Your Look

Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Simpson, Miley Cyrus, Victoria Beckham and countless others regularly surprise the world with new and different hairstyles -- changing color, style and even the length of their hair -- over the course of just a couple days. How do they do it?

Woman with hair extensions

This magic is made possible with the help of hair extensions and a talented stylist.

Getting the look you always wanted

A lot of us have realized that our inner hottie has longer, thicker hair than we were actually graced with. (Consider it the follicle version of penis-envy.) My own muse has wavy hip-length locks... yet the universe taunts with me hair that, while cute, barely brushes my shoulders.

And that's why hair extensions are so popular -- and not just in Hollywood! Girls the world 'round just love to realize that it is possible to take your current look and give it a lift and have any style you desire... well, for a few months, anyhow.

Hair extensions: The basics

"I've always wanted super-long and sexy hair," says Jackie Saril of Squeakywheel Promotions, who realized that extensions were the only way she was going to get the length she desired. Her dream came true with extensions done by Tasso Megaris in Plainview, New York. "Why should celebrities and strippers have all the fun?" she laughs.Woman getting hair extensions at the salon

Facts about hair extensions

  • Extensions don't only to 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 -- to your hair with the use of extensions.
  • The process isn't painful, so it shouldn't hurt a bit.

What do hair extensions cost?

The bad news: Hair extensions aren't cheap. Depending on how much you get, how you get them attached and the type/grade of hair you use, the cost can range from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars -- and that's not including maintenance every six to eight weeks. You will also need to make an investment of time, usually four to six hours, for the initial setup.

The specialist who will apply your extensions may be called a hair designer, an extensionist, or simply a hairdresser. No matter what title he or she uses, be sure they are experienced -- and have photos to prove it. Also make sure you understand how they will be removed, and how damage to your natural hair will be minimized. (Several stars -- including Kate Beckinsale and Victoria Beckham -- have had problems with bald spots after their extensions were taken out.)

Celebrities with hair extensions
Just a few of the many stars with hair extensions: Miley Cyrus, Carrie Underwood, Lindsay Lohan

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."

Up next: What to avoid in hair extensions >>

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Comments on "The pros and cons of hair extensions"

Gabby February 05, 2014 | 1:18 PM

I have heard a lot of great things on micro loop extensions and have been looking around deciding if I should get them. I do have fine hair, and it is about half way down my back, would this be a good way to go?

Pauly G January 17, 2014 | 6:08 PM

NEVER remove pre bonded or 'glued' in extensions yourself! Get them removed by the trained professional who applied them. No wonder your hair feels thin and damaged. Proper removal is very important to minimalise damage to your own hair!

Kirsty December 16, 2013 | 6:06 PM

Fusion hair extensions are amazing i have had them since i was 14 with regular maintenance and proper care . Girls that i hear complain usually haven't looked after them ,used damaging products or had an un-trained cheapo' instal them . also leaving them longer than 6-8 weeks without maintenance ..that is on you " not the extensions or technician . I am now a mobile service .. I would not do something i did not beleieve in i have Never had a complaint other than then usual first uncomfortable few nights where the bonds need to settle .

Nat October 23, 2013 | 7:38 PM

I had the beaded hair extensions for years and loved them and had no issues. However this year I went from platinum blonde to dark brown and then back again.. My hair is so damaged and broken I hate wearing it out! I would love to get extensions in again, however Im worried that the small amount of crappy hair I do have will break off.. damned if I do, or damned if I dont :-( Help!

ginger September 24, 2013 | 6:05 PM

I am 56 years old...still have a decent figure and face...but my hair was thin and blonde/graying. My stylist suggested extensions and I went for it. OMG! These are better than a boob job. Takes 20 years off an old lady like me. I have the tape in human hair kinda. Kind of a hassle to care for and keep them moisturized since I added about 12 inches to my shoulder length hair...but switched to WEN shampoo and problems stopped. I love these things and will never go without them.

Lisa July 20, 2013 | 9:10 AM

Please check the hair extensions before the hair dresser braid it to your hair. Look out for any split ends or any grey/white hair!! I did mine yesterday; I didn't check the hair extensions beforehand and was so mad when I reach home. I discovered there are split ends and white hairs on my hair extensions!! I am so asking for a refund!!

Laura June 05, 2013 | 11:53 AM

I want extensions but want them to look natural and want get right ones u got fine ish hair just but longer than shoulder length .

Jean May 25, 2013 | 3:01 PM

Ok so I have thinning hair....I am a 25 year old female and the density of my hair has almost halved in the last 5-6 years! when I tie my hair in a pony its not too noticeable but if it is sunny outside everybody points out the fact that my scalp is burning! Its getting to the stage where my hair consumes most of my thoughts throughout the day and has me very depressed. I was hoping if anyone could give me any advice on what would be my best option? I was thinking of getting those keratin bonded extensions -think its fairly new and that they use like a tongs that is heated or a new one that's cool that attaches hair to your own and apparently causes "minimal damage" but I am so petrified that I would end up almost completely bald as a result!! Please help!

Alexandra May 15, 2013 | 7:45 PM


Jackie May 04, 2013 | 12:02 AM

I had fine hair and also decided I wanted long thick hair, so I took the plunge 4months ago and had bonded Remy hair extensions it. I have to say I read review after review and consulted a local mobile technician several times prior to having them in. They were great, long awaited look I always wanted especially in the morning I just brushed them and off to work I would go. I recently had them removed and my hair feels fine again, is that because I was so used to having thick hair, or do you lose some of your own hair when having them removed? I am thinking of having them re done..Does anyone have any comments?

Lorraine April 27, 2013 | 3:03 PM

Do not get the glue-in ones if you want extensions as a solution to thin hair! I spent hundreds on getting them done and after just 2 weeks got them taken out as I could feel the strain they were having on my hair. After just 2 weeks my hair is noticably even thinner than it was before. I think if you have thick hair it's fine but if your hair is fine like mine then fusion extensions are sadly not the solution :( saying that I've never had problems with clip-ins I just find them a hassle and the concept a bit strange (as do lots of guys!)

Lucinda Turner-Brown April 11, 2013 | 1:59 PM

Hi everyone, I am an extensionist who has fitted all types of systems. Just a few tips on what to ask when you are visiting an extensionist. Make sure that they give a full free consultation. Any extensionist worth their salt will provide this service for you. Make sure that they ask about your health. Some medical conditions and certain drugs can cause hair loss. As I said earlier, I have fitted all hair extension systems and it all depends on your hair type as to which system you should have. Have you tried shrinkies? This is a hot fusion method that is safer than fusion bonds> It uses a small plastic tube that slides on the hair. The tube is then heated and the extension is place in the tube. The tube shrinks and traps the extension to your hair. These are really easy to remove and shouldn't cause damage to your hair. Please don't have fusion bonds as they can cause real damage. I have a salon in the Mansfield area Notts. I also have a "clinic" where I remove extensions for people and correct poor extensions. If you would post a comment about any problems or questions please do so, I will be happy to help. Lucinda xxxxxx

nikayla sides March 24, 2013 | 4:30 PM

i think that they are graet

Keri February 16, 2013 | 12:25 PM

I started off with clip in hair extensions... Annoying to put in as I wore them all time.. I then tried glue in hair extensions but I would recommend!! It ruins your hair badly... Lose your own hair... And for one.. You put loads of conditioner on to get the glue to slide out And half the time it doesn't work so your sat in bath for 2hours getting the glue out -_- .. Today... I've had my 22" hair extensions weaves in... They see more natural nd real... Hurts head a little as they have to put right small French plats into your hair... But in total should last 2months... So I shall see if they're any good ;-) x

Conklin January 11, 2013 | 7:05 PM

I just started getting hair extensions in October. They took away 10 years of my face and gave me a complete different look. I have waivy straight hair and first got hispanic hair which is great for curl but takes a lot of work. I just go them replaced with straight wavy and is so beautiful. Make sure you get your hair from a reputable place that can match it before your hairstylist puts it on. The secoond time I got them tighten I colored my roots before, it seemed to damage some of the thread use to tighten them. If you have loose curly hair, straight waivy is the way to go. It's beautiful.

donna January 02, 2013 | 4:55 PM

i have the tapped in version. Never had so many compliments in my life- looks amazing cost 500.00 plus tip only took an hour. It has taken 10 years off may age never knew how much thin dry hair ages you. HOWEVER, scalp hurts, itches only slightly but feels too weighty for me. I have a sensitive scalp though. Praying i don't get bald spots and would be devastated. May take them out early from what i have read. if you have a tough head and have the $$$ so worth it.

Mercedes December 31, 2012 | 10:25 AM

I've had clip in's and they didn't do anything to my hair. the only problem I had was that my hair was very damaged at the ends so it was hard to blend my hair with the extensions. My sister had the braid in ones and when she took them out her hair was really thin and damaged, so I'd go with the clip in's.

diane December 27, 2012 | 4:35 PM

I have been tossing around the idea of getting extensions for awhile now. My head was shaved for a surgery two years ago and it has taken forever to grow my hair back in . As it stands, I have very healthy shoulder length hair with no color on it. My fear is that extensions will ruin the good hair I have worked two years to have. I have fine hair though, so volume is an issue. I will NOT sacrifice the quality of my hair to correct this though. After reading these comments I am worried about trying any extensions.

lesley December 18, 2012 | 11:30 AM

I got the pre bonded hair extensions 8 weeks ago. I removed them last night to find my hair so badly damaged and thin I am devastated! Don't get them they completely ruin your hair! Clip in all the way guys Xx

andrea November 04, 2012 | 1:48 AM

As a hairstylist for 15+ years I have applied nearly all types of extensions. The sew in and beaded types are the most effective. Everyone's hair is different, a trained stylist should apply. Also, he/she should talk about expectations. Extensions are not a license to ignore your natural hair.

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