On the red carpet, celebrities like Selena Gomez and Beyoncé have shoulder-grazing lobs one day and long, luxurious strands by the time they hit the next carpet. These stars don’t have super genes; rather, they turn to extensions to switch up their length whenever they feel like changing their look. Luckily, hair extensions aren’t just for the red carpet and you can easily achieve your own mane transformation with a little help from your own glossy set. Tempted yet to add some length to your strands? We spoke with Lisa Richards, Co-Founder and Managing Director of RPZL Hair Extension And Blow-Out Bar in N.Y.C. to get all of the vital information you need.
Do Your Research
Choosing the right stylist to help you achieve your ideal length is essential if you want the final look to truly blend with your natural hair. Richards recommends matching with a stylist by asking what methods of hair extensions they’re trained in, and discussing your lifestyle to distinguish what type of extensions will be best suited for your desired look, and how dedicated you’ll be to extension upkeep.
Pick a Method That Will Work Best with Your Hair
Whether you’re looking for a temporary length fix or a long-term commitment, your hair’s texture comes into play in what method of extensions your stylist will recommend. “Our Headmasters at RPZL offer the best way to pick the right color and texture for your hair: that's to match the hair extensions to the color at the end of your hair. This way, when the extensions are applied, there is a seamless transition from the roots downward, and the extensions blend nicely with your hair, giving you a natural look,” says Richards.
Three popular methods of extensions include: clip-ins which are the most non-committal option and can easily be taken on or off depending on your mood; tape-ins, which are connected by clamping your own hair between wide bonds that look like Sellotape; and keratin-bonded, which fuses the extension to your hair with keratin bonds using a little heat tool or ultrasound technology.
Maintaining your hair’s health is a top priority. If your hair is chemically relaxed or natural, Richards says she suggests clip-in extensions using 100% Virgin Remy hair (non-chemically treated hair), and if you’re active or like to wear your hair in various styles like high-ponytails and braids, she suggests keratin-bonded extensions because they’re the most flexible.
Consider Your Extension Purchase as an Investment
For the best results, don’t try to get a bargain when shopping for your extensions, and look for quality over the best price. “Top quality extensions are made from 100% Virgin Remy Hair. This means that the cuticle of the hair is all in the same direction,” says Richards. “These types of extensions are like your own hair, and can hold shape, volume and even texture. You can even curl, color, and use a flatiron too! You can also run your fingers through the extension and see little to no shedding. Extensions that are not high quality become brittle and not shiny (especially after the first wash) rather quickly.”
Make a Regular Upkeep Routine
When you leave the salon, your extensions will look flawless. Keep your new locks fresh by properly maintaining them once you get home. Clip-ins are low maintenance and require minimal upkeep. To keep these strands in shape, remove them and gently comb out tangles before washing them with a sulfate-free and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner like L'Oréal Paris EverPure Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner, Rosemary Juniper ($6 each; drugstore.com). To dry, blot them with a towel to remove excess water and let the extensions air dry.
If you decide on tape-on or keratin-bonded locks, these methods require slightly more work. Wash hair only using sulfate-free and paraben-free shampoo concentrating on the roots, and condition only from the mid-lengths to the ends. Make sure your hair is 80% dry by patting it with a towel, before embarking on your array of heat styling tools. Also, be sure to keep your tools away from the tape and keratin bonds. As tempting as it might be so shower and hit the lights, sleeping on wet hair with these extensions in is a major no-no. Make sure your hair is completely dry before your head hits your pillow, and braid it into pigtails to prevent tangles.
Pay Attention To How The Hair Feels
“You should not feel the hair once it’s in,” says Richards. If any section of your hair is causing you pain or discomfort once a stylist has put in your extensions, you should return to the salon to make sure the strands are in properly. If you have clip-ins, try unclipping the section and moving it slightly to grab more of your own hair, and re-clip.
Know When It’s Time to Say Goodbye
As much as you’ll love your new length, you’re going to have to part with your extensions at some point. Luckily, clip-ins can last up to two years if you take care of them properly. Tape-on strands last six to eight weeks, and keratin-bonded extensions can stay in for up to three months. While clip-ons can easily be removed at home, Richards says you should never try to take out tape-on or keratin-bonded extensions yourself, and to visit the salon that put them in to get the hair properly removed.