This week a hair loss expert at the London Centre of Trichology came out and said that in the last two years, he’s seen a 15 percent increase in women seeking treatment after damaging their hair with glue extensions—which he now believes should be straight-up banned before they scalp more women. The trichologist told the BBC that the extension-related hair loss is traction alopecia, which is a condition caused when too much tension is regularly placed on the hair roots, pulling out the hairs, and damaging the follicles permanently. Yikes!
We asked New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, who specializes in hair loss, if hair extensions are going to give us hair reductions in the long run.
What’s your take on this news linking an increase in hair damage to extensions?
It doesn’t surprise me. It’s true—but it’s true for a variety of reasons. It’s not the hair extensions per se that are bad. It’s like anything—if you get artificial nails done or eyelash extensions—it’s about whether the person who is doing it and you, the person who is getting them, knows how to maintain them. I don’t think extensions should be banned; they should be done properly.
Is there a way to have extensions and not have hair damage or loss?
“Yes; go to a pro who really knows how to do extensions. Professionals should have undergone training; this is not something you want to have done at your local nail salon. And you should go back to your stylist for maintenance at least once a month. The stylist will make sure that the extensions are on properly, and if one is pulling at the hair, they’ll remove it and reapply it the proper way. They can also rotate the areas that they put the hair extensions on so it’s not the same group of hairs under stress every time. Rotating means less damage to the hair follicles. And [at home], you shouldn’t pull at [extensions] too much when styling.”
Say I’ve noticed some hair loss…
“If you’re starting to experience hair loss, address it right away. This will eventually damage the hair follicle and the hair loss will be permanent. So if you’re seeing [some loss] now, eventually the follicle will be scarred and you won’t get that hair back.”
The BBC story specifically mentions glue extensions. Are sewn-in extensions less harmful than glue extensions?
“No; sewn-in are more damaging than glue-in, which in America are called individual keratin extensions. The cornrowing [involved in the sewn-in process] is stressful on the hair and the hair follicles. There’s more weight on the surface area with sewn-in extensions than individual keratin strands. Individual keratin strands are better.”
So in summary: Glue-in > Sewn-in. If you notice an extension is pulling on your hair, see your stylist about having it removed and reapplied. If you’re already experiencing hair loss due to your extensions, have the extensions removed and see a doctor.