Here's How To Get In On The Hair-Extension Craze

Photo: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images.
If you haven’t already heard, hair extensions have come a long way since the early aughts, when fake hair wasn’t quite as sophisticated and tended to look a bit, err, conspicuous. Thanks to an influx of natural-looking options — and the seal of approval from many celebrity fans — faux hair has officially shaken off its former notoriety.

“Times are changing,” says leading hair retailer Boho Exotic Studio’s Deonna Lewis. “The industry has understood that undetectable hair is the major key. Stylists and companies have state-of-the-art hairline pieces and unexposed techniques to keep your extensions a secret to the naked eye.”

In fact, sporting not-really-your strands has never been more popular. Not only did hairstylist Jen Atkin just release her own line with Beauty Works, but her client Khloé Kardashian recently revealed her personal collection of extensions (and how she organizes them!). And that's just the start: Chrissy Teigen is also frank about her love for add-in length and fullness.

Whether you simply want to change your look overnight or add some volume, extensions have come a long way and there's never been a better time to add them to your beauty regimen — as long as you have the time and money.

To guarantee you’re getting the most bang for your buck, check out what the experts have to say on choosing the right method and how to properly maintain your mock mane.
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How To Choose The Best Extensions

Thanks to a veritable buffet of choices, choosing the best method is a daunting task. But what works for you depends largely on your hair type and what you hope to achieve.

Most experts agree on one thing: For the most natural-looking results, go for human hair. “A lot of companies sell human hair mixed with mink hair, corpse hair, and even human-synthetic mixes,” explains Lewis. “It’s best to order sample hair before investing hundreds of dollars into hair that only lasts a week or less.”

To help you determine which method would work best on your tresses, we asked Lewis and celebrity hairstylist Lacy Redway to break down the most popular techniques.
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Recommended for:
All hair textures; medium-density hair and thicker
Average cost: $150 and up
Application time: 10 minutes or less

If you want a little extra volume for a wedding, party, or other special event, clip-ins offer the perfect short-term solution. “These barrette-like clips easily clip on at the root of the hair,” says Lewis. “They’re great if you want to throw them off at the end of the night or try something new the next day.”
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Tape Extensions

Recommended for:
Most hair types, including fine
Average cost: $200-$1,000
Application time: Varies, but usually 30 minutes to one hour

The frequently requested tape extensions are exactly what they sound like. “These individual strands have strips of clear, double-sided tape placed at the base of the weft of the hair, so you can tape them to your scalp,” says Lewis. “Unlike clip-ins, you need a trained stylist to install and uninstall tape extensions so you don’t pull out your natural hair.”
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Fusion/Keratin Bonding

Recommended for: Any texture; medium to thick hair
Average cost: $600-$2,500
Application time: Five to eight hours

This costly method involves individual extensions, which have keratin glue pre-applied at the tips. (Check out this story for a view of what they look like.)

“Your hairstylist will attach the glued tips and bond them to the root of your hair with a heat-connector clamp,” says Lewis. “This squeezed bonding method melts the pre-bonded, glued extension to your natural hair.”

Though this technique can look natural on some, it’s not for everyone. “It’s not recommended for weak or damaged hair, or for women who need to get chemical services during the duration of the installation,” explains Redway.
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Micro Links

Recommended for: All hair types
Average cost: $400-$2,000
Application time: Varies depending on hair length and density

Also known as micro rings or micro loops, these individual extensions are attached strand by strand, similar to the fusion method. The key difference? “This process requires no glue, heat, or tape, which causes less damage and breakage,” says Redway.

Instead, “micro links are gripped onto the client’s natural hair with small bead-like rings,” says Lewis. “These rings are clamped on using a connector clamp.”
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Recommended for:
Thick and/or coarse hair
Average cost: $250-$2,500, depending on stylist and location
Application time: Three to eight hours

Sew-ins, another highly requested method, help protect your natural hair from heat damage. “In most cases, your natural hair grows while a sew-in is installed,” says Lewis. “A stylist will braid your natural hair into a pinwheel and sew the extension onto it for an undetectable look. If you have little to no hair or thin hair, a stylist can add more hair.”

Redway warns against daily hair-washing if you have sew-ins. “It’ll loosen the braids and cause the extensions to not last as long as recommended,” she explains.
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How To Care For Your Extensions

Unfortunately, just because you have extensions doesn’t mean you’ll have perfect hair days without putting in effort. Depending on the type purchased and method used, extensions still require regular maintenance. Keep reading for five tips on how to make your new hair last as long as possible.
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Say No To Sulfates

Check the ingredient labels of your favorite hair-care products before using them on your new faux locks. “Technically, you are supposed to stay away from sulfates, oils, alcohol, and heavy conditioners,” says celebrity hairstylist and extension pro Priscilla Valles, who works with stars like Chrissy Teigen, Kylie Jenner, and Christina Aguilera.

But if you have a product you simply can’t do without, then use it wisely and avoid the bond. “My favorite line is Oribe. His products are on the heavier moisturizing side, but if you stay away from the bond, your hair will survive,” says Valles.

Lewis agrees, saying, “The best products for hair extensions are the best products for natural hair — organic and free of sulfates and alcohol.”
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Brushing Has Benefits

Though it may seem like brushing your extensions weakens the bond, Valles promises that daily brushing is actually necessary (of course, that doesn’t mean you can get away with overly aggressive motions!).

“A lot of people are afraid to brush their extensions and that is a big mistake, especially if you’re wearing individuals,” says Valles. “It’s important to keep all the extensions clean and separate.” That way, you’ll avoid matted hair. “Invest in a good brush to help with detangling, like the Ibiza Hair OC Series Brush,” says Redway.
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Get Style-Savvy

According to Lewis, if you opt for 100% unidirectional virgin-human-hair extensions, expect them to act as your natural locks do — and style them the same way. (That means if you ordered curly hair, expect frizz in humidity.)

“You can flat-iron your extensions or wet them, and the hair will return to its original form,” she says. “Or you can add gels and hairspray, and your extensions will respond accordingly.” If, however, you purchase anything that's not premium human hair, she advises treating the extensions like doll hair.
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Renew & Refresh

Dry shampoo, which can absorb oil and refresh your scalp, is your new best friend, especially if you’re a gym rat who has to be extra diligent about caring for extensions. “If you work out regularly, I recommend using a dry shampoo like Living Proof Perfect Hair Day to remove oil from hair,” says Redway. “Sea Breeze is also a great way to refresh your scalp if you have a full head of sew-in extensions. Because your scalp is hidden behind braids, it could take longer for your hair to dry properly. Putting a portion of Sea Breeze in a hair-applicator bottle is a quick and easy way to get to your scalp.”
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Downsize The Damage

If you decide to ditch your extensions, you might have to deal with some damage. “Damage is always relevant to the individual, like the state your hair was in before installing extensions and how well you take care of them,” says Redway. “If you follow appropriate removal methods and do so in the recommended time allowed, there shouldn’t be much damage.” Valles agrees, emphasizing that it’s both the client's and stylist's responsibility to stick to the time frame: “The whole purpose of extensions is to have less stress on your own hair from everyday heat and styling.”

That said, if you do spy any breakage, counter it by applying a deep conditioner to your strands post-removal. “I recommend Kérastase Nutritive Masquintense Intense Enriching Treatment for medium hair, and Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Mask for curly and coarse hair textures,” says Redway.
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