The beauty of the the social media age is that we're constantly flooded with hair inspiration, and we can always count on beauty bloggers and Insta-models to show off a gorgeous style for us to replicate. The downside? No matter how hard we try, our hair just never seems to be as lush and long as the social media stars that we follow.
Yes, extensions can give you longer, thicker hair and even provide a quick color change-up, but are they really worth the time, effort and money? Let's investigate before you book that appointment to put them in.
"A hairstyle can make or break your look," says stylist and hair extension specialist Cesare Safieh. Safieh cautions there are some important questions to ask when selecting extensions:
Safieh is a fan of a method of extensions known as Thermo Plastique, which involves a relatively gentle process that can be removed without damage to your hair. (He also adds that the micro bonding points are barely visible.) He says older methods, especially glue, are damaging. "Tracks (sewing) can be too heavy, and metal clips wear out and are hard to brush through."
"[The goal with] extensions is to have the most natural look you can achieve," says Tony Promiscuo, owner of Atlanta's Godiva Salon, who notes that while synthetic types are most plentiful, human hair is superior in its viability. (In addition, synthetic hair cannot typically be heated, so styling options are limited — meaning forget the blow dryer and curling iron.)
"Individual strands allow a customized, more natural, look," says celebrity hairstylist and salon owner Philip Pelusi of New York City's Tela salon. "You can play with the color or length, and fill in spots that need it more than others. It's a more accurate way to get the desired look."
"The most important thing is to avoid extensions and pieces that are heavier than your own hair. If extensions are too heavy, they will damage and break off hair — so hair needs to be long and healthy enough to withstand the pressure," Pelusi points out.
Inquire as to the possibility of getting a variety of weights, because a single one may not work for everyone. In particular, extensions that do not match your hair are most likely to give you problems. Safieh recommends a type of extensions called Hairdreams, which offer a variety of weights or thicknesses to match your true hair — as well as the ability to pre-order highlights and lowlights. Hairdreams last up to seven months and the hair can be reapplied, which also helps to decrease cumulative costs of new hair and removal.
Certain specialty methods have emerged from certain salons, such as the "Goddess Loc," which have a silicon grip and plastic coating in order to not damage your hair.
Next Up: How much are hair extensions?
Originally published July 2009. Updated June 2017.
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