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With the advent of hair extensions—and easy-to-use ones at that—there’s no need to wait two years to grow your hair to a desired length. Here's how to master it at-home.
Real versus synthetic
You can purchase real or synthetic hair extensions, and it’s important to understand the differences between the two. Though real human hair (sometimes called “Remy”) is more expensive, it’s often the best choice, if you can afford it. Real hair extensions blend with your own hair and can be dyed or heat-treated. Synthetic hair, on the other hand, has a shorter shelf life and can be damaged by heating and styling.
Find the right texture
When buying hair extensions for the first time, Sears suggests visiting a store instead of going online. “There is no way of knowing the correct thickness and texture unless the hair is right in front of you,” she says. “Extensions come from all sorts of hair types and the trick is to match that first. Colour can always be tweaked.” Once you find the texture and thickness that resembles your actual hair, then you can match the colour.
If your hair is thin or sparse, you can still wear extensions but you have to be more strategic in your placement. “You cannot put the extensions too close to the crown area because they will be noticeable,” says Sears. She also recommends using a less-is-more approach. If you add too many extensions, you could accentuate other areas that are thinning or balding.
Manipulate the colour
If you have highlights, ombré or the newest craze, tortoiseshell hair, you can still happily wear extensions, but you may have to customize colour. Ask your hairdresser to complete the process or dye them at home—just be careful not to overdo it. “Natural hair extensions are just like your hair,” says Sears. “You can change their colour, but if you over-process or continuously colour them, they will become weak and ratty looking.” If you purchase synthetic hair, it’s best to avoid colouring completely.
Tips for application
First, read the instructions to understand how the closures or hooks work because systems can vary from brand to brand. Then, starting from the bottom of the head and working your way to the top, section off the hair and apply each row—and don’t rush. “Map out where they will sit before putting them in,” says Sears. “Gently back-brush your natural hair before putting each section in. This will make a bed to anchor the extension and give it extra hold.”
If you want to use hair extensions for a special occasion, do a test run first so you’ll learn exactly where to place the hair to get the desired effect. Your long, full hair will allow you to accomplish endless styles, so get creative. Just be sure to use a heat protectant on the extensions before curling or straightening to maintain shine and quality.
Storage and care
Treat hair extensions like you would fragile hair, and when using hydrating products, make sure they’re sulphate-free. “Take the time to brush out or wash the extensions, if necessary, before storing them,” adds Sears. “Once dry, lay out a silk cloth and roll them up lengthwise before storing.”
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