As Black women, one of our most disturbing hair issues is a thinning, weak, breakage-prone mane. But how can we tell if our hair is shedding due to chemical or heat damage — and not something more serious, like alopecia?

Here, we chatted with Texas-based trichologist (i.e.,”hair doctor”) Dr. Linda Amerson, who gave us the inside story on the disease.

ESSENCE.COM: What are the stats on alopecia affecting Black women?

DR. AMERSON: Out of the 80 million Americans affected with alopecia, approximately 30 million are Black women.

ESSENCE.COM: What are the symptoms?

DR. AMERSON: Visible signs include: telogen effluvium (hair thinning), androgenetic alopecia (hereditary hair loss), alopecia areata (pathy alopecia), or baldness. On the other hand, symptoms for scalp maladies include: burning scalp syndrome, pruritus (itchy scalp), overactive sebaceous glands (oily scalp), tender scalp, tingling sensation, crawling sensation, etc.

ESSENCE.COM: What are the treatments for alopecia?

DR. AMERSON: The treatments will vary according to the category and degree of severity of alopecia. Dr. Amerson’s Therapeutic Essentials is a very effective treatment line for hair restoration and common scalp maladies. In addition, some consumers may need nutritional guidance with improved diets.

ESSENCE.COM: How do you know if you have alopecia, or simply thinning hair due to hormonal changes or heat/chemical damage?

DR. AMERSON: You’d need to seek the expertise of a board certified trichologist, who will get to the root of the problem. The consultation will reveal whether the shedding is hormonal or heat/chemical damage related. Since the symptoms can be similar, it’s almost impossible to diagnose on your own!

ESSENCE.COM: Is alopecia preventable?

DR. AMERSON: Yes, in one case. Alopecia of the front hairline area (i.e., “the edges”) can be prevented by avoiding the following: gluing lacefront wigs to the front hair line, using excessive tension with rubber bands, or creating tight braids around the front hair line area.

ESSENCE.COM: What should you do if you think you have it?

DR. AMERSON: Don’t listen to your friends or family for home remedies. Again, always seek the expertise of a board certified trichologist for a microscopic consultation.

ESSENCE.COM: What do your patients do to simulate the look of hair?

DR. AMERSON: To avoid social embarrassment, many female patients turn to wigs, weaves, ponytails, scarves, headbands or hats. If they have irreversible alopecia, they have no choice but to wear a custom hair system.

To learn more about Dr. Amerson or to contact her for a consultation, visit