I Got Tape-In Extensions For My 4C Hair – Here’s What You Should Know

Tape-in extensions are that girl this year. A quick scroll through TikTok and you will be sure to stumble across a tape-ins tutorial, as the #tapeinextensions hashtag has garnered more than 308.6M views. TikTok appears to also be fuelling the high demand for Black women wearing tape-ins, with many Black women documenting the installation process in viral videos. Tape-in extensions growing popularity comes as Black women have expressed on TikTok how they are tired of wearing wigs amid the link between traction alopecia. Compared, tape-ins are hailed as a more versatile way to add length and volume, yet some questions have been raised about whether they are safe to use on 4C hair.
Tape-ins are hair extensions that are pre-taped with glue on the weft which can be applied directly onto the hair. They are applied in sections to add volume and are said to look more natural compared to weaves and wigs. In a previous piece, Unbothered reported that Black women have been returning to the sew-in weave — the OG of protective hairstyles — despite the risk of heat damage when attempting to maintain a blended leave-out. Perhaps, the slow return of sew-ins was just paving the way for tape-ins to take the throne? 

"Tape-ins also maintain better when afro hair is relaxed or texturised, and this is not a viable option for everyone."

Carol lassey
Esther Atsain got tape-ins for the first time last month after a hairdresser recommended them for a “natural” style.“I thought, wow, I can tie my hair up one day and leave it down the next, I also knew this was not achievable with a traditional sew-in; as it was my birthday, I was looking for versatility," she told Unbothered. “The maintenance is okay, I tend to straighten my natural 4C hair once a week and I make sure to use a heat protectant spray. I made sure I went for Yaki straight as it blends so nicely with my hair.” 
Esther adds: “Even though I am happy with my tape-ins, I still love my wigs, they just provide me with that glam look and my hair natural hair is safest when in the protective braid’s underneath.”
Photo Courtesy of Esther Atsain.
While we’re certainly not through with wigs and weaves, it’s easy to see what’s driving tape-ins popularity. Tape-ins come in a variety of hair textures, meaning Black women have the choice of adding extensions that match curly and coily hair types, appearing even more natural compared to when wearing European textures. Black-owned hair extension company Ruka Hair, which recently launched at Selfridges UK, strives to produce hair extensions that match afro hair textures, to ensure Black women embrace and luxuriate their own hair texture without feeling pressured to conform. 
Leah Nartey-McKenzie has 4C hair and tried tape-ins in October at North London-based salon The Grip UK. “Initially, I got the tape-ins in the kinky curly [texture] instead of kinky straight, which was not a good idea and it took a lot to maintain the curly hair,” she shares.“However, I will say the experience was alright [considering] I did not know what to expect. The install process did take quite some time but I loved the initial results. It felt so natural, and I got them redone with kinky straight hair to get the perfect match [to my natural texture]  and I absolutely adored them.” 
While the benefits of tape-ins are enticing, not everyone is convinced they are the best recommendation for Black women with natural hair.

“I have type 4 hair, and you have to be honest with how much heat you’ll use on your hair to maintain the style."

Leah Nartey-Mckenzie
“Typically tape- ins are recommended when blending in with straight or fine hair,” says West End Afro hair stylist Carol Lassey. “I tend not to offer tape-ins as I know over time, they could cause damage to afro hair specifically. Tape-ins also maintain better when afro hair is relaxed or texturised, and this is not a viable option for everyone. For Black women wanting a more voluminous, natural look, clip-ins or versatile sew-in rows are recommended as they do not cause any damage. If getting tape-ins, make sure to keep them maintained professionally to minimise damage to natural hair, and always get them removed using a 99% alcohol-based solution.” 
Photo Courtesy of Leah Nartey-McKenzie.
Regardless, Leah says she has made peace with the risks when wearing tape-ins. “As I have type 4 hair you must be honest [with how much] heat you’ll use on your hair to maintain [the style]. I specifically made sure I got a texture release as well. I still prefer wigs simply because the maintenance is less hassle. Tape-ins are great if you want a more natural look.”
Mabintou Kolley, an entrepreneur from London, claims she was “100% influenced by the girls on TikTok” when she decided to have tape-in extensions installed. “I opted for tape-ins that match normal 4C texture because my hairdresser warned me if I opted for the [bone]straight texture, I would absolutely destroy my curl pattern. She also warned me of the damage tape-ins can cause if you are lazy with them. I would say they are high maintenance and the minute you get lazy with your tape-ins that is when you will start to see the damage. I prefer LA weave which is a braidless sew-in, as I felt I could go about my daily business. I go to Pilates, and I found it to be a convenient hairstyle even after sweating, however, even with this alternative, I had to get a texture release to straighten my hair [before my install]. You just cannot win!"

“Washing my hair with the tape-ins has not been an enjoyable experience.”

Esther Atsain
"My tape-ins lasted six weeks, but as time went on, I had to be careful when washing my hair; if I went too high up with the conditioner, the tape would slide out," she explains. "I would get tape-ins again, especially in summer as it is great for a holiday! This summer I went to Mykonos, and it was a relief to know I could get my hair wet as the texture of the tapes matched.”  
Black women appear to be gravitating towards tape-ins for the versatility they allow, yet admit they do take a lot of commitment, maintenance, time and expense to prevent damage, as Esther has discovered.“Washing my hair with the tape-ins has not been an enjoyable experience,” Esther shares, “and I still dread wash day, for some reason I thought the tape-ins would ease this feeling. For future reference, I will keep the maintenance strictly for hair appointments.” 
Photo Courtesy of Mabintou Kolley.
North London-based tape-in specialist Indy Silva shares maintenance videos on her salon page @28pressed. “The biggest piece of advice is ensuring you tend to your hair before and after. Aftercare is important but for long-lasting results your hair needs TLC at all times, I suggest a hair mask treatment alongside steaming before you install the tapes!” she advises. Silva also shared: “Once the tape-ins are installed my top tips would be detangling the hair daily, avoid excess oily products and it's crucial you wrap your hair each night to prevent knotting.’’ “If you are very active and sweat, it's recommended to blow dry your roots first on low heat.” “Last but not least, do not skip the necessary maintenance appointments with your stylists and take breaks from all forms of extensions when necessary.”
Tape-ins overall keep the gurls looking glamorous, but just like so many hairstyles that require extensive manipulation, there is always a risk of damage. It seems no matter the style or technique, Black women are in a constant battle to retain their hair health. It’s worth remembering that while afro hair is a highly versatile texture, allowing a range of different hairstyles, it can be fragile, requiring a little more love and attention — but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment. Whether committing to tape-ins or not, the evolution of protective hairstyles means Black women can continue to be their unapologetic selves through the beauty of hair. 

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