaking of cleansing your hair, it can only help to apply some bentonite clay to your hair (and scalp) as a monthly treatment. It’s a great way to remove the build-up that can come with using hair products; products that could possibly damage your hair follicles.

And finally, try and massage your scalp as much as possible. The main way that hair follicles are “fed” is through your blood and massages help to stimulate blood circulation in order to increase hair follicle repair and hair growth. You can use your hands or a portable hand-held scalp massager.

No one wants to be diagnosed with alopecia. But the more you know about the disorder—including how to reduce the chances of getting it and how to stop it in its early stages of development—the greater chance you have on growing a head full of long, healthy hair!

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