Photo courtesy of Sarah Conner
If you weren't born with the hair of your dreams, buy it. If those wise words sound familiar, it's because you heard our SHE-E-O Jen Atkin say them when talking about her hair extensions line with Beauty Works. You don't need a reason to want extensions, but if it's longer, fuller strands and incessant hair flips you're seeking then what are you waiting for, girlfriend?! Oh, that's right—our guide to all things hair extensions. Ahead, Sarah Conner, celebrity colorist and extension specialist from Mèche Salon in Los Angeles (whose clients include Khloe Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen) breaks down everything you need to know about the long-hair-don't-care lifestyle, including budget-friendly extensions, how to match them to your hair color, and the best fit based on different hair types.
Factors to Consider Before Buying Real Hair Extensions
What are they looking for? Length, thickness, both, their lifestyle, how long do they plan on wearing them. Tape-ins, sew-ins (by hand) and individuals are the most common hair extensions.
It varies from $100-$2,000 depending on the extension type, hair type, quality, how much hair is being used, length, and color. Depending on the method and the quantity of hair being used, the application process itself could cost from $150-$2,000. On average, a full head of extensions should range between $600-$1,500+.
The Most Expensive Extensions
Extensions come from all over now. I use a lot of Russian and European hair, but I've also used Italian and Indian hair. Many Asian countries are top distributors as well. But Russian hair is all the rage right now and it tends to be the most expensive. You’d have to seek an extension specialist who's known for using it because it's not the easiest to come by!
The Most Budget-Friendly Extensions
The most budget-friendly extensions would be clip-ins, but they're for temporary use-a night out or an event. You can get away with using a lower quality of hair if it's not on the regular.
How to Match Color and Texture
The best method to match your color is to hold the ends of the your hair against the ends of the extensions then deepen the root.
As for texture, most people have a slight natural wave to their hair so generally extensions with a body wave are best. If the client's hair is curly you'll obviously want to use extensions with a similar curl and the same goes with a client who has straight hair—use a finer, straight set of extensions.
If You Have Wavy, Medium-Textured Hair:
With that texture of hair you could really use all three methods, but I prefer tape and sew-ins. You get more hair out of less extensions than individuals, and more bang for your buck too. The type used would really depend on the client's length vs their desired extensions length. For tape extensions, there are panels or sandwiches of hair literally taped to a thin section of the client's hair that are placed throughout their hair. For sew-ins, a weft of hair, think sheet of hair, is sewn to a foundation created by beading the client's own hair. Both methods create a fuller longer look and are very gentle on the client's hair.
If You Have Straight, Fine Hair:
Tape-in and sew-ins are the best for fine hair too.
If You Have Thick, Coarse or Curly Hair:
Again tape and sew-in. It's all about that more bang for your buck and matching hair density, texture, with all textures and extensions types. That's also why I think it's important to be able to offer multiple methods as a specialist and it's important for the client to research which method is best for their lifestyle.
Where to Buy
For clip-in extensions, I always suggest The Hair Shop or His & Her Hair. Beauty Works also makes great clip-ins among every other style of extensions. However, I do think it's best when looking to wear extensions for quite some time to always seek out a hair extension specialist.
Brushing with an extension brush is key! Brush them at night before bed, brush them before and after a shower, and simply take care of them as if it's your own hair and then some! Use heat protectants (Memory Mist, anyone) when styling and quality shampoos and conditioners.
Use any shampoo that’s hydrating and conditioning! I love Davines, OUAI, Biolage, and Inphenom! When you wash hair, towel dry it, spray on a leave-in detangler (we love OUAI Smooth Spray), use an extension brush like the Sheila Stotts Brush, and separate your hair into sections. Gently start from the bottom and work your way up. If your extensions are more grown out, hold them from the top by your free hand and gently brush down working each section in its own.
Signs That Your Extensions Should Be Removed
Tape-in extensions should be re-done every 5-6 weeks, sew-ins every 8-10 weeks, and individuals every 8-12 weeks.
If you have quality hair, the hair should not tangle and should be reusable for up to a year or more with proper care and maintenance. Less quality extension hair may tangle and the ends may become dry, making it difficult to brush and manage. That is a definite sign that new hair is needed.
Damage can occur if the client doesn't follow basic care like brushing and it can also occur if the specialist doesn't match the extension density to the density of the client's hair. Both of these can result in hair loss and tangling of the client's own hair.
Products to Avoid on Extensions
For tape and individuals, you want to keep any oily or heavy mask-like products away from the root of the extensions. With sew-in, you have free range. If the hair quality isn't the best and already gets tangly, avoid sea salt sprays- they'll only make the extension hair more tangly.
Caring For Clip-in Extensions
Shampoo and condition them, blowdry them out, and lay flat in a drawer until you're ready for your next night out!
Wanna feign fullness? Read 7 Habits All Thin-Haired Girls Should Have.