10 hair care lessons from ‘Gorilla Glue girl’ saga

Image: 123RF/Dolgachov

There’s nothing out of the ordinary about a woman using a glue spray (essentially a strong-hold hair gel) to lay down flyaways and create a super sleek hairstyle.

It's something Tessica Brown routinely did when finishing off her look, until the day she ran out of her hair care product of choice. She reached for a sticky substitute: Gorilla Heavy Duty Spray Adhesive, an industrial-grade glue used on materials such as wood, leather and metal.

“Bad, bad, bad idea,” laments Brown in a TikTok video documenting the disastrous results. The Louisiana woman's locks remained glued to her scalp for “about a month”. Even after 15 washes, her hair remained as hard as a helmet on her head.

The saga went viral, earning Brown the nickname “Gorilla Glue girl”. The internet was gripped as people worldwide followed her story and eventual trip to the hospital where surgical intervention was needed to get rid of the adhesive.

It goes without saying that industrial glue has no place in your hair care routine, but there's another lesson to be learnt from Brown's cautionary tale: we need to start being kinder to our hair.

With this in mind, if you're an avid user of hair adhesives and gels for installing wigs, laying down baby hairs, or slicking down natural hair to create a chic Afro bun, follow these tips to do so without the risk of damaging your locks:

DO only use gels and adhesives that explicitly state  they are safe to use on hair, skin or wigs. Never try to hack it with any household glue, no matter how “safe” it seems.

DON'T apply wig glue directly to your hair. If you are installing a lace front wig, always apply the lace glue sparingly onto the skin on your forehead just past the hairline.

DO wear a wig cap in the same colour as your skin tone and apply the lace glue onto the edge of the wig cap material instead of your skin if you want an extra layer of security and protection.

DON'T rip your wig off when it's time to remove it. If you've used laced glue to install and secure your wig and try to pull it off, you risk ripping out baby hairs and irritating your skin.

DO use a cotton bud or pad soaked with rubbing alcohol or acetone to gently dissolve the glue and safely remove your wig. You can also use warm water or Vaseline to remove the glue, but this takes more time.

DO slick down the natural baby hairs along the hairline using a hydrating edge tamer and toothbrush before installing a wig with glue to keep your natural hair at a safe distance from the adhesive and preserve your hairline.

DON'T apply styling gel onto dry, brittle hair. Natural Afro-textured hair and relaxed hair can be fragile so you run the risk of breakages when the gel has set.

DO spray your natural Afro-textured or relaxed hair with water and apply a leave-in conditioner before using a styling gel to slick it down. The added hydration will protect your hair and prevent the hardness, flaking and breakage that may result from applying gel onto dry hair.

DO co-wash your hair or use a nourishing conditioner to remove styling gel from your hair and assist in detangling any knots. Avoid trying to comb your hair out while there is set styling gel in it.