As a person who lives for long, full, Victoria’s Secret like hair, I’m your girl for everything you’ve wanted to know about hair extensions. I have news for you (which let’s be honest, you probably already know). Most every blogger, celebrity, or model with long, luscious, locks has extensions. And actually, I’m glad about it. Because it’s removed the “stigma” that used to be around the conversation of hair extensions when I first got them done almost TEN years ago. Yes, you read that right, I have had extensions for most of the past 10 years. And I’ve loved every minute of it.
For me, my hair changed in college, from full and thick growing up, to thinner and more brittle. Not to mention, I had bleached it countless times with “the blonde” guy (who looking back was ruining hundreds of girls hair with his straight bleach approach). I was not taking great care of it, and my hormones were all out of wack. Regardless, I wanted to go back to my long, full hair and opted for extensions. I’ve tried it all- fusion, tape, micro-beads (what I have had for the past 5+ years), and can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you guys! Most important to me, is the rapport, trust, and relationship you have with the person installing. I am SO glad I found Christina Oliva Cinque, known as the Hair Goddess of NY, and owner of Olivia Christensen Salon– LEGIT the best all in one hair extension salon in NYC (I promise you, I have tried quite a few).
My goal of this post is to make you feel TOTALLY educated, confident, and inspired to try out extensions, so let’s get into it, shall we?
First, it’s important to note that there are many methods of hair extensions. The method that is right for you largely depends on a few key factors. First, your goals- are you trying to create longer hair, fuller hair, both? Second, your appetite for maintenance/time- How much time do you have to keep up with your extensions. Third, the condition of your natural hair (so you can minimize damage)- is it brittle, blonde, broken, or overall in pretty solid shape? Fourth, affordability/cost- let’s be honest, we all should have a budget, not feel bad about that, and do our best to stick to it. I strongly recommend mentioning your budget upfront to make sure you can find something that works!
I have had almost all of these methods and HIGHLY recommend microbeads. My expert, Christina, feels the same and she’s super versed in them all. The reason being, we feel that this is the least damaging method that looks the most natural. But let’s go through them all so you can feel educated enough to decide for yourselves!
How it works: In this method, individual strands of human hair are bundled together to create an “i-tip”. The i-tip is sealed and fits perfectly into a small copper or aluminum microbead with a small piece of your natural hair. The bead is then closed with a small plier like tool, and this is done typically to have 100-200 beads/i-tips for a full head of extensions. To note, I use silicone lined beads for extra protection. They are slightly larger, but that is a fine trade-off to me, for added protection to my hair. They don’t slip or slide.
Maintenance: Depending on who you go to, these can take a long time to install. Christina and her sister Victoria work together so they can literally install a full head in less than 1.5 hours. I’ve been to people who take 4-5 hours for a new install, so this is pure magic. From a maintenance perspective, Christina recommends you go for a “move up” every 8 weeks. TBH, I sometimes push it, but you’ll see around 8 weeks you need to move the beads/hair back up. Also important to note, the better quality the hair, the more times you can reuse it. Christina’s top of the line hair can be used for 1-2 years, with the maintenance mentioned above, in between.
Damage: As mentioned, I feel that this is the least damaging type of extension. There are more points of contact, meaning each one bead has an amount of hair that can hold it vs say a weft with 10 beads per row, to support a whole row of weighted hair.
Cost: As with all methods, this depends on the type of hair, length of hair, and amount of hair installed. Microbeads range from $600 to $2500 and maintenance from $300 – $600 at Olivia Christensen.
How it Works: Pieces of hair (called wefts) are attached to a small section of natural hair using a double-sided tape. The tape is sealed so it lays flat to your head.
Maintenance: Tape extensions take around an hour to install for a full head. Move ups of the tape are recommended every 6-8 weeks. Make sure you go to an expert for removal as the tape, to me, is like a glue substance and can damage hair if not professionally removed.
Damage: I am just going to say, I do not like “adhering” anything to my hair. Not glue, not tape, not anything that can get stuck. I personally feel like without expert removal and application this can be damaging to hair, purely because of the adhesives.
Cost: Varies on the type of hair and amount of hair. $600-$1000 for hair and initial installation and $300-600 for maintenance.
How it Works: Individual keratin tipped extensions (that initially look similar to the microbead I-tip hair) and attached to pieces of your natural hair, but with heat. So this method is very similar to microbead, only you’re actually attaching to your hair with heat vs a bead.
Maintenance: Fusion extensions can take 4-5 hours to install and maintenance can take just as long. They actually have to remove the keratin bond, remove it from your hair, and then reattach it with heat.
Damage: See above. I have had these, and I lost a lot of hair trying to comb the keratin bonds out of my hair for move-ups and removals.
Cost: Varies on the type of hair and amount of hair. $600-$1500 for hair and initial installation and $300-600 for maintenance.
Hand Tied Weft (AKA Sew In):
How it Works: This is the method used by many of your favorite bloggers. I actually have not tried this one! The thought here is, beads are placed around small amounts of natural hair in rows. These 5-1 beads per weft act as anchors for the row to attach to. The wefts are then tied to the beads sections.
Maintenance: These are quick to install- only around (or less than) an hour for a full head. Move ups are recommended every 8-10 weeks.
Damage: This method is said to not damage hair. The concern I have, and many have expressed, is that there is a lot of weight from the weft, that only a few points of contact (beads) support. So this can get heavy on your natural hair.
Cost: Varies on the type of hair and amount of hair. People have said to get around 2 rows with 1-2 mini rows (each row has 2-3 wefts). $800-$1500 for hair and initial installation and $300-600 for maintenance.
Caring for Extensions + Best Products:
The great thing about extensions is that if they’re high quality, you can care for them pretty much the same way you would for your regular hair. For me that includes the following (my favorite products are linked!):
- Moisturizing shampoo + conditioner (Christina recommends Living Proof Restore Shampoo + Conditioner. I use Olaplex No. 4 + No. 5 being mindful of roots to not cause slippage, full post on Olaplex here)
- Weekly hair masks (mix Olaplex No. 3 + Kerastase Resistance Mask)
- Leave-in treatment/detangler (Olaplex No. 6 or Bumble HIO Primer)
- Root Spray (Oribe)
- Heat protectant (Living Proof or Kenra)
- Texturizing Spray (Oribe or IGK)
- Volumizing Spray (Living Proof)
- Hair Spray (Bumble)
- Dry Shampoo (Bumble)
- Hair Oil (Oribe. No 7)
- Clarifying shampoo 1-2x a month (Amika)
- Purple shampoo or conditioner 1x week (can help blondes in the sun to prevent oxidation; Amika)
- Curling Iron (T3 or Beachwaver)
- Blowdryer (T3 or Dyson)
- Water filter for hard water (t0 reduce build-up + brass; Amazon)
Coming Up at Olivia Christensen:
- Christina is coming out with an extension line launching in the fall for breast cancer awareness month (on top of being a salon owner and incredible mama, Christina does a ton of work with cancer survivors and really is the most wonderful person).
- Christina will be launching online training soon! This is MAJOR, and one of the things I am most excited about!
Noting is better for information gathering than the questions I get asked all the time (and that you shared with me for this post!). You guys have the best questions and many of you are crazy researchers, just like me. So give me all the added questions, I’m here for them!
- Can they add volume? YES! This is mainly why I got extensions in the first place. There is more hair and thus more volume. One thing to note, the placement of the extensions for volume matters. This is one thing Christina is super mindful of when installing your extensions.
- Should I do clip-ins or a more permanent method? So we didn’t talk much about clip-ins. They are a great alternative, but for me, they dont hold a candle to the micro bead extensions. I want my extensions in all the time, and I dont have the time to put extensions every time I style my hair, so for me, microbeads are a much better choice.
- What kind of extensions should I get for my wedding and when? So I vote a more permanent method. First, because you want to get used to them. I have had friends not feel like them when applying tons of clip-ins day of (and yes, they can fall out). ALSO, let’s face it. Your wedding has many more things outside of the big day. The bachelorette, engagement photos, rehearsal dinner, etc. We recommend getting them about 2-4 months ahead of time.
- Can you work out with extensions? Big YES! I do, and I pull them up, braid them, do whatever and you can’t see them! Again though, this is why you go to a specialist. And make sure to mention that you wear your hair up so they know where to place them.
- Can you wash them as usual? How often? I wash my hair 1x a week, always have. If you have extensions, I would wash them no more than every other day. Yep, you wash them as usual!
- How can I find someone in my area that does extensions? So this is something I wish was more readily available and easily accessed. I would google for the method you want and search reviews for now. OR you can take a quick trip to NYC to see Christina 🙂
- Can you add extensions to short hair? YES! Again though, you want an expert here. If your hair is short, the placement and cut of the extensions are key for a seamless blend.
- How do you sleep with your extensions? I do a loose bun or braid and ALWAYS sleep on a silk pillowcase.
- Do you use a special brush? I use a tangle teaser but you can also use a wet brush! Anything that doesn’t pull too hard on your hair.
- Can I curl and straighten my extensions? Of course! Curling is my favorite way to style to ensure the best blending.
- Is it weird to tell someone you have extensions? WHY NOT! Like what is there to be ashamed of? As I said, many of the celebrities, bloggers, and models have extensions and you know what, we can too!
- Do you take a break from extensions? I don’t. But you’re asking someone who has had them for 10 years. I always think about it, and my natural hair is somewhat long, I just miss them so much even for the few hours they are out!
- Tell me about coloring extensions: MORE ON THIS SOON! I color my extensions and have lots to say here. Test a strand or two to ensure that your extensions will lift/color as you hope. With 100% virgin Remy hair, they should lift and color but may process quicker or longer than your natural hair. Why it’s so important to a salon where they are familiar with coloring extensions
- Can you get extensions with shorter hair? YES! There are key techniques for adding extensions to shorter hair. Call Christina at Olivia Christensen ( (646) 726-4999) and she will help you come up with a plan that will work with your length of hair and hair goals.
So excited to share more about finding a one-stop-shop for extensions in our next post with Christina and Olivia Christensen Salon.
Any other questions? I’m here for them!