Hair extensions have come a long way since they first arrived back in the late 80s. Seen as tacky and possibly something associated with strippers and 90s WAGs, extensions are massively popular again, but not with the clients we would have seen 20 years ago. Does your bob need a bit more swish? Extensions are your friend. Do you want an extreme hair colour makeover without the damage? Or do you want to reverse the effects of hormonal changes or the menopause on your crown and glory? Hair extensions are the new friend for a bit more va-va-voom, but will they damage your hair?
We are seeing a lot more clients in their 50s and 60s opting for extensions. With female role models defying the effects of time such as Helen Mirren, Trinny Woodall, Nigella Lawson and Jane Fonda who all support full bouncy heads of luxurious hair, we are seeing clients wanting the same results from their visit to the salon. There has been quite a lot of bad publicity over the years about how damaging extensions can be, however if they are applied and maintained properly, they can create incredible results.
It’s all about maintenance.
Seeing a good extensionist is the key, however it is also about making sure you have a good maintenance plan in place also. There are many extension systems available, and each will come with its own benefits, however you should always return to your salon for a monthly visit, even if its only for a blowdry. That way your stylist will be able to check on your hair health.
Your salon should offer a complimentary blow-dry “check-up” appointment over a 6-week period, which means they can see if you need any advice on how to manage your extensions at home. It is also a good way to make sure that the life of the hair-extensions is extended as much as possible. Often our clients can reuse the hair for up to 12 months if the hair is maintained correctly. We provide all of our clients with a care pack for their extensions, along with a guide on how to maintain their hair and scalp in between salon visits.
Choosing the right extensions
Hair extensions need to be matched up with your own hair, not just in terms of colour and texture, but also in terms of thickness and weight. Putting hair that is much heavier or denser than your own hair in the extensions will put too much stress on the follicles, which can risk hair-loss, or what we call traction alopecia. This can permanently damage the hair follicles if the hairs are repeatedly plucked out and scarring of the scalp, which prevents new hairs growing as a result of the scar tissue. Celebs can often be seen with extensions taking their toll, and this if often the reason, particularly on the finer hairs around the hairline.
Whenever we carry out a consultation for hair extensions, we also test for hair that is fragile, which may be as a result of the hair being brittle, or it may be a result of the follicle being weak and the hair falling out easily under stress. We will test the hair for tensile strength initially to see if it breaks easily. We will then normally recommend that the client have some test stands applied at the back of their head, which will sit in the hair for a week prior to having a full hair extension application.
When the client returns to the salon for their appointment, we can take a look at the strands to see if there are any issues, and also check with the client whether they felt comfortable with the feeling of the extensions, before we proceed with the application. A lot of salons will not do this step, however we feel that it is vital that the health of the scalp and hair is a priority when considering extensions.
Types of extensions
Keratin bond extensions are extensions that are suitable for most hair types, but are particularly good on finer hair that extensions are likely to look too obvious on. The benefit of these extensions if they are correctly applied is that they can be placed quite high up on the head, which is particularly good if the client is suffering from thinning hair near their crown, or near the front of their hair. Because they are very finely applied, they do not put the hair follicles under stress, and the bond attaching the hair extension is very lightweight.
Micro-ring extensions are an extension system that attaches the extensions using a small metal ring, or bead, often with a small silicone lining in the ring for added grip. The small ring is then squeezed together to sandwich the extension and the client’s natural hair together. Although this extension system can work well on normal to thick hair, on finer hair it can make the root area look even thinner and sparse as the rings require larger sections of hair to fill up the ring. If insufficient hair is attached to the ring it will put the follicles under too much stress and result in possible hair-loss.
Tape hair extensions
A hugely popular system with celebrities as they are a fast and safe way to create lots of volume and also length in a short time. The system uses pre-glued strips of hair which are an inch wide, and are attached on either side of a section of the client’s hair. The adhesive on the extensions then sets over 12-24 hours, without requiring heat or tension like the other systems. The extensions are then easily removed 6 weeks later using an alcohol spray which separates the extension tapes before they are re-applied.
Overall, the hair can be reapplied for 6-9 months. It is vital that when they are being fitted to the hair that they are attached to sufficient hair and not too close to the root of the hair, as this will result in hair loss if the extension cannot move back-and-forth without tension.
Weave hair extensions
These extensions are sewn into hair that has been braided tightly in rows around the head. This technique requires hair that has enough texture that the braids will not loosen, and it is vital that the hair extensions are not too heavy for the natural hair to support the weight of them. This extensions system is more typically used on afro hair and will cause damage to finer smooth hair textures as it will put the hair under too much stress. Even on the correct hair texture, it is recommended that the extensions are not reapplied immediately after removal to allow the hair follicles to recover. Failure to do so can result in traction alopecia, and it is rumoured that this was the result of Naomi Campbells thinning hair in recent photos.
Top tips for achieving the best results with extensions without risking damage