We Tried It: Hair Extensions
Everyone's familiar with this scenario: You go in for a trim and come out looking like you went one-on-one with a set of rabid clippers. Or maybe you just want a sophisticated up-do for a wedding, but can't seem to scrape your too-short hair into anything resembling a chignon, let alone Veronica-Lake-style cascading waves. This is when hair extensions become not only desirable but kind of essential.
The thing is, the idea of hair extensions can be scary for a lot of us. Who doesn't remember post-rehab Britney looking like a molting canary? And then there's the short hair/long hair mullet look, exemplified here by Taylor Momsen from "Gossip Girl." This is why we decided to test drive those extensions for you.
What: Taped weft, human hair by Hotheads Hairwear.
This is an interesting method of attaching extensions that minimizes damage to your existing hair and doesn't require anything as disconcerting as hot glue, metal cylinders, clamps or someone sewing stuff to your scalp.
Instead, Hotheads extensions are like extra strong Post-it notes that your stylist layers onto existing hair by simply pressing two pieces of high quality, 100 percent human hair in pre-taped strips, sandwiched around a section of your own hair.
The glue used on each inch-and-a-half lock of hair is remarkably strong -- as in, you'd have to get into a serious "Oh no, you didn't pull out my weave" throwdown in order to budge these suckers.
Taped weft hair extensions are desirable for two reasons. One, when it's time to take them out, your stylist simply dissolves the bond with medical-grade alcohol, which isn't as frightening as it sounds, takes well under an hour and doesn't cause any damage to your own hair. And two, the extensions lie completely flat, so there's none of that bumpy look or feel typically associated with extensions.
Getting them attached: It took about an hour for my stylist, Guenevere McHugh, co-owner of Los Angeles' Double-O Salon, to apply an entire package (40 strips of hair) to my short bob -- the victim of an over-enthusiastic trim by a hairstylist (who will remain nameless) from another salon.
Getting them removed: It only took Guenevere 40 minutes to remove the extensions. I'll be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I was told it would be so gentle, but it was painless, and my hair was exactly the way it had been before without any damage at all.
Lifespan of extensions: Guenevere advises getting touch ups every three months, which entails having the extensions moved back up toward the scalp in order to compensate for natural hair growth. The extensions themselves are said to last a year, but this requires an unwavering commitment to caring for them. To wit:
- Use salon-grade shampoo, avoiding sulfates at all costs.
- Brush extensions in sections from bottom up with a paddle brush.
- Use a leave-in conditioner after every shampoo.
- Keep all oil treatments away from the bonding strips.
- Avoid products with alcohol, as this a.) weakens the bonds, and b.) strips the hair of its natural sheen.
Extension length: Hotheads come in three lengths: 10-12 inches, 14-16 inches and 18-20 inches. We went with 14-16 inches since I wanted to see a noticeable difference in my hair but didn't want to look like a mermaid. And of course you can always have the extensions cut down to whatever length is best for you.
Price: Let's face it, hair extensions aren't cheap, especially if that's the look you aim to avoid. They tend to run anywhere from $500 to $1500, depending on the salon, the city and the type of extensions you choose. It's possible to find extensions and stylists for less, but you run the risk of that age old compromise of budget versus quality. Exhibit A: I found them for $250 ... at a beauty school. At Double-O Salon, the entire process came to $800, although that did include the hair, which in this case would have run about $250.
Before and after: Here's a photo of that aforementioned mangled bob.
And here's the transformation of that bob into a long, luxurious head of hair the likes of which I'd never seen outside of a celebrity magazine -- and not in the "Caught on Film" section.
Not bad, eh?
Are you a Beauty Warrior or a Beauty Wimp?: As great as my hair looked with the extensions, they aren't for everyone:
If you're a wash-and-go kind of girl, the extra care that extensions by their very nature require might get annoying. And if you're a card-carrying Princess (a la "and the pea"), the weight of all that extra hair might be hard to get used to. Also in the sensitive-princess-getting-used-to-things category, sleeping on what feel like teeny tiny Venetian blinds at first might be disconcerting.
That all said, the initial discomfort does subside. Still, make sure you take a moment to reflect and ask yourself whether you fall into the Beauty Warrior or Beauty Wimp category before you take this expensive -- but often worthwhile -- plunge. For what it's worth, Yours Truly fell in the second category -- big time Beauty Wimp, perpetually clawing at my extensions like a dog with fleas.
Where to go: If you're in the Los Angeles area, check out Double-O Salon and ask for Guenevere. She's fast, she's talented and she always includes a haircut (as needed) to help blend your hair with the extensions, which is kind of cool considering most places charge extra for that sort of thing. Mention this story for a one-time discount of $100 off your hair extensions.
5046 Eagle Rock Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041