Hair Extensions: Your Length and Volume Goals are Closer Than You Think

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American comedienne Rita Rudner once said, “Nobody is really happy with what’s on their head.” It’s true. There’s a scarcity of people who love their natural hair.

Haircare magnates make fortunes by creating custards in magenta bottles that promise to give even the lankiest hair more volume than a poodle on show day. Meanwhile, a yellow bottle boasts the meringue it contains will make hair grow three times faster. Do these work? Maybe. But that isn’t what this article is about because there is a fool-proof way to achieve your length and volume goals in a few hour or even minutes. Hair extensions!

Luckily for ladies craving volume and length, hair extensions are having a renaissance. Innovators in the business have made astounding leaps forward making extensions less detectable, longer-lasting, more customizable and more comfortable. With innovation comes the need for information. So, I’ve rounded up several types of hair extensions and some information on each.

The braided sew-in is one of the older types of hair extensions and is sometimes called a weave. When used properly, it is a great protective hairstyle for black women who are trying to grow out their natural hair. The results are stunning, though, so some women just wear these extensions to look fabulous. The hairdresser braids the client’s hair into box braids, creating a pattern that resembles the weft on the inside of a wig, and some of the client’s hair is left loose around her face and where she parts her hair. This “leave-out” hair makes it easier to blend in the new hair and makes it look more natural. Finally, the hairdresser uses a curved needle, thread and a variation on a buttonhole stitch to sew the extensions to the braids. These extensions need maintenance every six to eight weeks to keep new growth from matting.

For the legions of do-it-yourself fanatics and women terrified of hair commitment, there are clip-in hair extensions. Almost anyone can put these in and take them out with a little practice. They are versatile and can be used to add volume, length or a pop of color. High-quality clip-in extensions can be pricey, about $150 to $600. Good extensions are going to be human hair, so the wearer can curl them, straighten them or even dye them. If the buyer takes proper care of their clip-ins, they can stay nice for a year with daily wear.

A busy mom with thinning hair may not have time for all those clips every day nor can she spend all day at the salon. Tape-in extensions are her best bet. They have the fastest installation time of any professionally done extensions. A thin piece of hair, one and a half inches wide, is sandwiched between two pieces of tape-in extensions. This method adds a lot of volume quickly but isn’t as versatile as some of the other methods we’ll be discussing. They need to be maintained by a professional every four to six weeks or the tape will start to show; which isn’t a good look.

A woman who knows what she wants and has several hours to kill should look into kera links. For this process, a licensed professional will take a few strands of a client’s hair and a tiny piece of hair extension that is connected at the top with clear keratin; using a heated tool, they melt the keratin, which bonds the client’s natural hair to the extension. The bond is virtually undetectable. The initial installation is time-consuming and must be maintained by a professional; however, the client can go 12 to 16 weeks between visits to the hairdresser.

A museum curator who changes her hair every three months might not like the idea of chemically binding new hair to her own hair. The I-link method is probably more suited to her needs. To install I-links, a few strands of the client’s hair are pulled through a small bead as are a few strands of the extension. Once everything is positioned the hairdresser uses a specialized pair of pliers to squish the bead, which keeps it all in place. One huge benefit of I-link extensions is that each piece has 360 degrees of movement so it moves naturally and can be put in a ponytail without anyone ever suspecting the client has extensions. Another major benefit is that since there is no adhesive, when the client returns in six to ten weeks for maintenance, the extensions just need to be moved up closer to the scalp, which is faster than the initial installation and economical.

If your hair feels limp or never seems to grow; you’ve got beautiful options!

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