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Are wigs and weaves bad for your health?

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On a recent episode of The Doctors, actress Countess Vaughn spoke about lace front wigs and the damage they caused to her health. She candidly described the result of an allergic reaction she had to the glue used to install her wig.  The Parkers star admits to falling in love with the wigs after her hair stylists introduced her to them in 2004. She said she didn’t consider the health risks and was so excited about wearing them.

Countess Vaughn

Countess Vaughn

Immediately you have a full hairline.  I was wearing it 24/7.  5 years after, the drama came in. The red flag was the oozing, from the ears, from my forehead, the whole nap around my head, the puss. It had a horrible smell. It was painful

Her experience is a strong warning about the potential dangers of constant weaving.  This is not just confined to lace front wigs, which require harsh glues. The tension required for installing weaves and braids can also lead to hair loss.  Some wigs come with comb attachments that can put stress on the hairline.  Unfortunately, many hair stylists prefer to braid and sew tightly for neatness.   Traction alopecia  is more prevalent in females with Afro-textured hair, according to a piece written in the Dermatology Online Journal: The fringe sign for public education on traction alopecia. The study found that the prevalence:

  • Is higher in African schoolgirls than boys (17.1% vs. 0%)
  • Increases with age in girls [8.6% (6-7 years), 15.6% (10-15 years), to 21.7% (17-21 years)]
  • Is higher in girls with relaxed vs. natural hair (22% vs. 5.2%)
  • Is highest in adults (31.7% in women vs. 2.3% in men; with affected males more likely to wear cornrows and dreadlocks)

Countess Vaughn admitted that she now has to draw her hairline with an eyebrow pencil and people have assumed she has vitiligo due to the discoloration caused by a skin reaction to the glue.  Women who have experienced such hair loss are likely to have more of an appreciation for the hair they may have thought wasn’t good enough by itself. Vaughn’s honesty and openness about this topic is commendable.

The damage caused by  an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

The damage caused by an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

So does all this information mean that you should stop wearing weaves immediately and go ‘cold turkey’? As with everything, moderation is the key.  Occasional use of wigs and weaves for diversity and protective styling can be beneficial. If you wear weaves and wigs, there are ways to minimize the risks associated with them, whether your hair is relaxed or natural.

Here are some suggestions compiled by Transform Medical Group:

  • Hairstyles should be painless, and if you are experiencing pain, the only solution is to loosen the hair.
  • Traction hairstyles should not be done on relaxed hair until at least two weeks after relaxing.
  • Only new growth should be relaxed. Relaxing hair that has previously been relaxed can increase the risk of damage.
  • Heat treatment (straighteners etc) can damage relaxed hair and should be avoided
  • Weaves, braids  and dreadlocks present greater risk when done on relaxed hair

How many of us endured the pain and headaches associated with tight braids or weaves, instead of taking them out? There is a general belief that the tighter the braids, the longer they last and the neater they look. The pain from tight braids and weaves is only reduced when the hair strands weaken, break and fall out.  Many of us have also made the mistake of coloring our hair soon after relaxing it usually for convenience or because of impatience.

Relaxed hair is hair that has been weakened by harsh chemicals and stripped of its elasticity. So any additional styling or chemical use must take this into consideration. According to Dr Marboor Bhatty of the Transform Medical Group, many of the traction alopecia cases he sees come from people being ‘disrespectful to their hair’.

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

So respect and look after your hair to avoid these dangers. Do not give more care and attention to your fake weave than your real hair underneath.

Have you had a bad experience with wigs and weaves? How do you minimize the risks associated with them?  Share your experience below.

Sources:

Transform Medical Group

Here is the link to the original article

http://www.transforminglives.co.uk/news-blog/blog/2014/03/hair-extensions-%E2%80%93-reducing-risks/

Dermatology Online Journal

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1h81c7s1

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