So, you are thinking about adding more hair to your style — congratulations! Hair extensions add body, length, and flexibility to your existing hair, so you can create almost any up- or down-style you can imagine. Plus, extensions come in a variety of types, so you can always find extra hair that fits your budget. For women and men with thin, patchy, or flat hair, extensions are simply a dream come true.
However, hair extensions aren’t necessarily intuitive. It takes practice to find the perfect color, attach them properly, and style them seamlessly. If you are brand-new to hair extensions, your first task should be choosing an extension method that suits your scalp and styling needs. This guide can help you with that.
If you’re only looking for long, thick hair for one night — prom, your wedding, the Academy Awards — you want extensions that are easy to put in and, more importantly, easy to take out. There aren’t many options for temporary hair extensions, but they include:
Clip-ins are added to your natural hair by — you guessed it — small clips. With some practice, you should be able to put them in and take them out on your own, negating the need for a professional cosmetologist. For this reason — and their general quality — clip-ins tend to be some of the least expensive extensions you can buy. Unfortunately, they even well-cared-for clip-ins have a longevity of just a few months, and they aren’t suitable for anyone with extra-short, thin, or fine hair.
Technically, Halo is a brand of extensions, but because they pioneered this clip-less, wire-attached extension method, most people familiar with extensions, call these wefts Halos. As easy as pulling on an elastic headband, applying a Halo is incredibly simple — but there are downsides. First, Halos are more expensive than clip-ins, but their quality seems to be on-par, meaning you won’t wear your Halo more than a few weeks before finding it unusable. Plus, some reviewers have said Halos give them headaches, which is the last thing you want from your extensions.
Like other temporary methods, glue-in extensions can be applied by you at home, and they generally don’t cost much. Unlike other temporary methods, glue-ins tend to last for several days on end. The adhesive used to attach glue-in wefts to your hair weakens after a few days or with water — and when applied improperly, the glue can actually damage your natural follicles. By no means should you use glue-ins as a long-term solution, but they are good for long weekends when you want to look glamorous.
Conversely, if you are simply impatient to grow out your hair — or incapable of growing that thick, luscious mane you crave — you should opt for a more permanent extension option. Fortunately, there are several semi-permanent methods, which means if you try one you don’t like, you can probably try something different next time. Those available in most salons include:
Tape-in human hair extensions are the newest method available, offering the ease-of-use and cost of temporary styles and the longevity of semi-permanent styles. As the name implies, these extensions are taped onto your hair, which is a relatively fast and absolutely painless process. Because they can be taped in varying thicknesses, tape-ins are appropriate for any type of hair — as long as you don’t need oil- or silicone-based hair products for styling.
More commonly called a weave, extensions that are sewn into your braided hair both look the most natural and last the longest — but they also take the most time to apply. With diligence and skill, professional stylists spend hours pulling a needle and thread through your hair, affixing wefts layer by layer. You can use any hair product you like; your extensions won’t come out until your braids start getting loose, which could be a few months. This might seem like a miracle method, but you should avoid overusing weaves because the tight braids can cause traction alopecia — AKA hair loss.
Also called micro-links or I-tip, cold fusion uses a lock of your hair to clamp over small sections of extension hair. Because these extensions are strand-by-strand, you better believe that they are expensive — but those who can afford them are die-hard fans. Cold fusion extensions tend to move more naturally than other types, and they can last as long as six months. Unfortunately, as with other methods, if you have fine hair, you might be able to see the attachments — and some wearers experience headaches and itchiness for days after application.
If you’re up for a risk, hot fusion extensions, or keratin bonds, literally melt extensions into your hair. Stylists wrap your hair in a keratin-tipped extension which is then heated up and fused together. The keratin tip — called a u-tip — is supposed to form a barrier to protect your natural hair from the heat, but because performing hot fusion requ