Crown Clinic surgeon Asim Shahmalak said the hair extension trade needed far tighter regulation.
He said: “It is crying out for a proper regulatory body which can assess salons and weed out rogue operators.
“Anyone carrying out hair extensions should be overseen by experts so that if something does go wrong customers have some form of redress.
“At present the whole trade is completely unregulated and anyone can set themselves up in a salon and appear to be ‘an expert.””
Dr Shahmalak, who runs Britain’s leading hair transplant centre Crown Clinic in Manchester and also has consulting rooms in Harley Street, London, said that he often has to repair the damage caused by over-use of hair extensions.
He said: “Most women having hair transplants think it is relatively harmless procedure but there are risks involved and in about five per cent of cases women can become infected after being given hair extensions.
“In the most extreme cases, this infection can be in the form of ringworm.
“Problems happen because women have hair infections too often. They are unable to clean the hair at his root and hygiene problems occur.
“Around 10% of my patients are women, and many of these come to me with traction alopecia caused by their hair extensions.
“The most famous example of traction alopecia is Naomi Campbell. She had hair extensions for many years and was always pulling her hair back quite tightly. This caused permanent damage to her hair follicles and left her with bald patches at the front of the scalp.
“If millionaire supermodels like Naomi with access to the very best hair stylists in the world can have problems with their hair extensions, just think what problems ordinary women have.
“Thousands of women in the UK are going through nightmares caused by having inappropriate extensions. They have been relying on extensions too much when they should just let their hair grow naturally.
“The women I most typically treat at Crown Clinic have been having hair extensions from their teens and run into problems in their 30s and 40s. They end up with bald patches due to infections and complications.”
In many cases, Dr Shahmalak, famous for carrying on hair transplants on a string of celebrities including the TV doctor Christian Jessen, model Calum Best, soccer pundit Didi Hamann and Gogglebox star Chris Steed can repair the damage with a hair transplant – either a FUE (follicular unit extraction) procedure or a FUT (follicular unit transplantation) procedure.
He said: “I can sort out the damage caused by traction alopecia with a hair transplant. Hair is taken from the back or sides of the scalp and transplanted into the bald patches where the follicles have been permanently damaged.
“In some cases, a hair transplant is not possible because the bald area is too large or the woman has bald patches right across her scalp caused by the hair extensions.”
Dr Shahmalak is famous for pioneering new hair treatments for women in the UK including eyelash transplants (caused by over-plucking) and eyebrow transplants (needed after the natural lashes are damaged by the glue used to attach false lashes).
He carried out the first eyelash transplant in the UK, on a woman in Manchester, in 2009.
Dr Shahmalak said: “Hair science has improved markedly over the last ten years so that most women with bald patches caused by hair extensions can seeks a remedy through a hair transplant.
“The industry badly needs a shake-up so we hear about no more cases of women scarred for life by inappropriate hair extensions but they are simple ways they can sort out the problems. A hair transplant can fill in the bald patches and leave their hair much as it was before the problems.”
When the sun comes out, we know that we need to apply sunscreen to protect our skin, but many people forget to pay the same care to protecting their hair. Between the sun, sea and swimming pools, many of our favourite summer activities can significantly damage our hair – so the next time you go out to enjoy the sunshine, find out what you can do to protect it.
Why does sun damage the hair?
Sun damage to the hair is caused by the harmful UVA and UVB rays, which damage the outermost layer of the layer – the cuticle – and weaken the protein structure of the hair, making it dry, brittle and more prone to breaking. Some people find that their hair lightens in the sun, as the rays act in a similar fashion to bleach, stripping the melanin from the hair.
Protecting your hair from the sun
Wearing a hat is an easy way to protect your hair and scalp from the sun, especially if you’re outside when the sun is at its strongest. Hair SPF is also an option, which can usually be bought as a spray to be misted over the hair. Pay extra attention to the scalp – many people forget that the scalp can burn just as easily as the rest of the skin, ending up with an itchy, flaky, burnt scalp. If you do burn your scalp, rinse your hair in cool water and apply aloe vera to the affected areas, and make sure to keep your head covered when going outdoors.
If your hair is looking dry, try a deep conditioning treatment to restore some of the lost moisture to the hair, and avoid wearing your hair in any tight styles that may pull on the scalp. Summer is also a good time to temporarily stop using hairdryers, straighteners and any other hot tools to avoid adding to the sun damage.
Protecting your hair from the sea
Salt water is notorious for drying out the hair. It leaches moisture out of it, making it incredibly brittle and tangled, which can cause significant breakage. Before you go swimming, saturate your hair with clean water to prevent it from absorbing as much salt water, and don’t let it sit in your hair – rinse it thoroughly as soon as you get out of the sea. Deep conditioners and hair masks will also help replenish the moisture.
Protecting your hair in a swimming pool
Just like salt water, chlorinated water is very harsh and drying on the hair, so you can take similar precautions to swim in the sea. You could also try a swimming cap, as this not only prevents the chlorine from damaging your hair, but it will also protect your scalp from sunburn. If you have highlighted or blonde hair, be especially careful when in a swimming pool, as the copper and chlorine in the water have been known to form a film that sticks to the proteins in hair, turning it a green shade. Thankfully, this isn’t permanent, but make sure to enter the pool with wet hair and rinse it as soon as you get out.