Gorilla Glue hair incident could cause long-term damage, experts warn
The story of a woman using industrial strength glue in her hair has gone viral, spawning comments and criticism from across the world, but some experts warn that these types of actions can lead to serious, long-term damage.
Tessica Brown, a Louisiana native, posted a video to TikTok sharing her experience using Gorilla Glue spray adhesive to smooth out her hair after running out of the popular hair product göt2b glue.
After weeks of washing and at-home remedies, Brown went to her local emergency room, where an attempt was made to remove the glue from her hair. When that still did not rid her head of the strong adhesive, she traveled to Los Angeles for further treatment.
While followers await her updates, some physicians are taking this opportunity to warn others not to try this and how to handle glue mishaps on the skin and hair.
“With women, especially Black women, styling our hair, it’s very common to have what is called a ‘laid’ look,” Crystal Aguh, MD, director of the ethnic skin program and assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Healio.
The göt2b product Brown was replacing is common in achieving this look, but Gorilla Glue, which is made for wood and metal, is not intended to touch the skin.
“If she had actually just sprayed this on her hair and it never touched her scalp, it probably wouldn’t be too big of an issue,” Aguh said. “From a dermatologist’s perspective, what makes me so nervous is that she mentioned she has had this style in place for a month with no new growth.”
The lack of new growth means the hair follicles may have been affected, which could lead to permanent damage. Scarring alopecia, or permanent hair loss due to follicle destruction, is the main concern.
“These forms of hair loss are particularly devastating because there’s really no treatment to get the hair to grow,” Aguh said. “When she is able to remove all of this adhesive glue, she may be left with some areas or even widespread permanent hair loss due to this follicular damage. And at that point, unfortunately, there is not much you can do to bring the hair back.”
This is an extreme case, but accidents with glues happen more often than one might think, according to Diane P. Calello, MD, FAAP, FACMT, FAACT, executive medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
“While this is certainly the first episode of someone getting it into their hair for a long period of time, people do have mishaps with these strong glues like Krazy Glue or nail glue where they get where they shouldn’t be, and then removing them can be a real challenge,” she said.
Cyanoacrylate glue, the most common super-strong adhesive, can be difficult to remove, especially from skin and hair. The best way to dissolve it is to use a fat- or oil-based product for a long duration of time, Calello said.
Petroleum-based ointments such as Vaseline can be applied and reapplied for days to break down the glue.
The adhesives themselves can cause irritation or even burns, so using irritable products such as acetone or rubbing alcohol could exacerbate those problems, Calello added.
In Brown’s case and instances in which there could be long-term hair damage, Aguh recommended heavy use of moisturizers and conditioners to strengthen any remaining hair once the glue is removed, as well as avoiding products that could cause further damage such as at-home relaxers or harsh coloring products.
“I’d emphasize healthy hair practices to maintain the health of the hair in all surrounding areas. It’s going to be super important to take care of your hair,” Aguh said. “I really hope, at the end of this, her scalp is healthy, and she has no long-standing issues.”