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What You Need To Know About Hollywood's Biggest Hair Secret

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Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
When Selena Gomez stepped onto the red carpet at this year's American Music Awards, we all stopped short and stared. It was just one of many recent appearances marking her return to the spotlight, and she was bringing it. The dress! The makeup! The colored contacts! The extensions?

While not something commonly disclosed among the starlet set, those long, sleek locks were obviously thanks to expert hair-extension artistry. The fact of the matter is, extensions are as commonplace as lipstick or high heels in Hollywood, and Gomez is just one shining example of how amazingly sophisticated they have become.

Hair extensions are not as taboo as they once were.

Lacy Redway, hairstylist
In fact, anyone involved in Hollywood's beauty industry can tell you that most hairstylists travel with massive kits, and it's not because they're packing 17 cans of hairspray; it's bags and bags of hair their hardworking assistants are bringing from job to job to temporarily add volume to an updo or length to a retro wave. But the hairstylists who work almost entirely with extensions — the kind that Gomez was wearing at the AMAs, and the ones we're ultimately the most curious about — are few and far between, which is exactly why we checked in with them to find out about the latest advancements.
"It's a multibillion-dollar industry now," Gomez's hairstylist Priscilla Valles tells us. "Companies [now] offer better quality hair and bonding methods, and [they] have added a wider color collection." Valles is also responsible for Christina Aguilera, Kylie Jenner, and Chrissy Teigen's extensions, and is one of only a few trusted stylists who regularly add long-lasting length and volume to the L.A. A-list crowd's locks.
Another pro in this small pool is Lacy Redway, hairstylist to Jourdan Dunn, Lupita Nyong'o, Olivia Palermo, Uzo Aduba, and many more. She describes the growth of her industry like this: “There are so many options and methods that exist today, and women are realizing that there are so many reasons to consider getting hair extensions," she says. "Whether it is because they want longer hair, fuller hair, or [want to] experiment with the idea of hair color and highlights...hair extensions are not as taboo as they once were."
So what type of hair do the pros use? "The hair extensions themselves will vary depending on if you want synthetic, non-Remy [human hair], or Remy human hair," Redway says. "I always recommend human hair. Although it is more expensive than synthetic hair, I find it to be a better investment. Human hair appears the most natural and can be heat-styled as if it were your own hair."

However, Redway notes that not all human hair is created equal. Non-Remy hair is "low-quality human hair [that] may cause tangling and shedding," while Remy hair is "high-quality human hair, usually from one source, minimizing the chances of the hair becoming tangled."

Virgin-cuticle hair is her top pick. "This is the highest grade of hair," she says. "This hair has not been chemically treated, color-treated, or bleached in any way. Virgin hair is the most expensive type of hair to get."
When it comes to application, Valles says the majority of her Tinseltown clients get tape or individual extensions. (Individuals are single sections of hair that are bonded to the root of a similarly sized section of the person's natural hair; tape extensions are groupings of these individuals bonded to a weft and taped to the scalp.) Then, for an incredibly natural result, she has the extensions colored both before and after application.
"I like when a client has their base or highlights done before the extensions are put in," Valles says. "I like to create a color pattern with the extensions. Then after, it's nice if they can return to their colorist for some finessing and glossing." She also encourages her clients to only keep their extensions for two months. "Extensions can last for up to four months, but that does not mean they should," she explains. "I like to keep my clients on an eight-week schedule, max. The further away the bond grows from the scalp, the higher chance of breakage occurring. It's not worth stretching them out."

As for Redway? "It really depends on the client I am working with and the occasion that it calls for," she says. "If I am on a photo shoot or getting someone ready for a red carpet appearance, I will likely opt for either clip-ins, wigs, or falls... They are quick to install and can be removed at the end of the night." And the price? "Just like [with] any other hair service, prices will always vary depending on your location and expertise of the stylist," Redway says. Translation: The Hollywood way is a bit out of most of our budgets.
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