From being ripped off, to navigating sexy time (no hair pulling, thanks) Senior Beauty Editor Anita Bhagwandas gives you the low down on how to get hair extensions right...
The very words make you think stringy, clumpy, and tragic – even. Kate Moss leaving a forlorn weft on the red carpet in 2008 springs to mind, like an abandoned pet left to find a new owner. You could visibly see that generation of extensions. They were obtuse and lumpy. They poked through the sides of a ponytails (Paris Hilton!) and look scraggly and fake, even if they cost a fortune (Jordan.)
Come here little guy, you’re so cute and fluffy…wait, that’s not an actual animal is it? – Kate’s hair weft-gate circa 2008.
But the new generation of hair extensions are anything but visible. I should know. I’ve had hair extensions for pretty much a decade. They’ve ranged from horrific ones I glued in myself (this awful Liquid Gold crap I bought in Cardiff Market, keep it classy) through to super pricey ones in top London salons. What I have learned is that hair extensions are quiet a complex and costly business. As somebody who will, probably, have them for the foreseeable future, here’s everything you need to know about hair extensions (or at least what I think you ought to know before you seriously invest). Brace yourself.
Pick your extensioner wisely
The ability to apply hair extensions expertly was a skill the God of hair did not share out equally. I’ve had extensions by roughly 7 different people over the years. One time, I had some extensions put in by a girl I’d found on Gumtree in Wood Green who charged me £200 and they fell out a week later. She wouldn’t put them back in, or give me a refund blaming me for ‘brushing them badly.’ When you go to a rogue person, you risk having no guarantee of service or quality. If the same happened in a decent salon you’d be able to complain and have more control over the outcome. Don’t cut corners; honestly it’s just not worth it. You’ll get mugged off and risk damaging your hair.
Recommendations are a great way to find somebody brilliant. I’ll show anyone who asks my extension bonds so they can see how great Inanch Emir’s work is (most of us beauty eds with extensions see her, as do tonnes of celebs – she’s literally THE BEST.) So, here are my recommendations: if you’re based out of London then check out the Gold Class for a well-trained local salon (it means Inanch will have trained them) or go straight to Great Lengths and find a salon via them – they’ll be trained to a Great Lengths standards.
(Me without hair extensions…and pretending to ride a bike.)
With hair extensions – I only have 40-60, but they make a difference to the thickness.
Think about the money issue
Chances are you’ll love your extensions. I’ve yet to meet somebody who hasn’t literally been like ‘this is the best thing. Ever. Even better than that Reese’s Pieces choco-peanut butter spread.’ So before you embark on extensions, realistically assess how much you can afford to spend every 3-4 months on having them redone. A cool £800 may be fine for a one off. But if you’re doing that four to five times a year, that all adds up. That’s why it’s so tempting to go for somebody cheap – but the health of your hair and scalp is paramount. You literally pay for what you get.
Factor in time, too
Extensions are awesome, but they can take a while to style. That’s because there’s more hair to deal with, and it needs to be treated more carefully so as not to tug too much on your own hair. There’s also a texture disparity to factor in too. My hair is super curly hair and my extensions are a little straighter so I do need to style it every couple of days to make sure those textures match. Can you afford to add on a minimum of 30 mins to your daily routine? Maybe even more depending on length? And would you say be up for getting a Brazilian blow-dry every three months (like I do) – and factor in the time/cost implications of that? Hair extensions are like a pet – you’ve got to spend time with them or they literally go feral.
The awkward situations nobody talks about but should because they’re quite lols
What people don’t tell you is that you have to think about everyday situations a bit more with hair extensions. So if you’re staying at a mates overnight, you need to have the right brush with you and make sure you attend to them before bed otherwise you’ll wake up with a giant dreadlock of matted hair. You’ll also, ahem, need to warn your romantic bedfellow that they can’t pull on your hair in the throws of passion (that effing HURTS, trust) and it’s also a bit of a Debbie Downer when somebody goes to run their fingers sensually through your locks to find the hand trapped in your extensions. How do you navigate this? Move said hand to another location (*chortle*) or just fess up and say you’ve got extensions. Nobody really cares anyway – neither should you.
Research the application methods
I don’t care what anyone says – if you have fine hair or delicate, thinning hair giant super long extensions will look crap and pull your hair out. I learned this the hard way sadly after getting butt-grazing extensions a few years ago that looked like a bad Cher wig and subsequently molted everywhere. Now, I have half-size micro bonds (applied with heat) by Inanch who knew what my hair could cope with. A good extensionist will advise you what works best for your hair type. Other methods are micro rings (tiny metal rings that attach the faux hair to your hair and are clamped down.) I had those and found the slipped out, but some people really rate them. Wefts (they’re a strip of hair either sewn onto tracks/braids on your scalp or are glued onto the top of your hair) I had the latter and found it pulled out loads of my hair and was pain in the butt to style. Or tapes, that allow you to stick the weft to your own hair which is fine temporarily. I was promised these would last for months by one extensionist – they lasted three days. Clip in pieces are great too and you can get them everywhere. They’re a great place to start if you want to try extensions first before you commit. Or just to have some fun too!
Don’t let somebody put your extensions in this high up like Courtney did. Ever.
The emotional impact
I feel weird without my extensions. When I have that small time lapse in the Inanch’s chair between having my extensions out and put back in I can’t believe how different it feels to have actual swishy hair. If you have them out, prepare to feel the effects emotionally – you will look different. Especially if the extensions are super long or thick. That’s why, in the past I’ve always gone for a chop after having my extensions out so that you can focus on a new style rather than just your lack of hair. It’s a weird diverting tactic, but it’s always worked for me.
Know where your hair is coming from
That’s your job, nobody else’s. I know that Inanch sources her Gold Class hair from temples in South India. I know the exact city they come from and how she negotiates and works with them to ensure the hair is ethically sourced. Do you know where yours come from? Don’t turn a blind eye to it – just ask and find out where it comes from because you stick it onto your head. It’s your responsibility.
Do you also know what the hair type is like in that area – does that fit in with your hair? I know that hair coming from Eastern Asia, or Russia is too straight and thick for my hair. Do your research and ask about where the hair comes from and it’s specific properties. It makes a huge difference.
Don’t apologise or be awkward about your extensions
I’ve only stopped doing this recently. If somebody said my hair was nice, I’d say ‘it’s not mine, but thaaanks.’ Stop. It’s yours, and they’re giving you a compliment because you look hot. It’s easy to have hair imposter syndrome with hair extensions – fact is you’d look just as ace (yes really) without the extensions. But you’re choosing to have them like other people choose to bleach their hair, have laser, go for shellac, get a fake tan – whatever. We’ve all got the beauty treats that make us feel good. High maintenance was a phrase invented to put women into tiny stupid boxes – ignore it and love your extensions.
But do brush them every night before bed, whatever you do.
Read more about hair extension basics here
Follow Anita @ItsMeAnitaB