Many women wear weaves as a way to switch up their style, add length and volume, and boost confidence. However, there have been cases where taking out the weave ended in disaster.
At the same time, many people wear weaves with virtually no problems at all. All of this leaves the question in many minds, what exactly is the deal with wearing weaves?
Do Weaves Damage Your Hair?
Any form of pulling on the hair can be damaging. Weaves require that the natural hair be pulled on – whether it be through braiding, sewing, glued or clipped.
Sometimes, the damage caused by excessive pulling leads to traction alopecia, which is an irreversible type of hair loss. However, anything that is not executed correctly can be damaging, which is why it is important to know how to use a product correctly.
So to say that weaves damage your hair would not be correct, rather, the correct answer is that weaves can be damaging to your hair if misused. They can also be fine to wear, and contribute to keeping the hair healthy.
Types of Damage
Many women, and almost half of black women suffer from what is called traction alopecia. This is a condition that causes hair loss to the scalp. 
This form of alopecia is caused by excessive manipulation to the hair, mostly due to heat and chemicals.
Many protective styles require pulling the hair, such as braids and ponytails. Most weaves require that the hair is put into cornrows and then that hair is sewn onto the braids.
When getting a weave installed, most people go to a stylist. A lot of times, people are not vocal to the stylist about how tight the hair is, which causes the hair to be way tighter on the head than it is supposed to be.
Constantly pulling on the hair ultimately damages the root which can lead to permanent hair loss. It is a process that takes years, so usually people are unaware of how constant tugging affects the hair until it is too late.
There is an even greater risk of traction alopecia when the weight of the hairstyle is heavier. When people regularly wear long, thick, and heavy extensions, they are pulling on the natural hair more than it should be pulled on. Many people get weave extensions to make their hair look longer, but do not take into consideration how much longer the hair should be.
Many traction alopecia cases are found on the hairline, because that is where the thinner, more sensitive hairs are found.
Sometimes people do not know the signs of traction alopecia, and continue to add stress to the scalp.
Some Signs of Traction Alopecia
- Thinning and Hair Loss
- Small pimples on the scalp
- Patches of thin or broken hair near where extensions were applied
A big concern for wearing weaves is breakage. Breakage can happen when the hair is pulled on too much or when the weave is left in the head too long.
A weave should ideally be left in the head for up to 4 weeks. However, some will wear a weave for much longer and experience their hair breaking off.
The type of thread also matters when installing a sew in. Cotton thread, for example, is made with cotton which can absorb 20 times its weight. When cotton thread comes into contact with the natural hair, it can make it chronically dry and lead to breakage.
Breakage can also happen when the braids that the weave is sewn onto are too tight. Anytime someone wears their hair pulled tightly for an extended period of time, they risk breakage.
How Weaves Will Not Damage the Hair
Weaves do not damage the hair if proper steps are taken. It is up to the person to know how to use and take care of their weave. 
If done correctly, weaves can actually help your hair rather than damage it.
Keeping the Natural Hair Strong
People usually wear weaves to be able to leave their natural hair alone. However, many do not understand that the natural hair still needs to be cared for while under a weave.
Washing, conditioning and avoiding putting products – like hairspray – on the natural hair while in a weave help the hair stay healthy and strong. The thread that is used for a sew-in is also key to helping the hair stay healthy.
Nylon thread is best for sew-ins, because it does not dry out the hair.
Weaves are known for being a type of protective style. If the natural hair is taken care of underneath, then it is possible to experience significant hair growth while wearing a weave.
Considering Weave Options
A sew-in is not the only weave option. There are also clip-in, tape-in, and bonding weaves.
Clip-ins are the least damaging to the natural hair because they are the easiest to put in and take out. Clip-ins are also the least damaging for people with fine hair.
Tape-ins are also less damaging to the hair when not worn longer than they are supposed to.
Some people cannot afford to go to a stylist everyt ime they want a weave installed, so try to do it themselves, which increases the risk of hair loss. Rather than trying to install a weave using a difficult technique, they can find an easier alternative which they can safely do on their own.
Read: Types of Hair Weaves
Going to a Professional
Professional stylists are trained to install weaves properly in a way that does not damage the natural hair. They know which hairs on the head are more sensitive than others and how to properly braid, sew, and apply products to the head.
When people go to an experienced professional stylist and follow their directions, they limit their chances of damaging the hair.
Stylists can also safely style the weave in ways that do not tug at the hair too much, which can increase the longevity of the weave as well.
Limiting Scratching and Pulling
Weaves tend to irritate the scalp the longer they are worn. Part of the reason the scalp gets irritated is because it is dry. Many people give into scratching their dry scalp, which can cause breakage.
When the scalp is moisturized and conditioned, it prevents the desire to scratch the scalp, which can cause scarring and ultimately permanent hair loss.
A weave is installed to be styled on a regular basis, but as the weave is pulled and tugged on, so is the natural hair. When the weave is not manipulated and pulled regularly, that prevents the natural hair from being pulled out as well.
It is also important to loosen the hairstyle as much as possible. Even when cornrowing the hair, people need to be aware of how tightly they are pulling on the scalp. Limiting how much weave is put into ponytails or buns also helps keep the natural hair from damage.
How Long Does a Weave Last For?
A weave can last for about six to eight weeks with proper care. If a weave is worn longer than eight weeks, then there is a risk of breakage or hair loss due to scalp irritation, oil and product buildup, and scratching.
The longevity of a weave also depends on your hair texture. If the hair is thinner and finer, then a weave would probably only last 4-6 weeks because it cannot withhold the stress applied to it as long as coarser hair.
Thicker and coarser hair can hold a weave the longest, because it is stronger than thinner hair, and not as easily prone to breakage.
Weaves require retouches and upkeep every few weeks because the natural hair is growing under it, which lifts the weave to an unnatural looking position.
If cared for properly, a weave can last for the maximum amount of time, while still looking how it is supposed to. 
How Often Should You Wash a Weave?
A weave should be washed as often as you wash your natural hair – about once every two weeks.
Weaves, just like natural hair, are exposed to sweat, dirt, debris, and other elements that cause unwanted buildup.
Many people also forget to take care of their natural hair when wearing a weave. The natural hair still needs to be washed and conditioned in order to avoid damage caused by product buildup and dirt, which can clog the pores of the scalp and damage the hair at the root.
So in addition to washing the weave, the natural hair and scalp also needs to be cleaned.
It is also important not to wash a weave too much, because that is bad for the hair texture and requires more pulling and tugging than is necessary.
The Final Word
Whether or not a weave damages the hair really depends on how well a person takes care of it. Weaves are meant to expand your style options, not take them away.
Basically, it is always important to be informed and know how to properly care for your hair before adding to it in any way.