Whether you're lusting after waist-length, beachy summer waves or just want a half decent ponytail for once in your life, hair extensions can be the instant solution to all your long hair issues.
But, and this is a big but people, it's important to know what you're actually getting for your money. Because dodgy hair extensions and glue-damaged leftovers is so not hot.
We got in touch with Sarah McKenna aka the ex-biochemist, hairdresser and owner of the hottest hair extension salon in London, Vixen & Blush, to give us the lowdown on all things hair extensions.
Renowned for creating natural-looking extensions that are super high quality and custom-made to fit you (this isn't your cheapo out of the packet deal), Sarah is the go-to on how to nab Blake Lively's 'do and avoid the dreaded Jodie Marsh mullet.
What Types Of Hair Extensions Can You Get?
'There are a vast number of ways to fit additional hair but the main two categories are:
1. Temporary (take in and out each day or week)
Temporary methods include clip-In pieces, wefts and weaves where large pieces of hair are added.
2. Permanent (are worn continuously, for many months)
Permanent methods are strand-by-strand meaning many small attachments are added. Examples include micro rings or micro bonds.'
How Do I Know Which Type Of Hair Extensions I Should Get?
'Temporary methods are great for occasional wear and are usually used by those who like their own hair but just want to enhance their look for the weekend, or for a special event.
Clip in hair extensions are excellent as they can be easily clipped in and styled in minutes and then removed just as easily.
Permanent methods are good for those who are disappointed with their own hair and feel they need additional hair to gain extra volume, length or both on a daily basis.
The micro ring method is the most popular method at Vixen & Blush because it is a re-usable method - clients can refit the same hair many times.'
Should I Get Synthetic Or Natural Hair Extensions?
'It's always best to choose 100% human hair as other synthetic pieces are not a convincing alternative! It is also advisable to invest in the highest quality hair you can afford. At Vixen & Blush we only work with Russian Virgin Hair and although it is expensive, the hair will last for many refits so the cost in the longer term is a lot more affordable.
Synthetic hair is usually unnaturally shiny and also does not allow for heat styling. It is a lot lighter weight than human hair (which is surprisingly heavy!) and so will never move in quite the same way.
Also the methods used to fit synthetic hair do not allow for a multi-tonal colour match as they are produced in block colours. All clients need a mix of colours/shades to get a true colour match.'
How Much Do Hair Extensions Cost?
'The cost of hair extensions varies so widely even just in the UK that it is difficult to know what is an appropriate price to pay.
Permanent hair extensions will cost more than temporary hair extensions as they do take time to fit. A full Head of hair extensions will take 2 or 3 hours to fit, so you are paying for the labour costs. But most of the price you pay will be for the cost of the product itself - and this therefore means that it can be an expensive service.
It is worth going to a specialist salon and having some test pieces of hair fitted first, and then investing in the best quality hair you can afford up front, knowing that you can re-use the hair.
However, there are some salons that do overcharge based on being located in large flagship premises in a prestigious area (especially in London). This will obviously impact the overall price charged.
Temporary hair extensions vary even more widely. If you're just going to wear the hair for one or two uses then buying less expensive hair is a good choice.
But, if you would like to use the pieces repeatedly over years then investing in high-quality Virgin hair is essential as this is the only grade of human hair that will last for many years.'
How Long Do Hair Extensions Last?
'Micro rings or the micro bonding methods last for 3-4 months before needing to be re-fitted (as they have grown 1.5 inches away from your scalp).
Clip in hair extensions are fitted in and out daily.
Other methods such as tape or weaves last 6-8 weeks.'
Are Extensions Bad For Your Hair?
'Temporary methods of adding hair should never be used daily as they are fitted in large pieces in one small area of head. If they are used occasionally then there will be no long term damage.
Permanent hair extensions can be used for an entire lifetime and will never cause damage if the correct products and methods are used and maintenance is followed.
At Vixen & Blush we have many clients who have been wearing hair extensions for more than 5 years continuously and have never had any damage to their natural hair.'
Who Should Avoid Getting Hair Extensions?
'Anyone who has active hair loss should never get hair extensions as wearing them could mask what is happening with the natural hair and delay any action taken to treat the hair loss.
Any clients with unusually fine hair along with very sparse hair (not dense enough) should avoid using hair extensions but this is less than 1% of the female population.
Otherwise the guidance is to match the amount of hair added with the density of the clients own hair. So, finer-haired clients should add less hair in than those with more dense hair.'
How Do You Take Care Of Hair Extensions?
'Caring for hair extensions isn't difficult.
The main rules are:
1. Avoid oiliness at the roots to prevent the connections from slipping or going sticky.
2. No inverting your head upside down head or in high ponytails as this pulls on the underside of the connection.
3. No aggressive pulling.
Otherwise, washing, drying and styling hair extensions is very much the same as with your natural hair as long as they're good quality.'
When Should You Remove Hair Extensions?
'Hair extensions should never be left in for more than 4 months or after 2 inches of regrowth.'
Common Hair Extensions Mistakes To Avoid
- Poor quality hair. Some salons find it difficult to get good quality hair, even if it is expensive, it can still be over-processed and not long lasting.
- Bad colour matching. Hair extensions that are pre-made in strands are generally one colour, or two colours mixed in a stripy strand, so the colour match is never going to be good enough as your natural hair is multi-tonal.
- Strands too large for a small section of your hair. The strand of hair must be securely placed using an appropriate amount of the client's own hair, matching weight for weight of the clients natural hair.
- Hair extensions not blended in and cut properly to create a new hair style. Inexperienced salons can just leave the extensions, but they need to be properly blended and a new haircut needs to be created.
- No aftercare advice given. Most salons do not guide their clients through how to take care of their new hair extensions and get the most out of them in terms of styling. Simple routines like tying the hair in a low pony at night and drying thoroughly at the roots, can save damage to the hair, prevent matting and help the extensions last longer.
How To Get The Perfect Hair Extensions
- Find an expert salon and make sure that the result you want is achievable with how much hair you have currently. If you have thin hair and it's short, you can only add enough hair extensions to add maybe 5 inches of length - adding 10 inches is not advisable!
- Try out the hair extensions before committing. Having hair extensions is an investment of your time and money. You should go to the salon and have a consultation and have test pieces of hair extensions put in. You can then wear those for at least a week to see how the method and the hair type suit you.
- Don't settle for a bad colour match. You should never compromise with the colour match as even a slight difference is noticeable. You should also never have to dye your own hair to match hair extensions.
- Ask questions. Any good hair stylist wants to share their knowledge with you and cares about you and your new hair, so you should be able to ask any question and expect a thorough, informative response. Hair extensions can change your appearance drastically, so you should feel comfortable and be able to ask their stylist lots of questions.