*New research findings show that very tight braiding or weaving is linked to a permanent type of hair loss that affects many African American women

While the findings can’t prove hair grooming is at the root of the problem, women might still want to take them into consideration, said Dr. Angela Kyei, who worked on the study.

“I won’t tell you not to braid your hair, but I don’t want you to braid it so tightly that you need to take pain medication,” said Kyei, of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Prolonged pulling at the hair strands may cause inflammation of the hair follicle, which has been shown to lead to scarring. In principle, that could lead to a type of balding that dermatologists call central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, or scarring hair loss.

This type of balding starts at the top of the scalp and slowly spreads to the rest. It occurs only in black women. Because there is no treatment for it, Kyei decided to try to find out what is causing it instead.

Observations from the 1960s had hinted it was related to hot-comb straightening, but little research has looked at other explanations.

Balding also linked to bacterial scalp infections
Reseachers found that women with scarring hair loss were also more likely to have type 2 diabetes, to braid or weave their hair tightly, and to have bacterial scalp infections.

The new study, published in the Archives of Dermatology, is based on health questionnaires and scalp examinations of 326 African American women.

Read MORE of this Reuters story at MSNBC.