While most beginners may have often faced multiple issues with hair extensions, by correctly understanding the basics of extensions, these small concerns can be avoided. A good start is to understand what exactly hair extensions are. Hair extensions are basically additional hair used to add volume and depth to a natural hairline. Braiding, bonding and weaving, wigs, and hair extension clip-ins are some popular hair extension methods. Depending on your requirement, budget, and hair type and length, hair extensions can be chosen after consulting a hair expert.
“Actresses have always worn fake hair, but now the average person is doing it to try something different. It shouldn’t be a replacement for your own hair, but it’s no longer an insider secret. Everybody does it now—every nationality and every race,” states Leona Wilson, Owner of LW Salon in New York City. Hair extensions are safe and trusted by women all over the world. It easily solves issues related to thinning hair, hair fall, and even balding. Women of any age can easily opt for hair extensions. It is, however, advisable to carefully understand the hair extension brand and type before using it. Also, a good tip is to opt for a reputed salon to do the extensions if you are a first-timer.
There are two types of hair extensions—natural and synthetic. Natural hair extensions are made of real human hair, while synthetic ones are manufactured artificially. Both have their pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Natural and Synthetic Hair Extensions
Natural Hair Extensions
- Looks natural and beautiful
- Can be colored and styled without restrictions
- Lasts much longer than synthetic ones
- More expensive than synthetic ones
- Requires care and attention like natural hair
- Maybe sourced in unhygienic ways
Synthetic Hair Extensions
- Do not require treatments like deep conditioning to last longer
- Are cheaper than natural extensions
- Add more volume
- May melt if styled using hot hair styling accessories
- Look artificial
- Do not have a long shelf life
Methods of Wearing Hair Extensions
Clip-In Hair Extensions
These are simple and only require going to the nearest salon to have them clipped in. It takes care of thin hair which lacks volume. The ready-to-wear extensions generally cost around $19, while custom-made ones will be more costly.
Hairstylists generally recommend going for tailor-made clip-in hair extensions as they match the natural hair color better and look beautiful, too. While some women prefer getting clip-ins in an exact match to their natural hair color, others simply wear one and then color the entire hair (including the extensions) to get an even-toned shade. A good way is to opt for a consultation with a senior hairstylist who can help choose the option that work best. However, for long-lasting extensions, it’s best to opt for virgin human hair that hasn’t been dyed or treated with any chemicals. Also be sure to buy sturdy, durable clips that hold snugly.
Why use these: It’s safe, not painful, requires little time, and is pocket-friendly.
How to care: Wash them occasionally and do not wear them every day. A good tip is to avoid clipping them in the same spots to avoid tugging on the scalp and weakening the hair.
Best for: Long hair. Clip-in hair extensions for short hair may be visible if not attached properly.
Tape-In Hair Extensions
As the name suggests, tape-in hair extensions have a small, dual-piece of sticky tape (two-sided tape) attached to its end. This is attached to the roots and covers the natural hair completely. When let down, the two pieces of hair extensions fall on both sides, with the natural hair in the center. Therefore, it completely covers the hair and adds a lot of volume.
The process however requires a professional to do it. It’s time-consuming and costs about $50 to $100 for each strand. They last for about a month, and lay flat against the hair length so there are no chances of peek-a-boos in this case.
Why use these: Safe to use, no visibility once attached, longer life than clip-ins.
How to care: Be sure to blow dry them separately to make them last longer. Shampooing and conditioning can be done as with regular hair. It’s also essential to go to a salon to attach or remove tape-in hair extensions.
Best for: This hair extension works well for short- and medium-length hair. The aftercare required can make it difficult for long hair.
The hairstylist works by creating cornrows and then reinforces them with thread. They then begin by creating tracks or weaves using virgin or synthetic hair. Some natural hair is also left loose around the head for wearing the hair up. The process takes anywhere between two to five hours and costs $200 to $800 without the hair.
Why use these: It easily lasts for up to 12 weeks, looks natural, and the extensions can be used for up to a year. It’s also cost-efficient in the long run.
How to care: Good moisturization and deep-conditioning is essential to eliminate buildup. Also, go easy on hair styling products which may cause damage to the natural hair line. Be sure to remove weaves and allow for a two-month time period before trying them again.
Best for: Any hair length. Companies like Heat Free Hair Movement have gone a step further to develop wefts for almost all hair types. “It is also great for women who are transitioning from relaxed to natural because it gives them a chance to get comfortable styling hair that matches their natural texture, and they can play with different lengths and styles,” claims Ngozi Opara, Founder and Owner of Heat Free Hair Movement.
“Sometimes I’m three different people in one day. I have literally changed my hair in a cab on the way to an event,” said Hadiiya Barbel, a popular hairstylist and boutique owner. The prices of wigs generally range from $300 to $1750 and some even as high as $3500 for custom made ones. However, the price wholly depends on the texture, the type of hair used, and the quality of the wig.
Wigs today are sturdy and provide excellent fitting to the scalp, leaving no room for errors. They come with a special adhesive that helps it to stick to the natural hairline and comes off easily with oil to remove it. Monofilament caps work well for those with hair loss, while wigs in different colors, cuts, and textures made of synthetic fibers are best for those who want to experiment for fun!
Why use these: Can be easily worn and detached, is cost-efficient, not difficult to maintain, and looks great.
How to care: Be sure to wash the wig at least once every 10 days; however it wholly depends on the usage factor. For natural hair wigs, wash with a regular shampoo and conditioner, but avoid using too many products or styling accessories to prevent damage. For synthetic wigs, use only cool water otherwise the artificial strands may melt.
Best for: All hair types, lengths, textures, and colors.
Factors for Choosing the Right Hair Extensions
These are some essential points to bear in mind while opting for hair extensions.
Go for the best one you can afford: Choose hair extensions that will last a long time. Cheap quality extensions may look good initially, but will have to be replaced more often. Unless you are experimenting temporarily, research and pick the best.
Hair color is an important factor: While choosing extensions, closely check the exact shade of your natural hair. One of the biggest mistakes women make is choosing a darker or lighter shade, which often results in spoiling the appearance of the hair.
Do your brand research: Check online and talk to senior hairstylists and extension specialists and discuss how and why a particular brand will work for your hair type. Be sure to weigh all the pros and cons before settling on a brand. Also check the official web site and read customer reviews before the decision is finalized.
Always opt for natural hair whenever possible: “The quality in human hair is much better and makes styling really easy,” advises Sian Quinn, Art Team Stylist at Headmasters. Though pricier than synthetic extensions, natural hair extensions are easier to maintain, look beautiful, and last much longer.
Be sure to follow a good hair care routine: Use sulfate- and paraben-free shampoos to wash the extensions and don’t use too many hair products. Remember, a proper hair care regime is essential. Also, take time to oil the hair regularly. Clip-ins and wigs need to be removed at the end of the day and should never be left on for too long, due to unwanted stress on natural hair.
Color and cut the new hairdo: Opt for a fresh haircut after the hair extension process is finished. This will reduce any misfitting of the extensions with the natural hairline. A color treatment can be also done on the natural hair extensions. Hair color is not advised for synthetic ones.
Tips to Care for Your Hair Extensions
- Use a good wide-toothed comb to remove tangles in the morning.
- Avoid over-exposure to sunlight and pollution.
- Don’t use too many accessories like bands, clips, and ribbons; these will cause the extensions to become loose.
- Eliminate moisture from the hair to make extensions last longer.
- Add oil once a week to add shine to your extensions.
- Allow a time span of a few weeks before experimenting with a new type of extension.
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Muir, H., “Everything You Need to Know About Hair Extensions,” Real Simple web site,
http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/hair/how-to-take-care-of-hair-extensions, last accessed February 3, 2017