These days you don’t have to win the genetic lottery to have amazing hair. From Coachella to Cannes, stylists are using hair extensions to get stars noticed with styles that are sleek and on fleek. Celebrities are using them to change up textures, lengths and colors from one selfie to the next.
But you don’t have to be Chrissy Teigen or a Kylie Jenner to keep up with the latest styles. Don’t know much about the style trends here to stay? No worries, we’ve got you covered with 7 things you need to know before getting hair extensions so you can rock a different look every weekend!
A Little Background Please?
Historians have found evidence ancient Egyptians used hair extensions as long ago as 3400 BC. They used resin and beeswax to attach braids of human hair and even dyed sheep’s wool to their natural locks. Thankfully, today we have new technology and better methods, but the fact remains clear: hair extensions have been all the rage since Cleopatra was wooing Caesar.
In a nutshell, hair extensions are a semi-permanent way to increase length or fullness and to experiment with every style from a rod-straight lob to hot pink mermaid hair. They can be clipped in just like barrettes or bonded to hair using more high-tech methods.
There are extensions for every lifestyle so it’s important to know going in what’s the best fit for you. If, for example, Bikram Yoga is your thing you’ll need a solution that can withstand extreme heat and moisture.
How Much Will It Cost?
As with most products, extension prices can range from super cheap to ultra premium, and can cost less than a hundred dollars or more than several thousand depending on the look you want and how long you want it to last.
Permanent extensions will cost more than temporary ones, and synthetic extensions tend to be less expensive than natural ones. (But be aware you may be trading affordability for quality as synthetics tend to tangle very easily, don’t allow for heat styling and often have a glossy sheen that’s unnatural looking.)
Another consideration is how much hair you will need to achieve the look you’re lusting after. If you just want to add a bit of length it may be less expensive to pull off than if you’re going for a thick and full look, which will obviously require more hair. Sometimes, purchasing hair in bundles can save you money, so be sure to do your research before buying.
Finally, take into consideration the cost of having extensions fitted in a salon. While it will cost a lot more than some of the less expensive out-of-the-box solutions since you’re paying for labor in addition to the extensions themselves, the expense may be well worth it to achieve a professional, natural look that will last longer without damaging your locks. Plus, an experienced stylist can use multi-tonal color techniques to match your natural hair color, and should be able to estimate how many pieces you’ll need fitted and where they should be placed to achieve the best look.
What are the Different Types of Extensions?
You can purchase extensions made from synthetic materials or human hair. Human hair is heavier than synthetic so it moves in a more natural way. High quality, “virgin” human hair that’s never before been processed will give you the most authentic look.
You can purchase extensions in different measurements as well. A “frontal” weave measures 13×4 and stretches from ear to ear so that the entire front of your scalp is covered. A “closure” measures much smaller and is designed to recreate a natural part or can help protect your natural style.
If you’re looking for clip-in solutions, options are available for everything from bangs to ponytails to volumizers. There are weaves that mimic wavy, curly and straight hair and come in just about any length you can imagine. You can also purchase steam permed weaves with tight, kinky curls or that fall in loose waves.
How are Extensions Attached?
There are many different ways to attach hair extensions ranging from clips (as mentioned above) to glue to tape to fusion bonding. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular methods for application:
Fusion/Bonded Hair Extensions: These consist of individual strands tipped with keratin and are bonded to natural hair using heat.
Tape-in Hair Extensions: Pieces called “wefts” are attached to sections of your natural hair using specialized double-sided tape, and last anywhere from 1-2 months.
Sew-In Hair Extensions: Your hair is first braided into tight plaits from ear to ear, and then wefts are woven into the braids with thread. The braids are tight at first but loosen with time and so extensions can only be worn for 3-4 weeks.
Beaded Weft Micro Links: These pieces are installed by pulling your natural hair through a microbead which is clamped down around it. Each bead is lined with silicone to protect your hair and prevent slippage. This is known as “cold fusion” and many people prefer it as an alternative to glue, tape or sewing.
How Can I Prevent Damage To My Natural Hair?
In general, hair extensions themselves don’t cause hair loss, but can induce something called traction alopecia which is a fancy way of saying too much weight has been placed on the roots of the hair, pulling them out and damaging the follicles permanently. Matching an extension’s density to your own natural hair can help reduce tension and the likelihood of damage.
Clip in extensions in particular tend to be very heavy and should not be used every day, as they can cause bald spots if worn too consistently.
In the case of semi-permanent hair extensions, consult with an experienced stylist to determine the least damaging ways to attach and remove your extensions.
Finally, placement is key to prevention damage. Pieces should be attached to areas of the scalp where hair is strongest, which usually means avoiding areas along the neck and hairline.
How can I Get My Extensions to Last as Long as Possible?
Maintaining your hair extensions involves a number of things and requires some work, but it’s well worth it if you want long-lasting results, especially if you’ve made a sizeable investment up front. Here are a few things to bear in mind as you care for your tresses:
Moisturize: Because extensions aren’t attached to the scalp, they don’t benefit from the oils and nutrients your natural hair does. So it’s important to moisturize often. For longer lasting extensions that are used on a regular basis, the rule of thumb is to deep condition them at least once a month.
Avoid Alcohol and Sulfates: Even if you’ve taken the plunge to purchase the most premium locks available, using products with sulfates and alcohol can cause serious damage as they are very drying and will break down even the most expensive hair.
Wash and Wear: Basically, the more often you wear your hair, the more often you’ll need to wash it. So it makes sense that if you wear your hair every day or several times a week, you should plan to wash it at least once a week. Also, be aware that the more product you use on your hair the more necessary it is to wash your extensions to return them to their original condition.
Storage: You’ll increase the longevity of your extensions by storing them in specifically designed pouches or boxes. Generally, these are made out of soft, flexible material like velvet or satin-silk to help prevent tangling.
Hair extensions are a fantastic way to change up your look and experiment with styles without having to cut, perm or color your own hair. They can help you make a dramatic statement or simply enhance your natural style. Whether you’re walking the dog or walking the red carpet, hair extensions can help you look and feel like the superstar you are!
Author Mariam Kathet is a blogger and infopreneur who writes on various topics, including hair care and extensions. At present, she works on behalf of Annmarie Skin Care, promoting the benefits of organic, natural skin care for beautiful, healthy skin.