By Miriam Stoppard
Seeing recent pictures of Naomi Campbell’s bald patches, probably caused by hair extensions, brought back bad memories for me.
I know how she feels because a similar thing happened to me a few years ago. I wanted the front of my hair to look thicker and longer so I went to a hair-extension stylist who’d been highly recommended.
At first it looked fantastic but about a month later the join between my own hair and the extension had become noticeable so I decided to have them removed.
That’s when it went wrong. It took several attempts to dissolve the glue that was holding them on but the chemical used to do this pulled out my own hair.
As I looked down I saw huge clumps, roots and all, in my lap. When I looked up in the mirror, I had no hair at the front.
Once the shock had worn off, I was devastated. But I also felt incredibly stupid. I hadn’t really looked into what could go wrong – after all, it was a just a hair treatment, not a medical procedure.
What a mistake – although my hair has partially recovered it never regained its original thickness.
Over the past few years, a number of celebrities, including Victoria Beckham, are said to have had the odd temporary bald patch after having extensions. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston has complained that having it done ruined the condition of her locks.
Stylists maintain that, if your own hair is in good nick and the extensions are properly fitted and maintained, they should be fine.
However, last year research
in the British Journal of Dermatology claimed that some women lose their hair within a week of having extensions and that even women with no obvious signs of hair loss had considerable underlying damage to the scalp when examined more closely.
The dermatologists – from the University of Miami in Florida and Bologna University in Italy – suggested that the problems are probably far more common than reported.
Traction alopecia tends to happen at the front of the head and around the temples, where the hair is weakest.
The extensions, which are attached by glue, weaving or braiding, put tension on the hair follicles, which become inflamed, causing hair to fall out. This is more likely if the extensions are heavy, left in a long time or fitted badly. Some glues can damage hair, too.
But any tight hairstyles like braids can have the same effect while harsh chemicals such as dyes, bleaches and straightening solutions further weaken hair.
If it’s caught early, it’ll grow back but the hair loss can be permanent.
HOW TO SAVE YOUR SCALP
Look out for small, red, sometimes painful bumps on the scalp, flaking or broken-off hair.
If there’s any damage or hair loss, have the extensions professionally removed and limit styling.
Ask your GP to refer you to a dermatologist who can confirm the cause of your hair loss and whether it may grow back. Regrowth can take three to six months or longer.
If the hair loss is permanent, a hair transplant, in which hairs from the back of the head are grafted on to the bald bits, is the only solution. Needless to say, you can’t get it on the NHS and it will set you back several thousand pounds, so make sure the doctor is registered with the General Medical Council and belongs to the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgeons (www.hairsurgeons.org.uk).
The clinic should be registered with the Healthcare Commission. Ask about the doctor’s experience and what realistically can be achieved. Also
ask to see before and after pictures of their patients.
Do you have Hair Loss Problems, read our Hair Loss Help