If you want long, thick locks, you don’t have to wait five years to grow out your hair, you can feel like Rapunzel today with hair extensions.
You can also do it without going to the salon.
There are many reasons people choose to get extensions. Some people’s hair just doesn’t seem to grow, or they may be dealing with hair loss or thinning. Extensions can also add volume, as well as length. Maybe you want to change up your look for a special occasion (or just for fun), or perhaps you need to hide a bad haircut. Extensions can also add a little excitement to your look, allowing you to add in different colors, highlights, ombre, lowlights, or fun shades. Whatever the reason, hair extensions can quickly transform your look.
Here’s the scoop on how to apply hair extensions yourself at home and how to pick the right style for your needs.
There are tons of different kinds of extensions, some that you can try yourself at home and others that you’ll need professional help to ensure proper installation. Each of the options also varies by price, how long it stays in and lasts over time, how difficult it is to apply, how damaging it is to your hair, and how to take care of it.
Clip-in extensions are the quickest, easiest, and least expensive type of hair extensions. Imagine hair attached to special, flat clips that you literally clip into your hair. You can do these at home in a matter of minutes (especially after you get the technique down; more on that later), and they will not damage to your hair. However, clips are totally temporary; they have to be redone every day, and are not very secure if you want to vigorously exercise, sleep, dance, or be too active in them. They’re low risk, but also the least durable option.
GOO GOO Hair Extensions Clip, $69.79
Tape-in extensions are (you guessed it) taped into your existing hair using a special, strong tape. This method can last longer than others (some say up to 12 weeks), but the tape can be visible with certain hairstyles, and it can easily tangle. The plus side is tape-in extensions are gentler on your hair than most extensions, but application can take some time to figure out, and they can fall out if you’re not careful, especially while brushing.
Sew-in extensions can be done at home by those fortunate enough to have this unique talent, but for most of us, it is best to leave these to the pros. These are exactly what they sound like: extensions sewn into your hair. A stylist braids your hair into tight cornrows (which are concealed under other layers of hair), and the extensions are sewn onto those braids. Needless to say, these rarely just fall out and are quite durable, but they’re better suited for people with thick, curly hair. The risk? Those tight braids can be hard on your head and also hard to wash. They’re high-maintenance and expensive, too. You have to regularly visit the salon to get them tightened.
Glue-ins attach extensions to your hair with a special kind of hair bonding glue. Find the glue at a beauty supply store (obviously, pick a dark glue for dark hair and a light glue for light hair). Apply the glue to the end of the extension, press onto your hair (avoid being too close to the scalp, which can cause unnecessary damage), and blow-dry to seal. Be careful when removing the glued-in strands, though, because they can damage your locks if they’re removed wrong. Also, if you’re applying these at home, make sure you don’t apply the glue too close to your scalp or it can clog follicles and cause an infection.
Glue In Extensions, $20.59
Keratin bonds or fusions are sometimes called “glue-ins,” but they don’t actually use glue. Instead, they attach via a keratin bond that is melted from the tip of the extension onto your natural hair using a hot tool. The soft keratin is then hand-molded around the strand so it can be less noticeable than tape, for example. Some salons also offer a “cold method,” which uses sonic technology to do the fusion. The cold method tends to work better on fine hair and the hot method is often preferred for thicker hair.
While you can easily find keratin glue and the equipment on Amazon, these extensions are typically done by a stylist. Keratin-bond extensions can be pricey and it can take a few hours to apply. They also can be damaging to your hair if you leave them in too long.
Microlinks (also called micro loops or micro beads) attach via a single loop around your natural hair, secured with a metal bead. No heat, no glue. It’s secure and also not damaging, because there’s no glue, heat, chemicals, or otherwise damaging attachments. They’re expensive, though, and may only last 10 weeks. There are different kinds of rings, with the nano rings as the smallest. You could do these at home, but it’s pretty tricky and requires special equipment (like mini “pliers”), so best to go to a professional.
Micro Link Human Hair Extensions, $43.90
There are many reasons people may want to do their own hair extensions, but usually, it’s because it’s so much cheaper. On average, hair extensions in a salon cost between $200 and $600, with some options topping out at $3,000 for long, cold-fusion extensions.
By comparison, you can find synthetic extensions for $60 to $85, and human hair typically starts around $100.
If you don’t have experience and are unsure where to start, consider clip-ins and tape-ins. It’s especially helpful if you have a friend to help apply them. You can find some surprisingly high-quality clip-ins that are discreet, easy to use, and no risk.
You can find many Youtube tutorials for how to best apply clips, but it’s generally recommended to section out your hair, starting from the bottom (by your neck) and working up. Wider extensions are used for the back and transition to smaller sections as you get closer to your face. Avoid clipping them too close to your part so they’re not visible.
When picking a color, look for extensions with multiple tones to blend better.
Still unsure? You can also try a wig. You might be surprised how high quality some wigs are made today. Just don’t try to curl it or style it with heat, and avoid brushing it if you want it to stay in shape for long.
Ultimately, the type of extensions you pick should fit your hairstyle and type and your life. For example, active athletes may benefit from clip-ins, which can be removed so they don’t affect your performance and you can wash your hair.
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