Hair extensions are increasingly popular – it’s estimated that the hair extension business is worth around £50 million a year in the UK. And it’s seen 70% growth in the last five years.
Inspired by pictures and stories about Jennifer Lopez, Victoria Beckham and Miley Cyrus, clients are looking for more volume, greater length, a quick restyle and more flexibility in their look.
So hair professionals are being asked more and more about hair extensions, how they work, and of course how much they cost. In fact, you may well be one of those stylists or designers who’s skilled and experienced in applying hair extensions, and happy to advise clients on what’s best for them.
Eva Proudman is a specialist hair consultant at wig makers and hair extension suppliers Banbury Postiche. For her, good hair extensions are all about quality: “The quality of the consultation before you start, the quality of the hair you use, the quality of the application, and the quality of the maintenance of the extensions. For me, these are all vital to successful, and healthy, use of extensions.”
But things can and do go wrong with extensions. Trichologists know only too well the effect that badly applied extensions can have on a client’s hair and scalp. A typical problem is traction alopecia. This is a condition where continual pulling at the hair causes hair loss or thinning. In the worst cases there can be scarring of the scalp, as well as damage to the follicle and permanent loss of hair.
In fact, many trichologists advise against using extensions in any circumstances. They say extensions make it impossible to shampoo or even brush the hair properly, and both these are fundamental to healthy hair and scalp.
Traction alopecia can occur when extensions are poorly applied or maintained. For example, the hair may have been badly sectioned on application, or too much heat has been used when bonding the extension to the natural hair. Eva Proudman adds: “Problems can also be caused when the extensions are applied too close to the scalp, because this causes root lift and stops the hair moving naturally.”
When a trichologist does diagnose traction alopecia, the first piece of advice will be for the extensions to be removed, so giving the hair and scalp some time to recover from the effect of the extensions. Then the true state of the hair and scalp can be properly assessed. Often it can be simply a matter of letting the hair and scalp recover of their own accord over time.
One group who are especially vulnerable are those with fine or thin hair, especially those with hair loss through chemotherapy. They may look to extensions to give their hair more volume. But they’re exactly the group who should beware, because the weight of the extensions can pull at the hair and damage the follicles and scalp. In fact, Macmillan, the cancer support charity, say that extensions can cause damage even to healthy hair, so aren’t suitable for weak or thin hair. For this group, hair pieces or wigs may be a better option.
Eva Proudman says that applying extensions should be a three-step process. “First comes the consultation, when you assess the hair and talk to the client about their expectations. Then comes the skilled application. And third is aftercare, because it’s important that extensions are removed and reapplied every 6-8 weeks.”
Extensions should look and feel comfortable. They should cause no pain or discomfort, or damage to the hair or scalp. If your client’s extensions are uncomfortable, there’s a problem.
Trichology training provides hair professionals with a thorough understanding of how the body works to maintain optimum health for the skin, hair and scalp. Through studying trichology you’ll discover what causes conditions like traction alopecia and other problems of the hair and scalp, and in what circumstances they can be managed and resolved.