Extensions are easier and more affordable that you think
I have never loved my hair. I had a lot of hair, but it was so fine and frizzy that unless it had just been professionally styled it never really looked good, let alone great. I also couldn’t grow it too much past my shoulders. It got thin and stringy and ended up breaking off. I had tried everything: Keratin treatments, Brazilian Blow-Out, flat irons, curling irons, anti-frizz products and special brushes designed to de-frizz. Nothing worked.
Then, one day my girlfriend showed up at my daughter’s soccer game with thick, beautiful and flowing hair. She told me she’d had extensions – and they weren’t nearly as expensive as I had imagined. About a month later, I had extensions of my own. My hair, for the first time in my life, was amazing.
As it turns out, there are tons of options when it comes to hair extensions and hair supplementation. I sat down with Jessica Davidson, stylist and owner of Vanity Hairtique in Torrance, California, who specializes in extensions to discuss those options.
The least invasive options are temporary extensions that can be put in or taken out as often as you prefer. The two most popular options are clip in extensions and halo style extensions.
Clip in hair extensions have the benefit of being easy to use, temporary and inexpensive. Many are made from real hair, so they look natural and feel great. However, they do not hold well in thin hair and the clips used to hold the hair in put strain on the hair and damage it. You also run the risk of them becoming lose and falling out if you’re sweating, dancing or doing anything else that can cause friction to your hair (maybe not the best for a date that may end with intimacy). Clip in hair extension are better for people with thicker stands of hair who want it to appear longer or fuller on certain occasions, but extended and frequent use is not recommended. High quality clip in hair extensions cost between $100-$250.
Halo style hair extensions are also a temporary option and they do not require any bonding, gluing, taping, clipping or weaving. A halo style hair extension is literally placed on top of your head (like a halo) and covered with your own hair. If used properly, it is undetectable and stay puts from the weight of your own hair over top of a clear transparent wire. It’s easy to do yourself and takes less than a minute to put on.
Because these are also typically made from human hair, you can treat the halo like your own and use a blow dryer, curling irons, straighteners, cut it, brush, wash and style it. Many salons that do extensions have professionals available that will customize the halo for you. If you are purchasing a customized halo, you will often participate in the process of choosing and purchasing the hair – which allows you to choose the color, texture and length. Although, since you are only adding one row of hair, it will need to be able to blend into the hair already on your head – so you may be somewhat limited to what you can do. High quality halos can be purchased for around $250 online – and are available in 12″, 16” or 20” lengths – but you will need to choose the hair wisely and be realistic about what will match with the hair you already have. Once it arrives, you will adjust the wire to fit your head, slip it on and pull your own hair over the top. Pretty easy, huh?
If you’re interested in a more permanent solution, there are several additional options. According to Jessica the gold standard in extensions are:
I-tip Individual Beaded Extensions which are fixed to your natural hair with a metal bead lined with silicone. The extension is fixed to the root of your hair close to your scalp with the bead and it tightened into place with pliers. The extension hair is placed in rows across your head and stays in place as your hair grows. Because the part of the bead that touches your hair is silicone, there is little (if any) damage to your hair. If you took the extensions out, you would notice that your hair is longer, but it would not have broken or have been damaged. The extensions need to be removed about every three months as your hair grows and fixed back in place at your scalp. Jessica likes this type of extension best because it allows the extensions to flow more naturally with your actual hair – so it looks completely natural. You treat the extensions like they are part of your hair and wash, dry and style your hair like you always have. The extension is actual human hair and will react to styling like your natural hair (but not like my natural hair because the extension strands are thick and healthy and don’t frizz!) The drawback to this type of extension is if a bead gets loose, the extension can fall out – sometimes when you least expect it. Jessica assures that this is rare and shouldn’t happen. She said that she tells her clients if they lose more than 2-3 to come back.
Depending on where you have the service done, this type of extension costs about $1000 ($200-$500 to purchase the hair depending on how much you want added) and the initial installation can range from $300-$500. It will also likely be around $350 every three months for tightening. The service takes between 2-3 hours. Of course, you can find salons who are happy to charge much more for this service, but you don’t need to pay more than this to have quality extensions. Jessica urges you to get a recommendation or review the extension expert on Yelp before using their service. The look of your extensions is largely effected by the quality of the installation, so you’ll want to be sure to find someone who specializes in extension installation and maintenance.
A close second (in my opinion – because this is the type of extensions I have) are
Beaded weft extensions. Beaded weft extensions are similar in that they use silicone coated beads to fix the extension to your hair. Jessica doesn’t like them as well because rather than affixing a tiny bit of extended hair to individual strands of your natural hair (like the photo above) this type uses the beads to affix a row of hair – with about eight beads securing the entire row. She feels they are heavier on your hair – and shouldn’t be used with hair that is extremely fine or brittle. I have nothing to compare them to – so I’m not sure if they are heavy or not! I am so used to them at this point they don’t seem heavy to me. The other major drawback is that they can be itchy. Because the hair used is a weft (or sewn into a row) the end of the weft rubs against your scalp as your hair grows out and it has more room to move around. The itching did really bother me at first, but now I rarely notice it.
The appeal though, is that they are less expensive. First, this type of extension requires a different type of hair. The hair cost is about $300 for a full four rows of 18” hair – which is typical, although I only have three rows. Since it’s easier to put it in, the entire process takes about an hour – and costs about $250. Maintenance is a little more frequent – I get mine adjusted about once every eight weeks, but it only costs $80 for the adjustment and the hair lasts about six-eight months, depending on how hard you are on your hair.
Your hair will look and feel fuller and thicker. Here’s a photo of my hair before and after the application of beaded weft extensions:
Fusion hair extensions are another option. They are similar to I-tip extensions, but are fixed to your hair with a keratin bonding or glue on the ends of the hair and ultrasonic waves or heat are used to soften the keratin or glue to bond during application. Jessica does not do and does not recommend these types of hair extensions because they are costly, the installation process is lengthy, and the removal process is tricky and can pull out more hair in the long run. The glue itself is harmful to your hair and trying to get it out of your hair is a very uncomfortable and damaging process.
Tape in hair extensions are a relatively new technique. The extensions are bonded to your natural hair with tape and wide wefts are applied to your natural hair in rows. The tape wefts are thin and lightweight, so this type of hair extension is beneficial for thin hair. During the application process, one tape weft extension is placed on the hair and the other side is sealed with a single sided piece of tape. This is the best solution for thinning hair. It provides long wear without any damage to thin hair. Tape in extensions require no tools or chemicals – IF you choose a type that has no added glue and doesn’t require the tape to be heated with a flat iron while they are placed. That is what damages your hair in the long run. If you have thin or thinning hair make sure your stylist uses an organic hair extension method that is 100% natural and a hair extension solution for women with thin hair. It is important to consider how much weight, stress and tension is placed on your natural hair by the hair extensions. For fine or thin hair, you should look for the lightest density for hair extensions.
Braided Weft Sew In hair extensions are sewn into your natural hair which is braided to cover your whole head and the wefts of hair are sewn in to the braided rows. Those with thin hair usually do not have enough hair to make the small braid to hold the hair extension, and this method works best in course, thick hair. The weft is actually sewn into the braid using a needle and nylon thread to sew the weft hair onto the braids. This technique has been proven to promote hair growth (when maintained properly) and does not include clips, glue, wax, bonding or any other products to install the extensions. The braided technique is recommended to add length, fullness and texture to the client’s natural hair. When maintained properly this technique can last up to two months. The downside to this type of extension is that the hair cannot dry properly in the braid after washing and it can cause odor and bacterial growth.
Because Jessica doesn’t work do this type of extension – she admitted this wasn’t her area of expertise and she couldn’t offer any pricing information.
Regardless of the type of extension you choose, the final step is blending them into your natural hair. This step is critical. You won’t lose a lot of length – but it is necessary to blend them with your natural hair to make them look more authentic. According to Jessica – this is the most critical step in the installation of any hair extension regardless of the type. If your stylist forgets this critical step – you need to find someone else.
If you’ve been wanting to try extensions – don’t be intimidated! You’ll love them – or you can take them out anytime (wait at least a couple of weeks to get used to them first – the amount of hair you have and how long it is can be a little overwhelming). Even if you are a little overwhelmed by the length – don’t cut them right away. The extension will likely add a lot of length you aren’t used to, but once you cut them, there’s no going back other than buying new hair – which is expensive! Give it some time.
You’ll eventually love them and not want to live without them!!
Jessica owns Vanity Hairtique in Torrance, California. Jessica graduated from the prestigious Paul Mitchell Hair School and trained in Beverly Hills. She has been a stylist and extension specialist for eight years. Vanity Hairtique is a full service salon. If you are near Torrance, you can make an appointment by calling or texting Jessica at 310-809-6648.
If you are not near Torrance, Jessica advises you to get a recommendation from someone – or from a site like Yelp that provides reviews from real people. Go to an extension specialist who spends a lot of time with you before the service answering your questions and making sure they understand what you’re looking for and how you wear your hair most. This will ensure the service is customized for you.