Hair care products for African American women during COVID-19

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Hosts of the dermatology podcast Dermasphere, Luke Johnson, MD, and Michelle Tarbox, MD, join MDedge host Nick Andrews to talk about COVID-19 and dermatology as well as how their podcast works.

Dr. Johnson is assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, and Dr. Tarbox is assistant professor of dermatology at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Lubbock.

You can find Dermasphere on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever podcasts are found.

* * *

Hair salon closures during the coronavirus pandemic have left women of African descent to care for their own hair -- whether natural, processed, or synthetic -- at home. Dr. Lynn McKinley-Grant, president of the Skin of Color Society, talks to Dr. Susan C. Taylor about hair care products these patients can use so that dermatologists can help African American women take care of their hair and manage dermatologic conditions. “With COVID-19, many women are at home -- me included -- and it’s important for women to understand that they have to continue to groom their hair. Just because no one sees you doesn’t mean that you don’t regularly shampoo and condition as well as comb and style your hair,” says Dr. Taylor.

* * *

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • Dermatologists should know how to recognize and differentiate between natural, processed, and synthetic hair in women of African descent to inform diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
  • Regardless of hairstyle, it is important for all African American patients to shampoo, condition, detangle, and style their hair with products that contain appropriate ingredients.
  • Shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfate contain the harshest detergents that can dry out the hair and scalp. “For our skin of color patients, or African American patients, we suggest shampoos that contain sodium laureth sulfate, which is a much milder detergent to clean the hair, and it helps to leave the hair moisturized,” Dr. Taylor explains.
  • Social distancing provides an opportunity for African American women to concentrate on conditioning the hair while taking a break from damaging hair care practices. “I personally think this is a great time to minimize what you do to your hair in regard to heat from blow-dryers and flat irons and curling irons. I also think it’s a great time if you have a weave or braids and extensions to take them out to really give your hair a rest,” Dr. Taylor recommends.
  • Many patients seek to avoid products containing controversial ingredients such as parabens, mineral oil, and tetrasodium EDTA because of concerns that they may be carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. “I think the jury is still out. There are a whole host of products that do not contain those particular ingredients, so I think our patients have to have choices,” Dr. Taylor says.
  • Prescription shampoos for seborrheic dermatitis in people of African descent can dry out the scalp. “What I suggest to my patients is that they apply the shampoo directly to the scalp with a 4- to 5-minute contact time and then rinse the shampoo out of the scalp, followed by the use of a conditioning shampoo to actually shampoo their strands of hair. That way they’re minimizing the contact time with the prescription shampoo,” Dr. Taylor advises.
  • Although daily shampooing typically is not recommended for individuals of African descent, health care workers and first responders will need to wash their hair more frequently during the coronavirus pandemic. “I think rinsing the hair with water, not necessarily doing a full shampoo every day, could be helpful. [Also] putting in a leave-in conditioner and reapplying the leave-in conditioner every day I think can really help combat potential dryness they can experience,” Dr. Taylor suggests. It also is important to thoroughly dry the hair after each wash so it doesn’t stay damp, which could lead to infection.

* * *

Hosts: Nick Andrews; Lynn McKinley-Grant, MD (Howard University, Washington)

Guest: Susan C. Taylor, MD (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia)

Disclosures: Dr. Taylor reports no conflict of interest. Dr. McKinley-Grant reports no conflict of interest.

Show notes by: Alicia Sonners, Melissa Sears

* * *

You can find more of our podcasts at http://www.mdedge.com/podcasts

Email the show: [email protected]

Interact with us on Twitter: @MDedgeDerm

Podcast Participants

Vincent A. DeLeo, MD
Vincent A. DeLeo, MD, is from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York. He also is the editor in chief of Cutis and the author of more than 200 publications. He is a leading expert on contact dermatitis, sunscreens, and photosensitivity. Dr. DeLeo is a consultant for Estée Lauder.