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Considering hair extensions, but don't know which kind will work the best for you? You're in luck! Whether you're looking to add length, volume, or both, the market is booming with products from around the world to satisfy your needs. Thanks to the latest technology, we no longer have to sit around in envy of the luscious tresses we see on TV.
There is a great variety of extension methods for all kinds of consumers: clip-in, tape-in, sew-in, glue-in, hot fusion, cold fusion, and more. In an effort to save you from wasting money on confusion, frustration, and bad hair days, we're going to dive into everything you need to know about hair extensions — the positives and negatives of different types, application processes, which hair types are suited to each method, and prices. (Remember that prices vary widely due to an interplay of factors such as region, treatment types, hair quality, and target length/volume.)
First, there are a few things to know about the world of extensions itself. Hair extensions require lots of maintenance, time, money, and research. If you’re still unsure of which method to use after reading the article, consult with a specialist at your local salon (make sure you go somewhere with experienced professionals). No one can give you better hair advice than a cosmetologist who can see and touch your locks in person! The information given here is to be used as a general guide, but your results may vary depending on your own hair type and personal taste
Before you decide which methodology of extension is best suited to your needs, you will have to make a decision on the type of hair you want your extensions to be. So, do you want synthetic or human hair? Let’s take a look at what you can do with them.
Synthetic VS human Hair
Human hair is typically the big winner. It can be dyed and styled with heat, and you can treat these extensions as you would your natural hair without a worry. Human extensions offer a great deal more of longevity and give the most appealing effect, as synthetic hair is sensitive to the sunlight and easily becomes brittle and frizzy. Synthetic hair is not to be treated with hot tools and it is not to be washed, either.
Synthetic extensions don’t look very real and you will typically find them in low-end DIY clip-ins, but not everyone is looking for a show-stopping result. Synthetic hair will hold its original style and doesn’t bear the commitment of pricey salon treatments. So, if you’re just getting ready to dip your toe into the world of extensions, synthetic clip-ins are a great way to get started and see how it feels. Once you have an idea of what it’s like to wear extensions, you can move on to making an investment in human hair wefts, of which there are many different kinds available.
Remy VS Non-Remy
There are two main categories of human hair on the market. While overall quality surpasses that of synthetic hair, you’ll have to pay close attention to whether the hair you’re buying is remy, non-remy, and/or virgin. Remy hair is harvested to keep the cuticle intact for the most natural appearance and should be the right choice.This has given it a reputation for being the highest quality hair available. Non-remy hair does not have the cuticle intact.
Whether the hair you’re buying contains the cuticle or not, you want to know if it is virgin, or unprocessed, or not. Virgin hair extensions are coveted worldwide due to their healthy sheen and squeaky clean history, making them much more expensive than pre-processed wefts. You may want virgin hair so that you can have your extensions chemically processed along with your natural hair. (Tip: Use virgin remy wefts for hot or cold fusion extensions.)
Clip In Hair Extensions
The most popular and readily available extensions are clip-ins. These tend to lean toward the cheap side, both in price and in quality (anywhere from $50-$250 is reasonable). They owe their popularity to ease of use; you clip the wefts onto your natural hair and voilà! Both the instant gratification they achieve and the time saved by skipping the salon make this an attractive option for women who need long hair in the blink of an eye. They’re best for adding length to a plain hairstyle on a medium-thick head of hair, but they aren’t made for constant wear.
Depending on the quality of the product and how you handle it, the extensions may be prone to falling out or the clips may be prone to exposure (that means no up-dos with these). If your natural hair is thin or especially fine, clips may be too heavy and can cause pain or damage to hair. Always be sure that you can withstand the pressure of your extensions to prevent this sort of trouble. In terms of care, you should gently brush your wefts as needed and avoid washing them. If you begin to notice a decline in the appearance of your extensions over time, a deep conditioner may be used to restore luster.
Tape-in extensions, on the other hand, are much more suitable to those who have fine and thin hair. This type of extension is applied by a licensed cosmetologist with double-sided polyurethane tape between sections of your natural hair. This gives you not only the volume and length you need, but also a much more permanent and realistic result than clip-ins — but make sure you take into consideration that tape strips may still be seen through your hair on occasion.
Tape-ins last approximately six to ten weeks, depending on your hair type and hygiene, and take up to two hours to apply (which some may find inconvenient). You can shower with them one to two days after application, but frequent swimming will ruin the extensions. You’ll be able to treat the new hair much like your own otherwise, with care as easy as keeping it brushed and oil-free at the root. While prices vary by salon, you can expect to pay a minimum of $200 for installation and the extensions altogether. To maintain the look, re-installations will be required every other month.
Sew-in extensions involve weaving wefts of hair into a narrow horizontal braid on the scalp. The braid is the foundation of the extension and must be as strong as possible. This has given “weaves” a reputation for causing headaches and hair damage from the tightness required. This particular method is likely unsuitable to anyone looking for a quick and painless remedy, or for someone who doesn’t have a lot of free time, but sew-ins offer a good deal of versatility in terms of volume and length.
They are most suitable for thick and coarse hair, as weak hair will not support sewn-in extensions. The standout feature is the impressive strength provided by the braid, but it’s not without hours of work and cannot be done at home. It requires a stylist, and, as with any other service, prices will vary by salon. They will last for over a month, but be sure not to leave them in for too long, as this runs the risk of causing hair loss. Ask your stylist for more information about the duration of sew-ins.
Glue-in extensions are applied with latex-bonding glue to the skin of the scalp exposed by a part in the hair. This is repeated in as many different areas as necessary to achieve a look of long, full hair. These are more temporary than sew-in and tape-in extensions and can even be applied by a friend (though your very best bet is always to book an appointment at the salon). A negative aspect of glue-ins is that the glue used in the process may put your natural hair at risk of being damaged. Prices vary by the type of hair and installation fees will range anywhere from $50 to $200. This is best for someone whose hair isn’t too thick or too thin. If you have graduated from clip-ins and want to try more of a commitment without too much fuss, glue-in extensions are calling your name!
Most recently, hair fusion techniques have been devised in the pursuit of more genuine-looking extensions. These are applied in strand-by-strand methods and may require a special brand of hair (so don’t go out and buy your wefts before speaking to a stylist first). Hot fusion was the first method to be employed — you may also find it under the name “tip extension” or “keratin extension.” Ladies love this option because you can treat it like it’s your own hair and there are no limits to your styling options as there are with weft extensions. Synthetic or human hair strands are adhered to your natural hair by heating the extension tips in order to create a convincingly natural result. You’ll have to take caution with heat and oils when styling this type of extension.
Beware, however, that the use of heat in this process may cause damage to your hair if done incorrectly (but it is less damaging than other glues). This risk and the expensive price tag on the treatment (starting at $400) are the biggest push-factors for fusion extensions, but the undeniably authentic results have pulled in many happy customers. The process can be time-consuming; adding volume is less so than adding length, but all in all it’s going to eat up at least four hours (up to eight). While it is very expensive to maintain hot fusion extensions, this is the most permanent and dependable option available. It is not recommended for short hair; hot fusion works best for those with thick, coarse hair, and it must already be at least medium-length.
Cold fusion, also known as micro looping, is less taxing on the hair and allows for the most natural movements. There is no heat nor glue involved as there is in the other technique, which makes this a perfect option for girls with a thin head of hair that wouldn’t be able to withstand hot fusion extensions.
Cold fusion is applied by weaving vertical sections of natural hair through a small tube to attach the extensions. They were designed to be much less harsh and dangerous than the heated version of the treatment. It’s also a great alternative to the artificial appearance of wigs for women with conditions like alopecia or women who have thinning hair as a result of aging. Both fusion techniques can be damaged by over-brushing and are quite expensive (prices ranging anywhere from $500 to $2,000) but will grant months of wear if properly cared for and re-installed as needed. If you’ve been around the block with extensions and now you’re looking to really invest in a nice head of hair, a high quality fusion extension is the right choice for you.
Remember that selecting a perfectly functional hair extension technique will involve a lot of careful consideration and research on your part. Pay close attention to the thickness of your own hair and the thickness of the hair you’re appending in order to prevent a lumpy or unattractive appearance. The weight of the hair needs to be taken into consideration as well. Follow care instructions from your stylist or from the product manufacturer to ensure the full lifespan of your human or synthetic hair wefts.
Whether you just want a pop of temporary color or a luscious mane all your own, there is an extension solution out there for you. Clip-ins are affordable, versatile, and require no wait; tape-ins are good for long, thin hair in need of a volume boost; sew-ins are strong and suit thick, coarse hair in need of length; glue-ins are a great first commitment for any hair type; hot fusion offers one of the most immaculate finishes available when properly installed in long hair; and cold fusion provides a similar effect, but with a gentler touch and more accessibility to short- and thin-haired women. Synthetic hair wefts are intended for short wear in plain styles, while human hair has the muscle to withstand day-to-day abuse and all kinds of chemical processing.
No matter how long, short, thick, or thin your hair may be, the world of extensions has you covered.