Hair extensions and traction alopecia

Hair extensions are a popular choice for anyone looking to add more volume and length to their hair. However, despite their ability to make the hair look thicker, they can actually be harming the hair in the process. Whether they are clip-in extensions or something a little more long-term, like micro-ring extensions, they still pose a risk to the hair and scalp.

Over the past few years, we have noticed a steady increase in the number of patients – primarily women – presenting with traction alopecia as a result of wearing hair extensions. Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss caused by repeated pulling on the hair around the same area. As well as hair extensions, traction alopecia can be caused by wearing the hair in tight hairstyles.

Why are my hair extensions pulling out my hair?

Hair extensions are attached right at the root of the hair, so the constant tension around the area of the scalp can rip the hairs out. Over time, this repeated damage to the follicles may become permanent, meaning no new hairs will grow in that area.

Unlike other types of alopecia, traction alopecia only affects the areas of the scalp that have had tension directly applied. It usually starts as small bumps on the scalp, before progressing to balding or thinning areas, typically around the front or side of the scalp.

What are the worst types of hair extensions for your hair?

It’s worth noting that if incorrectly applied to the hair, any type of hair extension can be damaging. Glue-in hair extensions can damage the real hair if not placed correctly, as the glue can cling to the real hair and may pull it out when the extensions are removed. Sewn-in extensions – also known as a weave – can put significant stress on the follicles, as the real hair needs to be braided tightly before the hair extensions are attached.

If applied by a professional, micro-ring hair extensions are a less damaging option as they do not use glue or harsh chemicals – however, the rings can slip down the hair, so be wary of this. Clip-in extensions are a temporary solution that most people use for one-off events rather than repeated use, which minimises damage, but if worn regularly these may also damage the hair and scalp.

Will the bald patches from my hair extensions grow back?

In many instances, traction alopecia is reversible – but it does need to be treated quickly. If you notice any itching, soreness or redness around the scalp, remove your extensions as soon as possible. Wear your hair down as often as you can and avoid applying heat to your hair, to give it the best chance of growing back.

How do you prevent traction alopecia from extensions?

If you must get extensions, only get them fitted by a reputable hairdresser who is fully trained in fitting that particular type of hair extensions. Ideally, wear clip-in extensions that can be removed quickly and easily if you begin to feel discomfort.