Geordie Shore star Sophie Kasaei says she has paid the ultimate price for years of “tormenting my hair” and that she may have suffered permanent hair loss.
The cause of her woes is an enduring love affair with hair extensions; luxurious lengths of hair that can be clipped or woven in which can dramatically transform even the dullest of hairstyles. What many people don’t realise, however, is that these dazzling adornments can wreak havoc with the scalp when left in for too long. And it is something that Ms Kasaei has discovered to her peril.
Speaking to MTV, which makes the hit reality TV show, Ms Kasaei said: “Because of all the extensions I’ve been getting, I’ve suffered from Traction Alopecia. Which means that I’ve lost hair on the sides and that it may never come back.” Sophie shows her bald patches to illustrate the extent of the damage her extensions have caused in the video below.
Tight braids and cornrows
Traction Alopecia is not uncommon, and was traditionally more often seen in people who had chosen to wear their hair in tight hairstyles such as braids, ballerina buns or dreadlocks. Now, however, the availability, affordability and popularity of hair extensions has seen a sharp hike in the number of women experiencing hairloss as a result.
Traction Alopecia treatment begins when a client is made to understand that self-help is the only way to start: they need to commit to a hairstyle that will not place any undue stress on the follicles, at least until the scalp has recovered, including ditching the extensions. Continues below…
At Belgravia, clients with Traction Alopecia are treated with topical applications of high strength minoxidil from the range of formulations available at the centres’ in-clinic pharmacies. This is applied directly to the scalp where needed, which is often around the hairline as well as at the sites where extensions were fixed. The hairline and temple areas – also known as ‘edges’ – not only contain what is believed to be the weakest hair follicles on the scalp, but these areas also bear the brunt of the extra weight and tension caused by problematic hairstyles, weaves and extensions.
In order to further promote healthy hair growth, extras including Belgravia’s exclusive, highly-targeted food supplement, Hair Vitalics for Women, may also be offered. This range of hair growth boosters comprises products to help nourish and stimulate the hair follicles, as well as complementing the pharmaceutical treatment. This two-pronged approach can be particularly beneficial if -as in many cases of hair loss from hair styling practices – there is also dry hair or hair breakage present. In instances of breakage, a haircut to remove split ends can also be advisable, even if a dusting technique is used to improve hair health whilst avoiding losing too much length.
Ms Kasaei was speaking out about her hair issues because, she says, she wants to raise awareness. “Going forward,” she says, “I just want to start looking after my hair and I want to make people aware that if you are getting extensions, give your hair a break in between because you don’t want to end up with bald patches like this.”
It is sensible advice, and echoes that of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who came up with guidelines last year pertaining to how long certain hairstyles could be worn before they are changed. The advice was aimed primarily at women of colour as Afro hair is naturally more brittle so can damage more easily, though people of other hair types and races would do well to heed these warnings too. They recommend that braided hairstyles should be in place no longer than three months, while weaves and extensions should be taken out after a maximum of eight weeks. As was pointed out at the time, by removing the styles before these “deadlines”, the risk of Traction Alopecia is obviously reduced. That does not mean that the risk is minimal, however.
The temptation to wear extensions can be extremely strong among young women, especially when friends are doing the same, or there is a intention to out-do them and look even more glamorous. However, there has also been a trend for older women wearing hair extensions in order to help restore the hair’s natural volume that decreases with age. Many are unaware of the damage this cosmetic option can cause, especially in cases where they already have thinning hair.
Peer pressure and the desire to look good are issues that Ms Kasaei briefly touched on when speaking to the Mail Online. “I compare myself to the other girls [on Geordie Shore],” she said. “It’s hard for me because I wasn’t as popular as the other girls, so I look up to them. They’re working out, they’ve got trainers, they’ve got this, they’ve got that. I think because they do it I should.”
This sentiment is echoed by Belgravia hair loss specialist Leonora Doclis who explains: “When women see their hair with extensions in, it can – of course – look fantastic. They have so much volume and extra length. The problem is that these effects tend to be so exaggerated that they are unrealistic looks for real hair. As a result, when women remove these styles, they often say that they feel their natural hair looks flat and thin. Then, in what can quickly become an on-going – and very bad – habit, they go straight back to the extensions again – even if they understand that doing so could lead to hair loss at best and, in severe cases, permanent bald patches.”
Thankfully, due to increased media coverage and awareness of Traction Alopecia, there is growing support encouraging women to stop punishing their hair in ways that can cause the condition. In the UK and the USA the Black community is making huge strides with its Natural Hair movement, whilst in the UK, a small newspaper poll found that 74 per cent of women would not, or no longer, wear hair extensions due to hair loss concerns.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.