For many women, wearing a weave or extensions is a great way to switch up their hairstyle, adding length, volume, and even color.
However, while these hairstyles offer a range of possibilities, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say wearing them can damage your natural hair and even cause hair loss if proper precautions and care are not taken.
“Because a weave or extensions often require women to wear their natural hair tightly pulled, this can be tough on hair,” says board-certified dermatologist Shani Francis, M.D., M.B.A., FAAD. “The constant pulling can cause strands of hair to break or fall out, and it could damage your hair follicles. Once the hair follicles are damaged, your hair cannot grow back, leading to permanent hair loss. Fortunately, women can help avoid these issues by taking a few precautions before, during, and after wearing these styles.”
To prevent hair damage from a weave or extensions, Dr. Francis recommends the following tips:
- Get your natural hair in good shape: It’s important to take care of your natural hair before getting a weave or extensions. Make sure your hair is clean and free of buildup from products like hairspray. Use conditioner to keep your hair moisturized and strong. Continue to follow this hair care routine during and in between wearing a weave or extensions to keep your hair healthy.
- See a professional stylist: You should get your weave or extensions done by a professional. Pay attention when they are working; if you feel pain or have a headache, the hairstyle is too tight. Tight hairstyles can cause traction alopecia, which is a form of hair loss caused by repeated pulling on the hair, and it can be permanent. If the hairstyle hurts or feels too tight, ask your stylist to loosen the affected area.
- Keep your hairstyle clean: Wash your hair as often as needed for your hair type. If you are wearing clip-in extensions, remove them before washing your natural hair. Use a gentle, moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to keep your scalp clean and hydrated.
- Protect your edges: Your edges — the wispy baby hairs that grow around your hairline — are very fragile. Take care of this delicate hair by only using water-based styling gels and moisturizing it with conditioner. Avoid using heated styling tools as much as possible.
- Switch up your hairstyle: To maintain healthy hair, it’s important to give your hair a break from a weave or extensions. Wear these styles for two or three months at most, then give your hair a break by switching to a hairstyle without them.
“Remember, how you style your hair and the products you use can go a long way in maintaining healthy hair,” says Dr. Francis. “If you have questions about caring for your hair or are concerned about hair loss, see a board-certified dermatologist, as the sooner an issue is addressed, the better your results.”
These tips are demonstrated in “How to Prevent Hair Damage from a Weave or Extensions,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair, and nails.