Can Extensions Cause Hair Loss?

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Hair extensions are an easy way to add length, volume, or both to your strands—but are they actually causing more harm than good? Don’t get us wrong, we covet our hair extensions, but it turns out they may be pretty damaging. We spoke with Dr. Julie Russak of Russak Dermatology Clinic who revealed they can actually be bad for your hair. The New York-based dermatologist even detailed whether or not extensions can cause hair loss. Scroll below to learn more!

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Do Extensions Really Cause Hair Loss?

First things first, can this coveted product actually cause hair loss? The short answer is yes. But, Dr. Russak has a longer answer to explain all that. “Hair extensions can definitely be damaging for the hair if either done for too long or done improperly,” she states. “The reason for this is twofold. When the actual glue from hair extensions is attached to the hair, it can strip the hair of its protective proteins and damage the hair, making it weaker and much easier to break. Second, the weight of the hair extensions (both synthetic and real hair) creates something similar to traction alopecia, which is a form of hair loss due to prolonged or repetitive tension on the scalp. In this case, due to the weight of the extensions.” Essentially, the extensions tug on your strands, which can lead to hair loss over time.

How Else Do They Damage Hair?

We’ve confirmed they can cause hair loss, but that’s not all the damage they do. And a lot of it is actually caused by the glue. The glue itself can strip “the normal protein layer of the hair,” notes Dr. Russak. Additionally, “the physical weight and pulling on the hair follicles from the extensions” can have irreversible effects.

That being said, it’s clear that glue-in hair extensions tend to be more damaging than clip-ins. So the heavier your glue-in extensions are, the more damage they will cause. Clip-ins can absolutely still do a number on your strands by pulling on the scalp so don’t think you’re in the clear.

What’s the Right Way to Use Extensions so They Don’t Cause Hair Loss?

As far as using extensions goes, Dr. Russak understands it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to part ways with their extensions for good. Instead, she stresses that she “would rather teach people how to use hair extensions the right way, and teach them how to strengthen and protect their hair and their scalp, so even when using hair extensions they won’t end up with bald patches or other damage.” And, thankfully, she shared exactly how to do that.

When it comes to protecting your strands, it’s all about how long you keep them in. “The right way to use hair extensions is to use very light hair and not for too long,” notes Dr. Russak. “A lot of women leave in their hair extensions forever and ever and continue to change them without giving the hair a break.” Guilty, but now that we know better, we can do better.

Should They Ever Be Used to Cover Hair Loss?

Now, what if you use extensions to cover hair loss? Well…you should stop doing that. Dr. Russak strongly advises against doing this as “adding something that creates more of a hair loss problem” won’t bode well for your strands in the long run. However, she does note that “gentler clip-in extensions only used during events, are a better solution for someone who wants to add more volume to their hair rather than true long-term glue-in extensions.” Rather than using extensions, you’ll want to be more practical about combatting your hair loss.

How Can You Combat Hair Loss Caused by Extensions?

There’s no overnight solution for hair loss. It requires plenty of patience and upkeep to boost hair growth. Still, there are some short-term things you can do to undo the damage caused by extensions.

“We have a pretty extensive protocol now designed in our clinic to really help strengthen both the scalp and the hair itself,” shares Dr. Russak. “Making sure you’re using hair-fortifying supplements while using extensions is very important. PRP injections are very helpful for someone who insists on using hair extensions, as the PRP helps to strengthen the scalp and the hair follicles, and add more nutrients to the hair follicles, so the hair proteins are stronger and can withstand the glue that is being used to attach the extensions.”

Did you know your gut is basically a window into how healthy your hair actually is? Discover the connection between gut health and hair loss HERE!