I regularly receive emails from women inquiring about hair extensions. Many of my brides ask if I would do extensions for them, too. Since we’re entering engagement season, and many of my brides are going for long, flowing half-updos for their wedding, I’ve decided that it’s time to address this issue.
Firstly, most women consider extensions when they feel like they cannot grow their hair long enough or thickly enough for their satisfaction. Today I’m probably going to upset a lot of you when I say that in my experience, the reason you do not have the beautiful hair you wish for is that you are too lazy or cheap to take care of it properly (very few women have actual medical hair and scalp issues compared to the number of women who get extensions). I will teach you how to do this, after I tell you about extensions…
IF you get extensions, there is a great likelihood that your hair AND scalp will be irreparably damaged and you’ll be even worse off than before you got them. To illustrate my point, I’ve found photos of four A-list celebrities who can definitely afford the very best. They are proof that no matter how many thousands of dollars you spend, fusion or track extensions still look nasty. Victoria Beckham still has a patchy bald spot at the back of her head from her extensions, and I believe it’s been quite a few years since she took them out.
Extensions damage your hair at the scalp level, within the roots before the hair cells in the shaft have ‘died’ and fully keratinized. This happens in two ways: by suffocating the scalp and pulling at the roots. Your scalp needs regular washing and exposure to the air. Without these simple things, you’re looking at fungal accumulations and dead skin buildup, causing itchiness, foul odour and poor nutrient supply to your roots. This causes your hair to grow brittle and break off, and scalp issues such as dandruff or folliculitis. The end result is little bald dots all over your head, spiky little patches of very short broken hair, and thinner, ‘sicker’ hair than ever before.
Did you know that you cannot shampoo your scalp properly with fusion/bonded or track-and-sew? You can’t put certain shampoos directly on the bonds, and it’s advised to never use conditioner on the bonds either. Hair must be gently shampooed with a squeezing motion, never scrubbed. It’s very hard to get a properly clean head using this technique! I find track-and-sew to be especially gross – the braids are done so tightly to the scalp that you cannot wash underneath. Trust me when I say it is STINKY to have to style track-and-sew…I no longer shoot with models who have this type of extension.
And finally, extensions are expensive to maintain. I have heard of prices starting at $200 up to $500 every 4-6 weeks!
The only extensions I endorse are the clip-ins. They cost only $100-$200 and can last for years if properly cared for, plus you can cut, colour and style them to match your own hair (if the right colours are not available). I recommend Lord and Cliff 7-piece sets, available in Vancouver at Abantu. Clip-ins are very easy to put in by yourself! If unsure, watch a Youtube how-to video 🙂
SO! How do you take care of your hair so that it grows long and healthy? Well, start from within. Proper nutrition is essential to healthy hair, so I suggest seeing a professional if you are truly unsure of how to feed yourself. Regular trims are a must when growing your hair, because split ends can fray and break right on up the hair shaft if left too long. Do you find your hair doesn’t grow past your shoulders? That’s breakage! Get a mini-trim every 4 weeks – your hair grows about 1/2 inch in that time, so go get a dry cut to ensure the minimum is taken (wet hair stretches). And do not get any razor cutting – razoring scrapes and splits the cuticle, resulting in intensely damaged hair.
Stop over-styling your hair. I advise everyone to work with their natural texture anyway, so go get a texturizing wash-and-wear haircut, and put the blowdryer and flatiron away. It will take a few months for your texture to normalize after all that styling, so do regular treatments and be patient. I prefer Redken CAT treatment because the enzymes only work for 5 minutes, so it’s quick and easy. You can even stack treatments one after the other without rinsing, up to 3 times.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to use the right products! Spend the extra money on a decent shampoo and conditioner. It’s so much cheaper than extensions! I prefer PureOlogy Hydrate duo for thick hair and Rene Furterer Tonucia duo for thin hair. Tonucia should not be used longer than 6 months at a time due to the protein content. Too much protein will damage your hair, so switch to something like PureOlogy Volume for a while until ready for Tonucia again.
The best leave-in product for all hair types is BC Bonacure Sealed Ends, because you need only a teensy bit for maximum benefit. If your hair is extra dry, you can touch up with it during the day on dry hair. I love this product so much that I’ll probably write a big article about it, so stay tuned.
And finally, go easy on the highlighting. It would be beneficial to start colouring your hair even one level darker by doing lowlights or an all-over application. This will ‘heal’ your hair because salon colours often have intensive protein molecules which hold the pigment in the hair and seal the cuticle so it doesn’t wash out.
Let’s say you really feel it’s too ‘expensive’ to do what I’ve said. Here is some math for you:
-PureOlogy Hydrate shampoo 1L and conditioner 1L combo, $85 at Zennkai, lasts a year on long hair, 1 year and 6 months on short hair
-Regular trims, 1x per month at $50 each (my pricing) $600
-Redken CAT, about $20 at Zennkai, lasts about 6 months if you do biweekly treatments on your ends only (not your whole head, it’s unneccessary) so it’s $40 per year
-BC Bonacure Repair Rescue Sealed Ends, about $15 lasts a year or longer!
TOTAL $740 for a year of natural care, which is around what you spend in 6 months on extensions and upkeep, without products or haircuts. You could even splurge and get some $200 clip-ins and still be saving money if you grow naturally!
By the way, cheap extensions are a bad idea and will only make everything much worse than I’ve already described. Be warned!! I have seen horrible botched gluing jobs with big nasty crusts of glue on the scalp that won’t come off…just don’t do it.