Because we specifically treat women experiencing hair thinning or loss, we often get asked the question; “what are your thoughts on hair extensions??”
Having professionally seen the potentially damaging effects of hair extensions, we can’t help but consider the poor little hair and worry about its follicular wellbeing. Although we’re not about to go on an anti-extension rampage, in most cases we err on the side of prevention and advise against extending.
Just to clarify, the fun little clip-ons that we put in for a few hours at a time for a special event or night out are a different story. Although these types of hair “extensions” can certainly cause hair breakage, they typically don’t cause the continuous tension on the hair that can lead to long term damage or loss. The extensions that are intended for longer wear are the ones that raise our concerns!
Unfortunately, most hair extending methods used in salons (and the ones most women are considering) affix segments of either synthetic or human hair that stay in for 3 months or more. This is what makes us worry. Ongoing tension from the extensions could cause trauma to the follicles. This extra tension on the hair shafts every day, all day, for more than a couple weeks can eventually lead to permanent damage and hair loss. This type of hair loss is called Traction Alopecia. We see many women at Medi Tresse that have already experienced significant hair loss due to traction. In many cases, the traction is due to a history of hair extensions or weaves, other times it could be as simple as hair styling techniques that pull hair back tightly in buns, ponytails, or braids. Depending on how long someone has used extensions, this damage could be non-reversible and hopes to rejuvenate the follicles are small. Treatments like Low Level Laser Therapy and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy can help preserve follicles and repair hairs that are not yet gone for good, however sometimes a hair transplant may be necessary to fill-in the affected areas of complete loss.
So regardless if extensions are tape-ins, clip-ins, weaves, bonding, or fusions, if they’re going to be attached to your hair for longer than a week, it would be wise to take a second to think about your follicles. Whatever you are considering doing it is best to speak to a hair loss specialist that can help guide you through the best possible treatment plan.
Posted by Lacey Sellati, RN, PA-C