Hair loss

Updated 28 June 2016

Hair extensions could lead to permanent hair loss

The magic of hair extensions is many a girl's best kept beauty secret. However, few realise the risk this growing beauty trend poses for permanent hair loss.

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Long lustrous locks blowing in the breeze. Elegant updos piled atop the head. Who wouldn’t want the magic of hair extensions?

Being able to change your look on a whim, rather than waiting years for your own hair to grow is many a girl’s best kept beauty secret.  But unknown to many, this growing beauty trend poses the risk for permanent hair loss.

Hair extensions were first reported being used in ancient Egypt, but really gained popularity in the 60s and 70s when beehives were all the range and Cher’s enviable tresses made women rush to the nearest salon.

Rather than hiding under a scratchy wig, natural or artificial hair could be added to your own hair, increasing the length or fullness.

When celebrities were seen using hair extensions to change their look on a regular basis, the general public flocked to copy their silver screen idols.

Women in huge numbers, and men to a smaller extent started buying into this new business, turning hair extensions into a multimillion dollar industry virtually overnight.

Read: Good care equals healthy hair

Multiple techniques

Dr Craig Ress aka The Hair Doctor, an expert in hair transplantation says: "The theory behind hair extensions is wonderful. You can increase the length of your hair by simply attaching small groupings of either artificial or human hair to the ends of your existing hair.

"Or, if you had very thin hair with no body, you can attach these bunches of hair to the base of your hair shafts, thereby increasing the volume and fullness of your hair.

The problem with such techniques is that you have to find a way to attach the extra hair to your own hair.

"Multiple techniques are utilised, from using small clips, to small metal rings that are crimped on, to potentially harmful glues, to sewing in bunches of extensions to your existing hair which has to be weaved into rows."

What the wonderful advertising campaigns do not show you is the potential damage these various techniques can cause.

Read: Top 5 foods for healthy hair

Permanent damage

What is hair? Hair grows from a root or follicle underneath the skin.  The root is the living portion of the hair while the shaft is composed of the dead cells pushed out from the root as it grows. 

Any type of chemical or mechanical treatment of the hair can damage both the root and the shaft. If your extensions are not put in or taken out correctly multiple forms of damage can occur. The glue, heat, and mechanical crimps used to attach hair extensions can damage the hair shaft, causing it to break at or just above the extension joins. 

The extra weight of the added hair can be too much, pulling the natural hair out at the follicles. Or hair may be pulled out at the root simply by brushes or combs catching in the various types of joins. If pulled out often enough, the follicle will simply die, resulting in hair loss, a condition known in the medical field as traction alopecia.

Even if you are lucky enough to avoid the potential damage that hair extensions may cause your own hair, you are highly unlikely to avoid the potential damage to your bank account.

Read: Brazilian blowout a health threat

Correcting problems

Hair extensions are not permanent. Adding extensions takes up to five or six hours depending on the attachment technique. Current techniques will produce results for a maximum of three months. Then you have to have it redone all over again, often having to buy new extensions.

And with hair, you definitely got what you pay for. Cheap artificial hair looks quite unattractive and unnatural, and badly attached hair extensions are easily noticed.

In spite of all the potential damage to your hair and your wallet, hair extensions continue to be sold in large numbers. When done properly by experts, hair extensions can help a person correct a problem that can be quite devastating or purely provide a fresh and fashionable look. 

As Dr Craig Ress cautions: "But remember, for every Jennifer Aniston type celebrity who walks down the red carpet with long flowing locks, there are the inevitable Britney Spears celebrities who have suffered irreparable damage to their own natural heads of hair.

"As long as you are well educated and informed about the potential hazards associated with hair extensions, and you enter into the journey fully informed go for it with your eyes wide open."

Read more:

Health risks of the 'chiskop' haircut

How to avoid a bad hair day

Cover your kids' heads - super lice are coming!


(Image: Hair extensions from Shutterstock)

 

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