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Dr. Schweiger on PIX 11 - Dangers of Hair Extensions

Dr. Schweiger lends his expertise on hair loss in women and cosmetic hair extensions in a segment on PIX 11 television. The interview with Dr. Steve Salvatore focused on the pitfalls of using some types of hair extensions, or using them improperly.

Hair extensions can result in undesirable bald patches caused by traction alopecia, which is hair loss due to a constant tugging on hair follicles.

Read the transcript of the interview below:

Dr. Steve: Dr. Schweiger, there are two types of hair extensions, tell me about those. The permanent and temporary type.

Dr. Schweiger: There are permanent and temporary. The temporary are just that. They are clip-on hair extensions, they’re meant to be used for weddings, special occasions, to test out a new hair style. And they are generally the safer of the hair extensions.

Then there are permanent hair extensions, and there are different types. One permanent type you actually sew into the hair.

Dr. Steve: So you sew it into the existing hair, not the scalp, but the existing hair.

Dr. Schweiger: Exactly, into the hair.

And the other types are either glued or they use metal clamps to put it into the hair and they stay in for anywhere from 1 month to 3 months at a time.

Dr. Steve: So what are the problems that you have with the… I mean, obviously the clip-on ones are probably fine, right? But these other ones, the more permanent ones, what are the problems you run into.

Dr. Schweiger: The main problem that we’re seeing in patients is what’s called traction alopecia. And traction alopecia can come from tight braids or tight hair extensions and it leads to hair loss. Alopecia is just the medical term for hair loss. We’re seeing young patients who are using these products to look better, actually ending up with bald patches and looking worse.

[……]

Dr. Steve: So, obviously you think that the temporary ones are better. What’s the treatment for something like that.

Dr. Schweiger: The first thing, [which] is obvious, is take out the hair extensions. And then go see your doctor to assess the damage. Oftentimes, time will grow back the hair, if not, we can use injections of cortisone. The last line is hair transplant surgery, which a lot of people don’t know is an option. With a hair transplant, we take out a long strip of hair in the back of the scalp, and we dissect it into slivers, then into individual hairs. Then, actually, place them in the balding area to bring back the hair.

Dr. Steve: And the good thing about that is it’s not the old transplants of the past that look like little cornrows. It really does look great. Dr. Schweiger and Chioma, thanks so much for coming. Really appreciate it.

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Q: I just started to lose my hair but it’s just in one spot, like a circle on the left side of my head. Do you ever do a hair transplant just into a bald spot and not the whole head? — D.F., Esher, U.K.

A: It is possible to have a hair restoration procedure into a single bald spot. However, it would be most beneficial to first determine the cause of the condition.

Bald spots caused by alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease) are best treated with injections of steroids into the scalp, rather than with a hair transplant. In fact, the transplanted hair can be rejected in patients with this condition.

Traumatic scars (i.e. from an accident) can be treated with follicular unit hair transplantation as the hair grows quite well in scar tissue, as long as the scar is not thickened (hypertrophic).

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Q: I am a 34 year woman with a patch of hair loss by my temple. I went to the salon to have my hair done and to my surprise my hairdresser told me that I have Alopecia? First time I’d heard of it, my G.P is not very concerned about it but having read so much about it on this site I am becoming a bit concerned. The rest of my hair is healthy any suggestions and diagnosis? — M.V., Williamsburg, Brooklyn

A: “Alopecia” is just a generic term for any kind of hair loss.

It sounds like you have a specific condition called alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that presents with the sudden appearance of well localized bald spot(s) on the scalp or other parts of the body. The underlying skin is always normal.

The treatment is injections with cortisone. Hair transplant surgery is not indicated for this condition.

You should see a dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis and treat.

Other diagnoses to consider are triangular alopecia (which would have been present since childhood) and traction alopecia (that is cased by constant tugging on the hair).

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