Crown Clinic‘s surgeon Asim Shahmalak has called for tighter regulation of the hair extension industry.
Dr Shahmalak 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 said that he often has to repair the damage caused by the over-use of hair extensions.
He said: “Most women having hair transplants think it is a 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, can repair the damage with a hair transplant.
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 seek 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.”