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Have you ever scrolled through your social media feed and wondered how all of those women have such beautiful, long, thick, and lustrous hair? Their secret is in hair extensions!
With hair extensions being easily accessible and in different forms to suit all hair types, needs, and budgets, you no longer have to be a celebrity with a team of professional hair stylists on hand each and every day to get the hair of your dreams.
Read on to find out more about the different types of hair extensions and how to look after them.
The Global Value of Hair Extensions
The global wig and hair trade is now a multi-billion dollar industry. In fact, it is estimated to reach revenues of over $10 billion by 2023.
In the USA alone, in 2016 the industry brought in $192 million and has increased year on year.
The Importance of Knowing Where Your Hair Extensions Come From
Due to the hair extension and wig industry being an unregulated business, inevitably there is a darker side to the trade. There have been reports of scammers preying on and exploiting women in developing countries to sell off their hair for only a few dollars. This hair then gets sold in the western world for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times what they originally paid.
The bottom line is if you choose to get hair extensions or a wig, please to do your research to only buy from reputable companies that look after the hair donors and ensure that they are fairly compensated.
What Are Hair Extensions?
Hair extensions are wefts of natural or artificial hair (wefts are hair strands that have been machine sewn together in a bundle) that are attached to a person’s own hair in order to add length or fullness.
You can put hair extensions in several different ways depending on how long you want to keep them in. Some are very temporary, others will last a few months in your natural hair.
Natural Hair Vs Synthetic Hair Extensions – What’s the Difference and Is One Better Than the Other?
Ok, so now that you’ve decided to invest in some new hair, let’s take a look at the two different materials that hair extensions are made from.
Human Hair Extensions
If we think of hair extensions as a sliding scale, at the luxury end is “remy” hair. This is the ultimate human hair for extensions as all the cuticles on each strand remain intact. Because each hair strand is aligned, this ensures that there is no tangling.
“Virgin” hair also sits pretty high on the scale. As the name suggests, this is hair that has never been touched with chemicals, such as hair dye.
At the very bottom end is “standard hair”. This is just a fancy way of saying “the bits of hair that are scraped from a comb or swept up off the floor”!
The majority of human hair that goes into wigs and hair extensions comes from India and China. There is also a market for European hair, and it is considered the most valuable. This is because of its finer texture, the variety of its colors and simply because it is harder to get. Most of this hair comes from countries such as Russia, Romania, or Ukraine.
Synthetic Hair Extensions
Synthetic or imitation hair is made out very fine, plastic fibers. Although these days technology allows synthetic fibers to look pretty real, artificial hair does tend to look, feel and move very differently to human hair. This means that extensions can appear quite obvious.
Not only can synthetic hair extensions look fake, but another major downfall is also that they cannot be heat-styled (it melts!) or dyed. Synthetic hair also tends to become knotted and matted and are really hard to brush without damaging them.
So why use synthetic if it’s inferior? Well, it really comes down to cost. Synthetic hair extensions are far cheaper than human hair extensions.
The Verdict is in – Natural Hair Wins Over Synthetic
If you don’t mind spending a bit more money then go for good quality, natural human hair extensions. They are more likely going to last you longer – with the correct hair extension maintenance, of course!
Choosing the Best Hair Extensions For Your Needs
There are several ways to put in hair extensions. Some are semi-permanent and others are great for just a night out. Which one you choose depends on your natural hair and current style, needs, and budget.
1. Tape Ins
If you are looking to add length, volume, and thickness to your hair, then tape-in hair extensions great. The extensions come pre-glued onto a strip and then a stylist attaches it to your hair using an adhesive. Tape-in extensions will last anywhere between four and eight weeks before you will need to either remove or re-apply them.
2. Sew Ins or Weaves
Sew-in or weave extensions are attached using a needle and thread and attached to a braid or cornrow. It is a very technical and difficult application process that can only be done by an experienced professional.
3. Micro-Link Hair Extensions
Micro links, also known as microbeads or locks, are extensions that are clamped to your own hair. You can wash them the same way you would your real hair and use the same styling products.
4. Wigs and Hairpieces
Full wigs cover your entire head and are a replacement for your own hair. Hairpieces are temporarily attached to increase fullness to natural hair.
5. Clip-In Hair Extensions
Clip-ins are wefts of hair that are attached to a clip. They come in lots of different colors and lengths so they are amazing when you want to change up your look. They are really simple to put in, and they can add length and volume in an instant.
Hair Extension Maintenance – How to Look After Your New Hair
Each type of hair extension generally has its own special care requirements, but here we will just look at how to look after tape-in extensions.
How do I Brush Hair Extensions?
The first and most important steps to correct hair extension maintenance is to brush your extensions out before getting them wet. This helps minimize the possibility of tangling during and after you have washed your hair.
If you have long hair, brushing is especially important. You should start brushing out any knots from the bottom and gently make your way to the top. The last thing you want to do is to pull out any hair from the tape or pull out the hair extension entirely.
An anti static hair brush is a perfect hair extension hairbrush. Not only will it remove static and smooth your hair down with each stroke, but it will also give you the control to perfectly style and blend your hair extensions with your natural hair.
Can You Wash Hair Extensions?
Many people ask “can you wash hair extensions” and the short answer is yes. If they are semi-permanent, then you would wash as part of your normal routine.
However, when it comes to clip-in hair extensions, you don’t need to wash them as often as you do your own hair. That’s because they don’t get natural oils from our scalp. In fact, you only need to wash removable hair extensions after 15 or so wears, or when there is a lot of product build-up.
For all hair care, you should use hair products that contain no alcohol or sulfates. Try to find products that are designed for colored hair too, to extend the vibrancy of the hair extension color.
When shampooing, be gentle so that you don’t tangle the strands of your hair extensions and always use a conditioner or hair treatment.
Can I Blow Dry Hair Extensions?
Go easy on the blow drying when you have extensions. Air drying will help prolong their lifespan because drying with heat will slowly damage them. If you do need to blow dry your extensions, make sure to use a heat protectant spray and dry with cool air.
Although brushing wet hair is a no-no, you can use a wide-tooth comb to detangle any knots.
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to hair extensions and how to look after them. I’d love to hear your top hair extension maintenance tips in the comments below.