Is your low self esteem pushing you to behaviors which increase your risk for hair damage? Learn about women and their hair, and why we should embrace whatever kind of hair we have
By Dr. Antonio C. Sison
In the pursuit of beauty from a Filipino woman’s perspective, the top two on the list would be beautiful skin and beautiful hair. And certainly based on the numerous television advertisements and products for hair available, having beautiful hair is a big market.
When I would naively ask my female friends how much they would spend for hair treatments in a salon it always surprised me when they would quote inordinate high prices (running up to PhP 10,000 for treatments) aside from the hours they would spend patiently while watching their hair being transformed into the tresses of their dreams, only to repeat this procedure months later.
This preoccupation for beautiful hair was not limited to women of higher social classes. I remember patients in the charity dermatology clinics who consulted for myriad hair conditions, some as a result of their use of products which they were allergic to or due to their behaviors which resulted in hair problems.
Health as a foundation for beauty
It was a sad realization that a significant number of Filipino women prioritize beauty over health concerns.
I remember one female patient at the charity dermatology clinic overly concerned about her skin darkened areas on the nape (Acanthosis Nigricans) which was due to her obesity and diabetes (uncontrolled). Even after explaining that weight loss and control of her diabetes would improve her skin condition, she insisted on a “bleaching” for the darkened areas. She wanted a quick fix. I explained again that she needed to focus on losing weight and controlling her blood sugar. She was still unhappy.
Overall care of self includes focusing on your health conditions first then focusing on beauty concerns. I had thought why would women prioritize on beauty (and spend money on it) compared to having their yearly check up with laboratory tests? Was having good skin and good hair really more important than one’s health?
Self esteem as a compass
Self esteem is defined as a person’s emotional and subjective evaluation of one’s worth. Therefore if you have good self esteem, you feel good about yourself and are confident and comfortable with your physical attributes like skin and hair. And if you have low self esteem, you do not feel good about yourself and this may be due to skin conditions (acne, acne scars, etc) and or hair issues (curly, etc).
Self esteem and hair treatments
Some women have low self esteem because their hair is not what they want it to be for the moment. Friend would have their straight hair curled while those with curly hair would have their tresses “rebounded” or “ironed” until they are satisfied.
I do notice that after their hair treatments that they move with much more confidence and actually feel more beautiful (I asked them) when they achieve the hairstyle and hair color that they had in mind.
Self esteem, kinky hair, and traction alopecia
For a young girl growing up with kinky hair can be a nightmare. There are no Filipino beauty role models who have kinky hair (at least not that I could recall while writing this).
One Filipino notion is that people with curly or kinky hair are “hot headed” which explained why their hair curled up. These girls become the target of teasing and bullying. As a result these girls have low self esteem. They are not happy with the unruly kinky hair and in an effort to achieve a “straightened” hairdo they would tightly knot their hair into a pony tail so that the hair will look flat and straight.
Due to the daily pulling of the hair into a tight knot, this may result to hair loss (traction alopecia) after a prolonged period of time.
The hair loss is noted on the hair line which has the most tension of pulling. Initially there would be hair breaking off but with the constant pressure, the hair may be pulled out (including the hair follicles).
Constant damage to the hair follicles may result in loss of hair which results in an advancing hair line. If tight pony tails is stopped it may reverse the hair loss depending on the status of the hair follicles on the hair line.
Hair and life events of the woman
As the woman goes through life, the hair may change as well. This may be most evident after the woman becomes pregnant and gives birth. Although happy to deliver a baby, the mother is left with the protruding belly and at times hair loss (postpartum alopecia).
The hair loss can be psychologically stressful and affect the self esteem of the new mother. This period of hair loss may last for several months.
When the woman starts menopause one may also experience hair loss due to the decrease in estrogen levels. The hair loss become stressful because of the change in hair affects the self esteem.
To put hair loss in perspective, one may lose between 50-100 hair strands a day. This range is considered normal. It is recommended that one seeks dermatological consult for any hair loss concerns or for any psychological stress one may be experiencing.
Embracing your Unique Beauty
It would be so easy to blame mass media, persistent advertisements and fashion glamour shoots of beautiful women as the standard one should achieve. But let us not forget that good self esteem starts at childhood nurtured by the parents and family. The values of beauty are formulated in early life experiences. A young girl told that her hair should be in a strict pony tail so that it does not become “kinky” is being told that her hair is not like other girls and therefore not beautiful. So these experiences are the seeds for lowered self esteem.
Beauty is not a formula dictated neither by mathematics nor by the assault of mass media of fair skinned straight haired clones pushed by cosmetic companies. The pursuit of beauty is a process of accepting and celebrating your own unique beauty….and it starts with you.
“The pursuit of beauty is a process of accepting and celebrating your own unique beauty….and it starts with you”
About the author:
Dr. Antonio C. Sison is the only board certified psychiatrist and dermatologist in the Philippines. His private practice includes patients who have psychiatric and dermatological conditions. His present research focus is the role of Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and patients with chronic dermatological conditions like psoriasis. Moreover he offers a unique perspective on the psychological perspectives of the Filipino woman and her pursuit for beauty and fulfillment.
Philippine Psychiatric Association: http://www.philpsych.ph/
Philippine Dermatological Association: http://www.pds.org.ph/