Is Hair Prosthesis Healthy?

Hair prosthesis is considered one of the treatment options for hair loss and is considered a medical device for different types of alopecia. Although prosthetic devices have been shown to improve the quality of life and self-esteem for many people, you should consider some things before investing in one.

One important thing to know about them is that while they can help camouflage any existing bald spots, they can also worsen your existing hair loss. Improper usage and certain materials used in hair prostheses can contribute to this problem.

Additionally, they can also be a hassle in terms of cost and maintenance. In this guide, you’ll learn more about the potential harms of prosthetic hair devices and some other treatment options that you can consider.

Do Hair Prosthetics Damage Hair?

Hair prosthetics can potentially damage your hair in the following ways:

  • Traction alopecia
  • Allergic reaction
  • Inflammation

Traction Alopecia

Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that occurs from prolonged and repeated mechanical trauma to the scalp from pulling. Unfortunately, there are a number of ways in which prostheses can cause traction alopecia.

According to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, all of the following can cause traction alopecia through hair wigs:

  • Added pressure from the weight of more hair
  • Tight braids worn underneath the wig (to create a flatter surface for the wig)
  • Certain wig liners, such as those made from cotton and nylon
  • Injury from wig glues and heating
  • Process of removing the wig itself

Another study published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology also warns of the potential of hair breakage from the clips used to secure wigs in place. Taking those clips off can cause breakage, especially if you already have traction alopecia and/or acquired trichorrhexis nodosa – a shaft disorder that forms nodes and weakens the hair.

Woman wearing wig

Here, it’s important to note that traction alopecia isn’t always temporary. In its advanced stage, it can result in scarring and lead to permanent hair loss as well. It can exacerbate existing alopecia, so you need to be careful about its usage.

Allergic Reaction

Hair prostheses can also possibly cause alopecia through allergic contact dermatitis. A 2021 study published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology reported acrylates used in hair prostheses’ glue as a source of allergic reactions.

And this allergic reaction can, in turn, trigger another type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium, which occurs when the body experiences shock of some kind. Fortunately, telogen effluvium is temporary, but hair loss may start 2-3 months after the allergic reaction and can last for 6 months or so.

Skin Damage

Hair prostheses may also cause hair loss by affecting the skin of your scalp. In the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology study mentioned above, the researchers also warn that hair prosthesis can cause “occlusive and mechanical folliculitis,” which refers to the inflammation of the hair follicles.

According to the research, the glues used in wigs can block the openings of hair follicles, resulting in this condition. Similarly, the tight fits and friction from wigs can cause the same problem. Proper hygiene and loose application are advised as ways to mitigate this risk.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Hair Replacement Systems?

Besides the possibility of hair damage, hair replacement systems have a couple of other disadvantages:

Cost

The cost of a hair prosthesis can widely vary, depending on the material from which it’s made, how it’s made (machine or handmade) and whether the hair is synthetic or human. In general, synthetic wigs are less expensive than wigs with human hair.

They might cost you anywhere from £30 to £200, however, according to Breastcancer.org, you can expect synthetic wigs to last for 3-5 months. Human hair wigs, on the other hand, which are preferred for their stylability and natural look, might last for 9-12 months. But these might cost you about £1,500 to £4,500.

Hair wigs

These days, custom-made suction wigs are also available that come with a silicone base underneath human hair. According to a study published in the International Journal of Trichology, these can last for 2-4 years. However, they can also be considerably expensive.

In the long run, wigs can cost you anywhere from £150 to £4,500 each year more or less. But you must know that since “hair prosthesis” or “cranial prosthesis” are considered medical devices, they’re available on the NHS and might be covered by your insurance.

You can get a “partial human hair wig” on the NHS for £207 and a full one for £302.70. Individuals meeting certain criteria might also be able to get it for free, such as those under the age of 16, hospital inpatients, etc. Therefore, it’s important that you look into this as well to find out if you qualify for a free hair prosthetic. Similarly, you should inquire about this from your insurance provider.

Maintenance

Wigs maintenance can be a bit of a hassle. Whether they’re made from artificial hair or human hair, they need to be cared for through proper cleaning and washing. And you have to be careful about the products you use as they might damage the hair on the prosthesis.

Hair wig care

You also have to be careful when trying to detangle it since if you pull too hard, it can make the hair come out. Moreover, you need to be careful when heat styling as that can melt or burn the synthetic fibres.

Limited Range

While it’s true that there’s a range of different wig styles available, as mentioned above, they’re not exactly cheap, especially if you want them custom-made and with human hair.

That can limit you in a number of ways. For instance, when it comes to styling, if you decide to cut your wig’s hair short, but then want longer hair later on, you’ll have to spend more money. The same goes for dyeing a wig.

Do Hair Prosthetics Smell?

Hair prosthetics can smell if you’re not keeping them clean or maintaining proper hygiene. While you have the wig on, sweat, dirt, and other gunk can get trapped underneath, which is why it’s important for you to keep your scalp clean.

Natural hair can also smell if it’s not kept clean. But if your prosthetic is smelling regardless, you should raise the issue with the manufacturer or the stylist who helped fit it.

Is Hair Prosthetic A Good Idea?

While hair prosthetics can have their disadvantages, they can still be effective treatment options for different types of alopecia, especially if other medical therapies have proven ineffective and you’re not suitable for a transplantation surgery.

Hair prosthetic

A study published in the Annals of Dermatology reported positive “psychosocial” effects of wigs in patients with severe alopecia areata, although the “economic burden” from wigs was also the most common concern.

If non-surgical treatments like minoxidil, finasteride, PRP, laser or a surgical procedure like hair transplant is not a possibility, you can also consider getting scalp micropigmentation. The latter creates an optical illusion of sorts in which a special pigment is dotted on the scalp to resemble hair follicles.

Conclusion

Hair prosthesis have their pros and cons. Since hair loss can be a very distressing cosmetic concern, hair prosthetics can serve to help with some of the emotional fallout. However, it’s important that you follow the instructions of your manufacturer when it comes to their usage and maintenance.

Other than that, cost can be another concern when it comes to wigs, especially since it’s going to be recurrent. In contrast, a hair transplant can give permanent results, if you’re a suitable candidate for the treatment. If cost is a concern, you can consider getting a hair transplant in Turkey where the surgery is usually around £1,500 to £2,000.

In any case, if you’re experiencing hair loss, you must discuss all the potential treatment options, including hair prosthetics, with your doctor that best meets your aesthetic needs and goals.

Reviewed and approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan

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