Adhesives For Hair Systems: Choosing the Right One

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LIKE ANY HAIR REPLACEMENT SOLUTION, ADHESIVES FOR HAIR SYSTEMS ARE NOT A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL AFFAIR.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the adhesives used for hair systems. “It is a sticky situation because adhesives made for use with hair systems are unregulated,” says Scott Heinly of Premiere Products, Inc., a manufacturer of cosmetics adhesives for the motion picture and hair replacement industries located in Pacoima, California.  “But you’re the one that has to wear it on your scalp!”

Take note of Heinly’s best advice on how to sift through the facts so you can make the safest, most comfortable and informed adhesive choice for your particular hair system application.

Ten facts you need to know about adhesives for hair systems

  1. Medical-grade adhesives are safe for your skin. While there is no set definition and there are no regulations, a medical adhesive is something that can be used on a human and might be applied by a doctor. The opposite would be industrial adhesive or commercial adhesive. The difference between the adhesives you would find at a hardware store and ones you can safely use on your scalp is the distillation process undergone by the medical-grade adhesive and the impurities in the industrial variety. A medical-grade adhesive should be safe to use on skin because many of the metals, irons, toxins and irritants have been removed
  2. An educated consumer makes the best adhesive choice. Do your due diligence and ask the adhesive supplier who the manufacturer is. You are going to want your adhesives manufactured by an FDA-licensed cosmetics manufacturing supplier, not an industrial one! For example, hairpiece tape was originally carpet tape, but the latter is not intended for use on bare skin and has been banned for use in any cosmetic application by the Food and Drug Administration. Become familiar with industrial chemicals that should not be in your hairpiece adhesive, such as methylene chloride, ether and toluene
  3. Soft-bond adhesives: more comfortable, less wear. A soft-bond adhesive is generally pliable and “gives,” which makes it more comfortable on the scalp, although adhesion lasts for only two to four weeks. Soft-bond adhesives may be made from latex, acrylic or silicone. Latex adhesive is not recommended for those with latex sensitivity. Acrylic soft-bond adhesives bond just as well but without the irritating latex. Silicone-based adhesive is the strongest soft-bond type — and the most expensive
  4. Hard-bond adhesives: long on wear, short on comfort. A hard-bond adhesive is like medical-grade superglue made from a fast-acting chemical called cyanoacrylate, the technical term for superglue. The bond lasts longer (up to several months) because this adhesive type has no water in it and doesn’t break down. But, just like superglue, the adhesion is permanent until you specifically remove it, and there is no flexibility or pliability. The adhesive sticks to any hairs on the head and loosens as hairs grow, and after several weeks (or months) it must be cut off. This type of adhesive is perfect for very active lifestyles and for a lower-maintenance, more permanent bond.
  5. How the bond breaks down. How long adhesion will last with different types of adhesives is very personal. If you perspire excessively or if your skin is oily, the bond will break down faster. Another problem with hard-bond adhesives is called “crystallization,” which happens when water molecules in the adhesive get trapped by the fast-drying nature of the adhesive. The coating around the water molecule creates itching, and this can also happen when the scalp or the hair system is not totally dry upon application. Lesser-quality, less-expensive adhesives may not be water-free and will have this problem.
  6. Fungus and infections can happen. You may run into fungus when you leave your hair system on for too long, because it’s difficult to totally dry underneath the hair system on a daily basis. Keep your scheduled maintenance appointments to have your hair system professionally serviced, cleaned and reapplied
  7. You still have to get haircuts. The hair system doesn’t grow, but any existing hair underneath it does. The hair system must be removed at regular, scheduled intervals to cut the existing hair or you may experience itching, odor and loosening of your hairpiece
  8. Price should not be the deciding factor. Try not to focus on the price, because adhesive is something that touches your skin and can be absorbed into your body. Since there is no regulation for adhesives for hair replacement, look for ingredients, warning labels and company contact information on the bottle. If all of these things are missing, you should be skeptical. If in doubt, ask
  9. Professional maintenance is best. Most women choose the soft-bond adhesive type because they will spend the time and money to have their hair system maintained and cleaned properly more often. A hair system worn for more than four weeks at a time using a hard-bond adhesive should be maintained by a stylist, and hard-bond adhesives are not recommended for at-home use.
  10. Options are key. Find the adhesive that works best for your skin type and a stylist/studio you trust and are comfortable with. Get referrals and understand how hair systems are attached. Having a lot of options is important, and your personal preferences really are the deciding factor.