To say hair extensions are baffling is no exaggeration—a temporary lengthening or volume boost sounds like a perfect way to switch up your look or re-create a runway-inspired updo, but is it achievable without looking like a pop-culture castoff? Understanding hair extensions—the right way—will simplify your task and deliver a super cool, overall effect that ranges from fun and statement-making to supremely sophisticated. We tracked down top colorists and stylists for the best tips on putting it all together, giving you everything you need to know about temporary hair extensions.
Faking It! The Basics
• You want the look to be seamless, so consider your hair type and cut: Bumble and bumble stylist Jimmy Paul, who creates looks for runway shows and editorial shoots, recommends temporary glue-in extensions for fine hair "because clips can be bulky and noticeable, however these may require some help from a stylist to put in. For thicker or coarser hair types, clip-in extensions are a perfect option, and much easier to put in on your own."
• "Add some curl or wave to your hair to help blend the line between your natural hair and the extensions, making it appear more natural," says Jenna Rabideau of Halo Salon and Color Lab.
• Always buy human hair extensions or synthetic ones that can be heat-styled. "Extensions labeled kankelon or modacrylic are synthetic and cannot be styled with a hot tool of any kind. They will melt into a mess that you will never get off of your expensive flat iron or curling iron," says Rabideau.
• "Bring your extensions to your stylist before wearing, so they can trim them to match the shape of your haircut. And make sure you get a proper match in color, texture, and density for your hair," says Paul.
• Rabideau recommends washing your extensions infrequently with a mild shampoo and detangling conditioner and rinsing in the direction they should fall. Comb out and allow to air dry flat. Then you can flat iron and they can be put away in the box they were purchased in. Don't bunch them up or allow them to dry without combing.
• Pre-style your own hair, then add extensions, and always finish with hairspray.
Faux Sho! Types of Extensions
According to stylist Ken Paves of Ken Paves Salon, clip-in bangs work best with a complementary hairstyle. "If you're wearing the bangs straight, then your hairstyle should also reflect the same texture," he says. "My Hairdo Clip-In Bangs look fantastic with a sleek pony or tousled hair to complete the look. There are three clips featured on the bangs that are strategically placed in such a way that ensure a natural look."
Jimmy Paul recommends using a Fall, a longer, wider type of extension, to add length and volume or for styling. "It's essentially like a wig," says Paul, "but only covers a portion of the head. It can be pinned on at the back of head to add length for creating an updo."
Jenna Rabideau also likes the track-type extensions with clips for DIY faux hair. "Backcomb the root area of your hair one section at a time and clip in the extensions. Start with the middle clip at the back of your head rather than trying to start on one side of the head. You will achieve greater symmetry that way." Then sweep the hair into a bun, braid, or leave down.
Ranging from a simple faux hair headband to buns to ponytails, the pre-styled hair-piece can be the hardest to match, but can also make a dramatic statement. Ken Paves' clip-on Braided Chignon channels a lady-like sophistication and each shade contains 7-11 shades blended together so you're guaranteed a more natural match (and it comes in eleven different color options). He recommends styling your hair before applying any similar hair piece, so that when you attach it, "the style is complete, seamless, and looks natural."
Colorist Nikki Ferrera of Sally Hershberger Downtown has been adding kool-aid colored streaks to New Yorker's hair all fall, so we got her expert tips on adding commitment-free pops of color. "I love the Manic Panic-like colors we're seeing on celebrities for fall and winter—think Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Juliette Lewis. Place the extensions an inch to an inch and a half below your part to hide the seam, so the color layers throughout your hair."
For a styled look, try Jenna Rabideau's take: Secure the extensions near the back of your head and create a side braid, or clip in the pieces directly over your ears for an underneath, peek-a-boo effect that can also be pulled back into a ponytail or twisted into bun.