Hair extension basics

Dreaming of long, luscious hair but your strands are refusing to grow? Hair extensions might be the answer. Find out everything you need to know and what you should look for in your dream set.

Long hair extensions

While some of us battle to grow our hair for years, the celebs seem to go from short to long, thin to thick and flat to full in an instant. How? More often than not, they’re using quality hair extensions.

Hair extensions are a great option if you want long hair for a special event like a wedding or graduation, or even just to dazzle daily. They can be attached to create a subtle change in your hair, like adding a little extra volume, or dramatically change the appearance of your hair by going from short to super long. You can also choose highlights that will blend in with your natural hair colour, or use them as highlights. With so many different options available, the final look is up to you.

Types of hair extensions

Human hair vs. synthetic: While human hair is more expensive than synthetic hair extensions, it will allow you to dye and style it as if it was your natural hair.

Clip-in extensions: These are generally the most affordable type of extension and are attached to a small track with a comb that can slide right into your hair. You can attach these yourself at home.

Strand extensions: Small sections of hair are attached to your natural hair by gluing, weaving or heat-fusing the hair together.

Weft extensions: These are similar to strand extensions, but for a larger section of hair. The extension is attached to a wide track, which is then attached to your real hair by gluing, weaving or heat-fusing, as above.

Application machine: A machine moulds a synthesised keratin bond (that’s attached to the extension) to your natural hair, which should result in an undetectable seam that won’t put stress on your hair.

Micro rings: The hair extension is attached to a small ring, which you use to pull a few strands of your natural hair through.

Care of hair extensions

Use a soft brush to comb through your extensions on a daily basis to avoid getting them full of knots. It’s also advisable to take your clip-in extensions out before you go to bed to avoid damaging them as you sleep. Some brands advise that you should avoid chlorine and salt water when you’re wearing extensions, while others say that the 100 per cent real hair extensions won’t affect your lifestyle and you can exercise and swim as normal. As with your natural hair, you should at least make an effort to rinse chlorine, salt water and sweat out of your hair after swimming or exercising.

Hair extensions should also be washed with a gentle shampoo and conditioner duo as per normal. Keep in mind that heat styling such as straightening or curling may reduce the life of your authentic hair extensions. You may need to get regular touch-ups from your hairdresser and you’ll usually need to replace the extensions after about six months or so, depending on the product. Ask your stylist for maintenance advice to keep the extensions in the best condition possible. Very special care should also be taken when attaching your hair extensions. If you choose to have yours applied by a professional, make sure they’re qualified and experienced. Ask to see photos of previous work.

More hair styling tips

Tips for styling hair extensions
How to care for hair extensions
Hair extension quality: Virgin, remy and double drawn

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