Having a bad hair day? We’ve all had them. If you’re unhappy because your hair isn’t long enough, full enough or lacks the highlights you crave, hair extensions or a hair weave may be the solution you’re looking for, says Gino Antonelli, owner of highly rated Capelli Hair Salon in Piscataway, N.J. Do-it-your-selfers can use clip-on or tape-on extensions for a temporary look, he says, but more natural looks usually require a professional. Before making the investment in time and money, here are seven things you should know.
How are hair extensions added? Most stylists use the keratin bond or hair weave method, Antonelli says. The keratin bonding process involves attaching micro strands of hair that have been dipped in keratin to similar-sized hair strands near the roots with a heated applicator. Antonelli says keratin bonds work for all hair types. But most African-American women get a weave, which requires a stylist to braid the hair in cornrows, so that hair wefts, which look like a curtain of hair, can be sewn onto the braids.
Less often, clients opt for a process that involves threading hair through a loop at one end of a micro-hair strand that’s tightened near the scalp, Antonelli says. Press-on extensions gives you instant hair in just seconds, says Gladys Olmedo, owner of highly rated HairSculptor.com in Costa Mesa, Calif.
How long will a weave or extensions last? Stylists recommend a touch-up for weaves after about six weeks, says Olmedo. Antonelli says keratin bond extensions last between four and five months. Micro-loop extensions last several weeks if you can stand the feel of tiny loops close to your scalp, which some find irritating.
What type of hair should you use? Extensions are made with synthetic or human hair. Antonelli says people who wash their hair daily should avoid synthetic hair. That said, all human hair comes in varying degrees of quality. Some manufacturers blend synthetic hair with human hair and there are varying grades of 100 percent human hair. Antonelli says “Remy” hair is a higher quality because the hair cuticles are stored in its original condition. “[Manufacturers] guarantee all hair will lay in the direction it’s styled,” says Antonelli, who also owns LaBella Hair Extensions in Piscataway, N.J.. Olmedo also uses custom-made hair wefts.
How much does it cost? Olmedo says her extension styles start at $275, plus $60 for each additional track she sews in. Antonelli says keratin bond extensions cost between $800 and $1,400 because stylists add between 80 and 150 pieces of tiny human hair stands throughout the hair. A stylist can spend about five hours adding extensions and creating the style you desire, but the cost of the hair makes up the bulk of the expense, Antonelli says. If well cared for, human hair can be reused, he says.
Will adding extensions damage or break my hair? Olmedo says it depends on the method used to add your extensions. She prefers weaves or track extensions to avoid damaging your hair. “It doesn’t pull your own hair out.” Antonelli agrees. For women with straight hair, he recommends keratin bondings because their hair won’t hold the braids required for a weave.
What type of experience should I look for in a stylist? Because all states do not require a license to add extensions, Antonelli recommends requesting a consultation with a stylist to discuss the hairstyle you want and the hair type the stylist will use. Look through the stylist’s portfolio and ask if you can watch another client get extensions, he says.
What’s the best way to care for my extensions at home? Antonelli recommends using combs and brushes specially designed for hair extensions to avoid damaging your hair and ruining your hairstyle.