The dangers of purchasing black-market hair extensions

Thursday, August 21, 2014
Hair horror
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One college student jumped at the chance to save money on having her hair done, but she never imagined what it would end up costing

HOUSTON -- Smash and grabs at beauty supply stores are on the rise in Houston because of one hot commodity - human hair. The high end hair retails for about $200, but people are selling it for a fraction of the cost on the black market.

When one local college student had the chance to get the look she wanted for much less, she scheduled an appointment. Brittney Dever, 22 admits she took the cheap route.

"I went to someone's house. She installed a weave-in cap in my hair," Devers said.

For $60 she got the look of beachy wave hair extensions that she wanted, but she never expected how much her cheap strands would end up costing her.

"Two weeks later, I was lying down, and there was blood on my pillow," Devers said.

When she started removing the extensions, her real hair started coming out too, leaving behind signs of serious infection.

"It smelled horrible. I was nauseous when I was taking my hair out," said Devers.

Desperate for help, she decided to see a stylist at a professional salon.

"I was just in shock when I saw her picture," said Natural Resources Salon owner Tamika Fletcher. "It seemed like the weave was pulled too tight and opening her scalp and exposing her scalp. I think there could have been a possibility of the utensils being unclean or unsanitary."

Dever's weave had become a breeding ground for infection as a severe abscess developed on the crown of her head.

"Those kinds of infections on the scalp can cause hair loss," said dermatologist Dr. Tracy Katz. "[They can] become deeper, debilitating, and disfiguring."

Which is exactly what happened to Dever.

"I cried for a week or two when it happened," Dever said.

Now partially bald, Dever visits Fletcher's salon regularly to get styling help, but her hair may never be the same.

"I can't wear my hair out. I have to wear it up all the time now," Dever said.

The college student wants others to learn from her painful mistake.

"Go to a salon, that's sanitary, that's clean. It's worth spending the extra money because you get what you pay for. Going to someone's home to get the extra service may not be the best idea. You can end up losing instead of gaining," Dever said.

Experts say to remember these three tips if you are going to get hair extensions:

1. Go to someone with a cosmetology license.

2. Ask about the stylist's sanitation practices.

3. Be open about your budget. Usually a stylist will find a way to work with you, but if it's too cheap, that should be a red flag.