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Let's weigh the pros and cons of hair extensions before you drop a small fortune

Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She lives with her two Shorkie-Tzus, Scarlette and Max, and a display of pink polka-dot-themed home decor -- not to mention a selection of flavored vodka. Check out he...

Hair extensions are your meal ticket to Kardashian-worthy hair (even if you hate the Kardashians)

Like the Kylie Jenner lip kit, the hair extension is yet another beauty craze we can thank all the celebs for making famous. Just because you're not able to grow those long, luscious locks on your own (and may or may not have the follicle version of penis-envy), longer, thicker hair is still a possibility with the right set of enhancements. Kim Kardashian would be so proud.

Hey, if you're missing that Rapunzel gene, a little backup couldn't hurt.

Changing up the color, style and length of your hair sounds uber-tempting, but is it really worth the time, effort and money? Here's what you need to know before you book an appointment or buy one of the many at-home extensions available online.

Facts about hair extensions

  • Extensions don't only add length. You can choose to add volume instead (or in addition to length), which is perfect for fine, limp or thinning hair.
  • Turn that bob into a mane! If your existing hair is at little as 3 inches long, you can get extensions, although the extent of your transformation may be limited if your hair is very short.
  • Extensions can be braided in, glued in, woven in, or — if you only need a follicular boost for a special event — clipped in.
  • You can also add highlights or color with shades ranging from mild to wild
  • The process isn't painful, so it shouldn't hurt a bit.

What to look for

"A hairstyle can make or break your look," says stylist Cesare Safieh. Safieh cautions there are some important questions to ask when selecting extensions:

  • What are the extensions made from? Are they synthetic or 100%-natural human hair? (Human hair is more expensive than synthetic counterparts.)
  • How will the extensions be applied and removed?
  • Can you choose from a variety of weights?

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.)

What else to look for in hair extensions

"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."

What to avoid in hair extensions

"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.

More: The futuristic pixel hair trend that will have you mesmerized

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 lasts 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?

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