After the dresses on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars, the next thing all of us Belle’s were discussing was hair. Why didn’t Sandra Bullock make more of an effort, how thick and luscious did Celine Dion’s locks look and wow Reese’s up do looks fabulous! But Reeses’s hair was far from natural and seemed to mark the return Big ‘Barbie hair’. Tousled, tumbling and teased hair can be seen everywhere from Hollywood stars to the fashion mags and brought an end to the reign of the straight, sleek and smooth. This may seem like a distressing trend for those of us with fine, thin or short to midlength hair – in fact it has already lead to more than one maddening session with a pair of brand new curling tongs and an enormous bottle of Elnett for me! But fabulous, big hair isn’t unattainable.
Bad hair days are a thing of the past; you can transform into your very own Girl’s World doll with the ability to grow out an uneven cut in an hour, and yes, the chance to have better hair than Barbie; with the latest technology in hair extensions, experts say it’s all possible.
‘It’s like having good plastic surgery; you’re not supposed to notice it,’ says one A-list celebrity stylist. ‘And a great set of extensions can do as much for you as getting a little lipo or even some Botox. They make you look younger, sexier and even a little thinner.’
Hair technician Bradley King from Harrods Urban Retreat Salon adds, ‘It used to be that when you said extensions a lot of people imagined Rapunzel, with long, waist length hair, but that’s not what’s going on. The trend now is for colour or volume. People are starting to see that that you can use extensions for everything; you can instantly add a fringe, or double the thickness.’
THE RULES OF EXTENSIONS
Extensions can damage your hair if not done right. Remember those bald patches we’ve seen on Naomi Campbell and Victoria Beckham? Harrods Urban Retreat stylist King says, “You can get traction alopecia if too much extension is put on too little of your own hair. Also sometimes people leave them in for too long. Even if they say they last for 6 months, I would suggest a client take them out after 3 months.”
And no matter how “safe” the extension claims to be – your own hair may be damaged by the sheer weight of the extension. When they first come out you may find your own hair is (temporarily) a bit finer or thinner, and you may decide to cut off some of the thinned out bottom layers (where the extensions were attached). However, this should go back to normal after a month or two.
Second, if the hair has been badly blended with your natural hair and then cut, it can lead to a mermaid look, (Britney Spears anyone?) where you have stringy extensions hanging down and the baseline of your actual hair is clearly visible. Extensions should be cut and styled to blend seamlessly with your own hair. The process normally takes several hours.
When you no longer want the extensions, get them removed in the salon to minimise any damage.
In terms of looking natural, real hair is always worth the extra cost.
WHAT KIND TO GET
1) Classic Fusion (also known as Thermal Bonding) by Great Lengths
“Great Lengths” are known as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of hair extensions. Celebrity fans include Paris Hilton, Cameron Diaz, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Aniston.
The extensions are attached in portions of about 50 strands each to an equal amount of your own hair, using a tool that resembles a tiny flat iron. Ask for a “flat bond” which will make them even less noticeable along your scalp.
Pros: Great Lengths uses a special protein bond, which is a blend of polymers which mimics the structure of keratin so it is kind to your hair and scalp. They are also removed easily without damaging your hair. Also the tiny bonds are discreet, allowing you to wear your hair in virtually any style, without the worry of people seeing where the extensions attach. A ‘boyfriend friendly’ extension; the bonds are so tiny that your guy can run his fingers through your hair without getting stuck in. Great lengths are also less likely to ‘shed’ when brushing than other brands. They go in quickly compared to some of the others (around 2 hours) and last up to six months.
Cons: they are not cheap: prices can run anywhere from 200 pounds to 1500 pounds depending on how much you want done.
Where to get them done: Harrods Urban Retreat 0207 893 8333
2) Resin – no one likes the word “glue” anymore – but that’s basically what this is.
How it works: Stylists put glue on with a gun, inside of which is a heated glue stick. When they press the trigger a bit of glue drops on your hair. The stylist then molds the glue into a round ball.
Former Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton has had her extensions glued in at Inanch’s Hair Salon in London and says, “It used to be that they glued them in and you could see it, now the resin is the same colour as your hair. You can’t see them even when you have your hair up and you can hardly feel them at all.”
Pros: These work well with really fine really fragile hair because where it is glued is a lot weaker than some of the others, so if you yank on it or pull on it, it will shed rather than potentially rip out of your hair. You are more likely to pull your extension hair out rather than your own.
Con: The “pro” here is also a con – they shed a lot quicker. And no matter what anyone promises you, these only last for around 2-3 months. Because they are attached with glue, when you use heated styling products they could melt or break down the bond. You have to be very careful using tongs not to go over the bond. They also take a long time to put in. Because these extensions are not pre-bonded (the stylist is moulding the resin to your hair him/herself), they can take between 3-6 hours to put in a full head’s worth.
How Much Do They Cost? Anywhere from 50 pounds to 1500 pounds depending on how many you want in.
Where to Get them Done: Inanch Hair Salon, 0207 383 7607 www.inanch.com
How it works: These pre-bonded (which means the strands are already connected to each other) extensions, made by “Wonderful Hair” are attached using a hand held machine which sends out vibrating micro waves which work to attach them to the hair. They are fused to your own hair electronically – there is no heat or glue used at all, which experts say means less damage to hair.
Pros: Experts consider these to be ‘idiot proof;’ meaning that there is no chance that the stylist can mess up and burn your hair. And when you remove them, because it hasn’t been melted into the hair there are no bits of leftover glue to remove, rather they come out in one single slide. They are also quick to put in: Inanch at Inanch’s London says she can do a full head in an hour and a half. They are also made with flat bonds (like Great Lengths) which means it’s easier to run your fingers through them.
Cons: the only con is cost. If you want a full head it can run you up to 1000-1500 pounds and the average length they will last for you is three months.
Where to Get them: Inanch Hair Salon, 0207 383 7607 www.inanch.com
4) Tied In
Shannel Watson at Errol Douglas salon in London has developed this method of using a cotton strand to actually tie the extensions to your own hair. She says, “the extension hair is folded or braided together and cotton is bound around it. I bind it around and around with a little piece of cotton string.”
Pros: You’re not using any adhesives so there is nothing that might ‘break down.’ Also you do not have to go back at any point for maintenance appointments, they don’t really tangle and there is no risk for allergies. Also, unlike resin extensions (which can melt if you use heated styling appliances on it) you don’t have to think about them at all when you are using things like straighteners. You’re getting away from using chemicals, and they are gentle on the hair.
Cons: amount of time to do it; it can take twice as long as some of the others: up to 6 hours to do a full head. Also if you are always pulling your hair back in a ponytail, beware, you can see occasionally spot some of the ties.
Cost: between 600 – 1100 pounds full head
5) Clipped in
If you want to try extensions without the commitment, there are other options.
Check out Hairdo clip-on extensions, a brand made by Jessica Simpson and celebrity hairstylist Ken Paves. Unlike a wig, the Hairdo extension clips on to the back of the head, which allows for the client’s natural hair (on the top and sides) to blend with the extensions. There’s no danger of damage and it won’t break the bank. The shorter versions start at 59 pounds. Says one LA stylist, “Everyone that comes into the salon and tries these on leaves with a set of these. There is no absolutely downside.” They are available in the UK at www.hqhair.co.uk and also at www.extensions.com (they have more variety and will ship to the UK)
You can also opt for temporary wefts, which are thicker bunches of natural or synthetic hair stitched together with thread; they can be clipped or sewn into your hair. Wefts last from two days (clipped on) to six weeks (sewn in). Microwefts are even smaller and come in strips and attached with what looks like double sided tape. They’ll be cheaper but only last a few days (Wefts cost anywhere from 50 – 200 pounds depending on how long you want them to last and how many you want in).
But the bottom line – you CAN have the hair of your dreams.
Top Miami stylist Jesse Briggs says. “Now a schoolteacher can have the same thing that a top model has. Now having big, thick, Hollywood-inspired romantic hair is like putting on a sexy pair of high heels. It’s an accessory. Thin hair can now be thick. Damaged hair can look beautiful. Short hair can now be long . . . overnight. Anything you want, you can have.”