I’ve always toyed with the idea of trying hair extensions, then chickened out at the last minute. The usual turn-offs include: what if I’m left with a bumpy parting? A bad colour match? A head like a bale of hay? Or, worse still, the Suzanne from Hear’Say look, circa 2001, when someone may as well have attached a waist-length blonde wig on to the ends of her bob, giving her two hair styles for the price of one. It didn’t blend, it didn’t match – it did not look good. (Soz, Suz.)
Of course, things have moved on since then – you have to work hard to spot the difference between someone’s real hair and a well-applied set of extensions these days – and, with so many different types and techniques available to us now, adding length and extra oomph to your ‘do is seen as a simple extension (if you’ll pardon the pun) to many women’s routine salon appointments. But no one’s ever managed to convince me to bite the bullet – until now.
I’ve had the same bob for years – it’s easy to wear, suits the shape of my face and, well, I like it. But, thanks to decades of ferocious straightening, and a few postpartum hair issues thrown in, for good measure, the two sections at the front of my hair sit stubbornly on my cheek bones – and there they stay. To my daily frustration, there is simply no growing those suckers. So, I am left with a stylish, chin-length bob with an unfortunate feathered front.
What if I’m left with a bumpy parting? A bad colour match? A head like a bale of hay? Or, worse still, the Suzanne from Hear’Say look, circa 2001
After years of whinging to my long-suffering hairdresser, Michael Tough, about my stubborn “front bits” (not an innuendo), he recently suggested I try Easilocks extensions, as they have just been added to the menu at my trusty Headmasters salon in Windsor. “But I don’t want long hair,” I protested, to which he patiently explained that hair extensions don’t solely exist to create long hair, they can help to bulk up a short cut, too – or hide a pesky 90s fringe, in my case. “All we’d need to do is add 30-40 strategically placed strands around the front and side, then problem solved,” he said. Using hair extensions to actually solve a problem? I liked it.
On the cusp of persuasion, I then remembered the dreaded D-word. Damage. But, according to top hair stylist and renowned hair-extension expert Inanch Emir, of Inanch London, damage to your hair no longer needs to come hand in hand with hair extensions, as long as you abide by the following three rules. The first is that you do your research and choose a reputable hair stylist to apply them for you. “The latest brands and treatments will not damage your hair if they are applied correctly,” she explains. Secondly, keep your hair and scalp in good condition on the lead-up to your appointment, as this will create the perfect hair-extension canvas. And, lastly, choose good-quality hair. “This is extremely important,” she adds. “One hundred per cent natural human hair is known as ‘remy’, meaning that all cuticles are facing in the same direction, while non-remy extensions can cause matting and will subsequently add more pressure to your scalp when brushing your hair.” (FYI check with your hairdresser that they are using guaranteedethically sourced hair such as Gold Class Hair.) So, with all three things ticked off my list, I finally agreed to go for it and made a special effort to put all haunting memories of Suzanne from Hear’Say’s double ‘do firmly out of my mind. Here’s how I got on:
Easilocks extensions are the ones to go for if you still don’t like the idea of heat, glue, braiding or sewing happening anywhere near your head, plus they are made from 100% human hair. They are fitted to your own hair using a clever copper lock, meaning your scalp is left untouched. Application couldn’t have been simpler or more comfortable. Michael fed a small section of my natural hair through each lock, followed by the extension strand, securing the lock with a genius tool that helps to bend and fit the copper in place. After around an hour and a half, the gaps at the front of my bob were expertly filled in – with seamless colour, I might add – and, despite the locks initially feeling quite alien, I soon got used to them. I now constantly feel like I’ve had a professional blow-dry – my hair is so full and healthy looking, I find myself fiddling with it less and feeling way, way more confident. The initial appointment at Headmasters costs from £250 – a steal for human-hair extensions – then it’s £90 per hour for maintenance every three months. The actual hair will last me a whole year. Am I impressed? Yes. Addicted? God, yes.
If copper locks don’t appeal, there are plenty of other methods that Inanch would recommend to any of my fellow hair-extension virgins. Be warned, this potential new addiction doesn’t come cheap, but the guaranteed confidence boost may just persuade you:
Pre-bonded keratin (polymer) hair extensions
Best for: Adding length
Starting price: From £600 - £1,300, every 6-8 weeks.
These are fused on to the hair using either a hot or cold fusion application machine. “The keratin nail tip is gently melted around your natural hair to create a strong bond that holds the extension in place,” explains Inanch. Lasting up to five months and with very little maintenance, Inanch believes they look the most natural. “They are discreet and virtually undetectable – the hair can be styled up or down and behaves exactly like your own hair,” she says.
Best for: Speed
Starting price: From £300 for the first appointment and from £150 for maintenance every 6-8 weeks.
According to Inanch, these are the quickest and easiest extensions to apply, and look satisfyingly natural to boot. “The taped wefts are around 4cm wide, and are applied back to back with your hair sandwiched in between the wefts,” she explains. A full set can be applied in less than an hour, which includes a cut and style, plus the hair can be reused, which will benefit your bank balance in the long run. “The only disadvantage is that they are more high maintenance than other methods as you need to have them re-applied every 6 weeks,” she warns. And, because each weft is a form of glue, removal can get messy if not done properly.
Customised Volumisers/Hair Mesh
Best for: Hair loss or thinning
Starting price: From £1,200 for the first appointment and from £150 for maintenance.
These are particularly effective for weaker hair that is unable to carry the weight of general hair extensions around the crown and front hairline. Inanch explains: “The Volumiser is made of a silk and lace base and can be applied with the micro-beading technique” (which doesn’t involve glue or heat, just a clever miniscule bead that holds both the natural hair and weft in place). “The Volumiser is colour and texture matched, which blends seamlessly with your hair, but it is the most expensive method and requires maintenance every 4-6 weeks,” she says.
The Do’s and Don’ts
- Do use a paraben- and sulphate-free shampoo to avoid drying out your extensions. My go-tos have been REN Oat and Bay Conditioning Shampoo, £16 and Pure Anada Shampoo, £10.75.
- Don’t use heavy oils and conditioners, particularly at the roots, as your extensions won’t last as long. Apply lighter formulations, instead, like Aussie Pure Locks moisturising foam conditioner, £4.99.
- Do invest in a super gentle hair brush, so that extensions aren’t pulled or damaged, particularly when brushing wet hair. The Manta hairbrush, £25, is simply brilliant and has become my most treasured tool.
- Don’t overheat. “Using straighteners/tongs near the hair-extension tip could damage the bonds,” Inanch warns.
- Do try clip-ins first. For those who just fancy switching up their style occasionally, clip-ins don’t require any aftercare or much maintenance. “Ours come as either five-piece wefts or a single full-head piece that simply clips on to your own hair,” says Inanch. (A one-off cost for these is between £150 and £250.)