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Is Hair Glue Dangerous to Our Health?

Updated on January 18, 2018
hair extensions
hair extensions | Source

Following yet another death caused by hair glue, you may be wondering if it is dangerous to our health.

Long hair extensions and popular lace wigs are often held in place with glue extensions or double-sided tape. Both can cause permanent damage to both our scalp and hair.

The glue can dry our hair as well as block hair follicles and damage our scalps.

The weight of long hair extensions can pull our own hair out from the scalp, resulting in thinning hair and bald patches. This in turn can cause headaches.

But deaths?

The glue that bonds artificial hair to our own contains high concentrations of soluble latex antigen.

This could be medical grade latex which you would assume, wrongly, is somehow safer than any other kind.

Latex is present in medical gloves, condoms, bathing suits, elastic bands, toys, balloons and many other objects we take for granted, yet more and more people are developing sudden allergic reactions to it, which can be fatal.

Repeated exposure to latex has been shown to sensitize some people, and the reaction can show itself as a sudden anaphylactic shock, which in many cases results in death.

As more and more people are coming into contact with latex products, allergic reactions are increasing.

It is fashionable and stylish to wear wigs, hair extensions and weaves, and they are held in place with latex hair bonding glue, which when we sweat has the ability to enter our blood streams and set up a chain reaction within the body.

What are the symptoms of allergic reaction to hair glue?

Hives appear very quickly soon after the reaction has begun.

Hives are raised red blotches that are extremely itchy and uncomfortable.

  • They can be small or large, and can appear on not only the scalp but over our bodies, starting normally in the mucous membranes around our eyes, lips and genitals, quickly spreading over our whole bodies.
  • They could be mistaken for flea bites which may have us searching our clothes, until they appear inside our mouths, or on the soles of our feet, making walking difficult.
  • Hives can subside on their own without medical treatment, but can take up to 6 weeks.

Treating any form of dermatitis in the scalp is difficult because of our hair.

Without cutting it off, it is possible to cool the heat and itch of the spots by bathing our heads in lukewarm water.

You may be prescribed cortisone, which is a hormone, to help relieve the itch, but applying topical cortisone cream is difficult. Sometimes an ultraviolet sunlamp can help.

Anaphylactic shock can occur. The symptoms of anaphylaxis can occur within minutes, or over several hours.

They may include several of the following:

  • itchy hives over the body,
  • swollen tongue or throat
  • difficulty in breathing
  • skin pallor may be present
  • sudden drop in blood pressure
  • sudden diarrhoea
  • abdominal pains
  • runny eyes and nose
  • cardiac arrest

The treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrine which has to administered by an injection, after which recovery is normally rapid.

Can a reaction to hair adhesive be prevented?

If you have any allergies to latex or similar substances, then latex hair bonding glue is not for you and should be avoided.

There are non-allergenic products available on the market which may be better suited for your requirements.

Everybody who uses hair adhesives of any sort, but especially those using latex-type adhesives, should always be on the look-out for an itch or irritation on the scalp.

At the first sign of a reaction, remove any glue in your hair as soon as possible.

As more and more women both young and old are having hair extensions or weaves, the risk of someone, somewhere, developing what could be a fatal reaction increases daily.

Stock up on over-the-counter antihistamines which may prevent an anaphylactic shock from developing.

Please be aware that hair glues can be extremely dangerous to health, and that allergic reactions can suddenly occur with no previous history.

Atasha Graham, who died after using hair glue
Atasha Graham, who died after using hair glue | Source

Latex hair glue deaths

34 year old Atasha Graham of the UK collapsed and died recently from what the coroner at her inquest concluded was almost certainly a massive allergic reaction to hair extension glue.

Ms Graham had collapsed and died suddenly at home after a night out dancing.

Despite having used hair glue for years and having shown no earlier symptoms, Home Office pathologist Dr Michael Heath said that the most likely cause of her death was sweat from her body mixing with the glue while she was dancing, and setting up the fatal allergic reaction.

He also told the court

"'I’ve seen cases where people using solvent to apply hair extensions has actually caused anaphylactic shock.

'There are about 10 to 20 deaths a year in this country, many more in America. I have seen four in the last three months.'

Those figures are frightening!

Be warned, be on your guard.

Never ignore any itch or bump or lump that appears on your head while wearing any hairpiece held on with latex-based glue.


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    • Isabel Melville profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabel Melville 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      Safest is the word I would choose. There have been too many deaths :(

    • LoriSoard profile image


      7 years ago from Henryville, Indiana

      Really good job covering this topic. Even though the extensions can be gorgeous, natural seems to be healthiest.


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