Treacherous tresses: The high cost of hair extensions

Posted at 8:29 AM, Apr 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-08 10:57:32-04

(PIX11) -- With all that lush hair on every celebrity on every magazine cover, you may feel the pressure to have long luscious locks. But what if what your mama gave you just isn’t cutting it?

Seeking the ideal 'do has Americans spending billions every year. But from the normal thinning hair, to extensions, even ponytails and buns, we may be doing more harm in trying to fix a bad situation.

What we want is this beautiful, bouncy, bountiful tresses, but there can be an ugly side to getting gorgeous hair with a weave, a wig or extensions. It can lead to hair breakage, hair loss and even permanent scarring of the scalp.

While clients love the look—it can easily turn ugly when done wrong. Brittany Spears’ scalp was scarred where extensions likely pulled her hair out out. Naomi Campbell’s receding hair line was snapped by paparazzi and everyone from Pam Anderson to Beyonce sported pixie cuts after years of heavy hair extensions took their toll.

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Dermatologist Dr. Anetta Rezsko sees patients whose hair has been damaged by extensions gone wrong.

"In medical terminology, we actually use the term traction alopecia to describe the hair loss and sometimes it's permanent hair loss due to the extensions," Rezsko said.

Reszko said all that sewing and pulling with weighty extensions literally pulls a woman’s hair out. Some glues can cause an allergic reaction. And while women should expect to lose half their hair by the age of 50 as a normal part of aging, any unusual loss needs to be evaluated.

"Sometimes it's diet," Rezsko said. "A low protein diet, iron, sometimes it's a thyroid condition so you have to address with a dermatologist or an internist all of these underlying causes and correct those before going towards extensions."

Even ballerinas with perfect buns or tight ponytails can permanently pull the hair off their head. Trying to fix it with extensions only makes the problem worse.

Dr. Rezsko sums it up: “It's the price of beauty that some people are willing to pay, but it is unfortunate. Hair loss can be reversible if corrected early.”