Let’s Talk About Hair Extensions

Let's talk about hair extensionsIf you've ever wondered about hair extensions today is your lucky day! Katie and I are teaming up today to share all about our experiences with fake hair (well, it's real hairβ€”just not OUR real hair). We realize hair extensions are not for everyone. I chose to get my first pair when I was growing my hair out five years ago. I had a great experience with them as they helped me bridge the gap while I was growing my hair. My hair grows very slowly. It's taken my seven years to get the length that I have now.Extensions before+afterThe very first time I tried hair extensions I tried the glue on kind. My friend, Vanessa, did them for me at home. This was not a good experience. Showering with fake hair glued to my scalp kinda grossed me out. They did not stay adhered for very long. Within a week I pulled them out (ouch!) and began searching for other options. 

Next, I tried clips (pictured above). My clip on extensions were a much better experience! Because they clip on and off I never had to shower with them or wear them to bed (SO. MUCH. BETTER.) My first pair lasted for a long time. Since I had shoulder length hair at that time I had my extensions layered to look more natural. During this phase my hair looked more natural in curls than straight. I wore it in low ponytails and pigtails often and I liked how they looked with hats.Extensions before+after These photos are from last year. (ish?) In the first photo you can see how long my hair was without extensions. It was pretty long at this point but I still wanted a little extra length. This time I had my extensions dyed and cut by my stylist. I loved them, but some time last year I decided that my hair was already long enough, and I really didn't need them anymore. 

Q + A Time:

How/where did you get your first pair of extensions? 

Elsie: I bought my first extensions at Sally's. I bought %100 human hair in the closest match I could find to my current hair color (just never darker). I have always dyed my hair and my extensions to match. This, obviously, works best if you don't change your hair color often. I have sewn in my own clips in the past. It's easy and saves a little money. You can also buy them with the clips already attached.

Katie: Ebay. I feel kind of weird saying that I buy my hair off of Ebay, but if you know what you are looking for, it's a really affordable place to get hair extensions. I search for "human hair extensions" in a color that matches my natural hair color (dark blonde). 

What kind of extensions do you use? 

Elsie: I have only had good experiences with clip in extensions, so that's what I recommend. You can buy them from a lot of places, but I always recommend having your stylist dye and cut them with your hair to get the most natural look possible! 

Katie:  I also use clip-in extensions. My dear friend/hairstylist recommended the clip-in extensions, and I trust her so that's what I use. 

How do you get the color to match? 

Elsie: I always take my new extensions to my stylist and have them dye them along with my hair. 

Katie: Buying extensions in my natural hair color and having my stylist color them helps ensure that the extensions are almost the perfect matching shade of red. I once tried buying a set that looked close to my red and when they arrived they were completely different and not at all wearable.  Now I always use this process.

How do you care for your extensions? 

Elsie: Extensions can get heat damage, just like natural hair. Because of this it's important to not overstyle them and to always use a heat protection spray. I wore mine curly and straight. I would usually curl or straighten them before putting them on. When they were straight I didn't have to style them every time I wore them. I would just quickly comb them before putting them on. 

Katie: Because red changes drastically over the course of a month, I typically wash and condition them once a week so they stay close to my most current red.  I use a special shampoo and conditioner for color treated hair and let them air dry.

Random tips and tricks:

Elsie: Unless your hair is platinum blonde or jet black you probably will need to dye your extensions. Color matching is nearly impossible when you are shopping online or at a local shop with limited choices. As your hair grows out you may need to replace your extensions of get them re-trimmed to look natural with your longer hair. 

I highly recommend working with your stylist, even with clip on extensions. They will be able to give you advice and help make your extensions look more natural, which is always the goal. If you choose to do them at home I recommend using an all over hair color on both your natural hair and extensions and having them cut when they are clipped on with your hair. 

Katie: If you are buying extensions (especially online), make sure you are getting "real" (human) hair.  Synthetic extensions will melt if you try to curl or straighten them!Layering Hair ExtensionsHere is an example of how clip on extensions look before you put them on. The pieces in the middle can be wider, and the pieces on the sides should be about 1-2 inches across. This photo also represents how the extensions will look once they are clipped onto your head. You will clip them on the bottom of your scalp, under your hair. 

Depending on how thick your hair is you may need more extensions. The thicker your natural hair is, the more fake hair you will need. 

Here is an example of how to put them on:How To Put Hair Extensions InMake sure that the longer pieces are attached flush to your head, without too much of a gap. Try to attach them as low on your scalp as you can. This will help them to stay hidden and also to appear longer under your real hair. πŸ™‚

Let us know if you have any other questions about extensions! There is some trial and error to DIYing your perfect pair, but we hope that this information gives you a good starting point if you are considering investing in a pair! xoxo. Elsie + Katie 

  • i’ve been growing out my hair for 7 years, and it’s at my shoulders. it was chin length when i started growing. my hair just doesn’t grow and it’s annoying. extensions are my best friend.

    i’ve had them all. bonded, keratin extensions (like great lengths or cinderella hair) will fall out incredibly easily if you have fine, thin hair. you’ll be too afraid to brush them vigorously enough to undo tangles and they’ll end up matting. the upkeep isn’t worth it, and neither is seeing hundreds of dollars of hair in your garbage can πŸ™

    the BEST extensions (if you can afford them) are hot heads. they attach to your hair with a piece of “tape” which is attached to the hair. they lay flat and stay in perfectly. once they’ve grown out (a month or so) all you have to do is use a solvent to remove them and a stylist can “re-tape” them close to your scalp. the hair can be “re-taped” up to 3 times. the hair is incredibly good quality (100% human remy hair). the only drawback is that they’re REALLY pricey. the hair alone without markup is around 350 for two packs of hair.

    another note about extensions: be very careful what you use on them. use absolutely NOTHING with alcohol or sulfates. the only products I will use on my extensions are Kevin Murphy shampoo/conditioner and argan oil/moroccan oil. protect your investment and invest in good products! otherwise, you’ll have dried out, matted, and gross hair.

  • This post reminds me of Chris Rock’s documentary, “Good Hair.” It’s about hair culture among African Americans and it’s really insightful. I know this is sort of off topic, but it’s interesting to know where “real human hair” comes from. – Leah, leahwise.com

  • I have some extensions that I got put in by my stylist (I think he used the beads?) for my wedding. I still like them, and want to use them, but I was wondering about the clips…how do you attach them to the the extensions?

    And I don’t know if this a legit question or not since I don’t yet have the clips, (maybe it’s self-explanatory) but is it relatively obvious how they attach to the hair scalp?

  • Q: how do you attach them to the the extensions?
    A: They are stitched to the top of the hair (where there are already stitches holding it all together) You can see the side with the clips on the photo where the extensions are laying down. In the photo where they are on Katie’s head, that’s the other side of them! :))
    Hope that helps. They attach almost like barrettes. You can buy the clips alone at Sally’s or online.

    You may be able to attach clips to the extensions you already have. πŸ™‚ Definitely worth a try!

  • Extensions are fantastic!!!

    Here in London you can get all manner of colours and curls (if you’re so inclined) in every wig store along the high street. I definitely agree that buying 100% natural hair and attaching your own clips is the best, most economic way to thicken (what I need extensions for) or lengthen your hair.

    Thanks for the inspiration – I’m going to buy some tomorrow πŸ™‚

  • I’ve always wanted to try extensions but can never find any that even come close to matching my hair. It is close to Katie’s red when I’m in the sunlight but a much more muted red indoors. It is my natural color. I’ve thought about just picking up a color a little bit lighter to create a faux ombre look, what do you think?

  • I have the hardest time growing out my hair. It grows pretty fast but ever few months I want a change. I have heard that extensions can be pretty pricey.

    How much do the ones you recommend using cost Elsie/Katie? For your hair type how many clips do you buy? From what I hear it’s something like $1000 dollars to get 100% human hair.

    Thanks. I have been waiting for an article like this FOREVER! You are going to get a lot of traffic I think.

  • This is awesome! I literally just bought my first pair of hair extensions and I love them! I am going to put them on for the second time today. Super easy to care for (washed them once already) and easy to put in.

    Thanks for sharing your tips! It’s good to know others wear “fake” hair. It made me feel weird at first, but I’m warming up to the idea. hehe.

  • Thanks for the information! I hate the process of waiting for your hair to grow :/ I’ve never tried extensions.
    Do you know where Katie got her yellow shirt (the one in the last photo)?

  • Can you only wear your hair down with the clip on extensions in, or can you still put them up in a top knot type look?

  • this is such a cool article!! i’ve been toying with the idea of fake hair, too… only i got a couple of wigs instead of extensions πŸ˜› getting used to them is weird… they look GREAT, but they feel a little uncomfortable after a few hours of wear. i’m thinking i just need to get used to them.

    anyway… i’d like to look into extensions now as well! xx

  • I never tried extensions before but I have some hair issues all the time. My hair has a few waves and looks really messy if I don’t straighten it. But when it’s straight it looks really thin so extensions might be an option for me to make it look a bit fuller. Thanks for your tips πŸ˜‰

  • Backcombing a little at the base of your scalp before you attach them will create a great hold for them to stay in longer (aka no slipping) it also makes a little strong point so the extensions dont pull on your hair and are instead just attached to a strong base!

  • It’s so great! I don’t have thick hair so I’m wondering if extension would work and thicken it a little bit. Thanks for sharing your reflections!

  • I have some real hair extensions and wear them all the time. I have washed, dried, curled and repeated for almost two years now. I love how they can take my look up a notch in the matter of minutes. I purchased my from Sally Beauty Supply.

  • My hair is really short. About a month ago I cut it from just past my chin A-cut to a pixie. My question is how short is too short for extensions?

    Marie

  • I discovered extensions 4 month ago. Mine are actually not clips. My hairdresser braided three horizontal braids very tightly against my skulp in the back using my own hair. All about 1cm apart. Then he kind of sewed the extensions to the braid. It is real hair and has my exact hair color, dark brown. Per row of extension i paid €50 (x3), that includes the braiding,etc. it took about 30min to 1 hour to get it done. After 3 month i took them out, went to the hairdresser with the extensions and they put them back in for €75. I love it! Since its real hair, you can wash it, condition it, curl it,…its perfect! And nobody ever noticed that its not my hair, even the color is exact.

    http://fun.kyti.me

  • This is a super informative post, but I got more excited about the Brownie uniform! Totally brought me back to my Brownie days and collecting patches! My mom my sash somewhere. Oh, the lovely childhood days~!

  • This was really interesting! I’m in the process of growing out my pixie cut, and now my hair is finally to more of a ‘bob’. I may look into extensions when it gets longer now that I’ve read this!

  • How did you guys know? I had been thinking about hair extensions lately but was really intimidated. You calmed my fears!

  • I don’t want to be a negitive nancy here but this is close to my heart so I think it’s important to share.
    The human hair trade can be a very unscrupulous business with many reports of violations of human rights in its name.
    I wear extensions but have chosen the heat resistant synthetic extensions because of this. It is harder to match your colour (I have bright pink hair!) but the peace of mind is worth the extra effort for me.
    Not all human hair is ‘bad’ but I would urge anyone to do some research before buying and contributing to the violation of human rights of women in the name of vanity.
    Thanks for listening to my rant πŸ™‚

  • My hair is lengthy already, and I like the length. The only problem is that it is thin…would extensions help with the appearance of more hair perhaps?

  • Q: I’ve thought about just picking up a color a little bit lighter to create a faux ombre look, what do you think?
    A: I would chat with your stylist for advice about that. I think it sounds cute!

    Q: From what I hear it’s something like $1000 dollars to get 100% human hair.
    A: The extensions I’ve bought at Sally’s have all been under $100. It is a little more expensive to get them dyed and cut by my stylist though (still worth it, in my opinion). This is the most budget friendly way I know to do it. πŸ™‚

    Q: Can you only wear your hair down with the clip on extensions in, or can you still put them up in a top knot type look?
    A: You can wear your hair 1/2 up and in low ponytails/pigtails and braids. It doesn’t really work to wear a high ponytail or a top knot. πŸ™‚

    “Backcombing a little at the base of your scalp before you attach them will create a great hold for them to stay in longer (aka no slipping) it also makes a little strong point so the extensions dont pull on your hair and are instead just attached to a strong base!”
    I agree %100! I forgot to mention it, but I usually tease my hair when wearing extensions because it makes the clips easier to hide!

    Q: I don’t have thick hair so I’m wondering if extension would work and thicken it a little bit.
    A: Extensions don’t really make your hair thicker, just longer. Backcombing (like the suggestion above) helps with volume!

    Q: My question is how short is too short for extensions?
    A: Probably chin length. At that length you could add layers to the bottom/underneath of your natural hair and have shoulder length or a little longer. When your hair is super short it’s smart to try not to get your extensions too long or they might look a little fake. (like my first set did!)

    Steph- I have never heard about this. I am glad you brought it up! Research sounds like a good idea! Thanks.

    Hope this has been helpful!

  • Thanks for this article – answers many of my questions, and I’m that much closer to actually getting up the guts to try extensions!

    Great tips~

    Heidi (AlpineGypsy)

  • I bought clip-in extensions for my wedding and had them highlighted to match my hair. On a whim, I had cut my long hair and dated it and then my husband surprised me and we got engaged a month later. We got married four months after that and I’m so glad I got them. They looked so natural and I wouldn’t have felt like myself otherwise.

    I haven’t pulled them out of the package since we got married, but if we were going to a special occasion I definitely would. I had a difficult time attaching them myself. The pictures you posted are great!

  • I always assumed you girls naturally had that thick and beautiful hair! I’m so naive when it comes to knowing who uses extensions. Thanks for keeping it honest!

  • Okay. You guys. I just have to confess: you two are two of my favorite bloggers ever and how did I not know this about you? How! My husband came downstairs a few minutes ago, saw the look on my face, and said “What’s up over there?” And I was like, “I just found out the most amazing information ever. These girls are wonderful and they have fake hair. I’m totally going to try it.” So, thank you so very much for this fine, fine information and for letting me leave the geekiest comment ever. Ever : )

  • I’ve got long hair already (my extensions hit pretty much where my natural hair does) but I use them to add thickness to my hair when I want the volume my hair doesn’t have naturally. πŸ™‚

  • So useful! I wear short hair but I really hope to wear a long hair. But my hair grows very slowly and I can bear the tousy hair style and then I would cut them. Now I think I could follow your tips and have a try.

  • oh wow! Thanks for this ladies <3
    i've been wondering about clip-in hair extensions & how they worked for a while now, they're not as intimidating as i first imagined!
    x

  • These are great tips. I’ve never had the need myself, super fast growing thick hair, but have a friend who has always dreamed of waist length locks and can’t get them without a little help. She has had a hell of a time with hair extensions, including a pair that after a weekend in Paris in winter turned into a giant rats nest for the plane home. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi there, I was wondering if the clip in extensions will work on a short pixie or boyish cropped hair? Or do you need at least chin length hair to have hair extensions? Thanks!

  • Wooow,you made me dream again,not only of red hair but also of all the pastel colors,that I would like for my hair!!No long ago I had my first experience with extensions,you may not believe it,but here in Switzerland it`s not quiet established yet!Most girls still have their own hair πŸ™‚
    Well I also tried glued on extensions,as apparently the sewing on technique isn`t done that often here…Maybe they just don`t know or I didn`t find a stylist who does is!
    Well I was happy with my extensions and they stayed glued on like for 6 months!But I wouldn`t recomend it to anybody,because my hair was groing,I couldn`t comb them anymore!
    In one word MESSY!
    But I`m all in for clip in extensions now,thanks guys:)

    xoxo

  • Slightly randon question – why “pair” of hair extensions? It looks like more than 2 in the pictures…

  • I really enjoyed reading this post, but what has always worried me is where (who) the hair comes from, and the ethics of buying extensions. Is there any way of finding out which extensions companies – and their suppliers – look after their hair donors, and which don’t? I’d hate to think I was wearing the hair of someone who wasn’t even paid a fair wage for selling their hair.

  • I have naturally thin, blonde hair that takes forever to grow. I went to a salon run by some fabulous Sudanese women and had two rows of extensions sewn, or ‘woven’, into cornrows braided horizontally across the back of my head. I then went to my normal hairdresser to have them coloured and trimmed in. I loved my weave, but only ended up keeping it in for four weeks, as maintainting it was time consuming – I only washed the roots of my real hair, while trying to keep the lengths dry, and it was recommended that I braid it each night. My mum cut my weave out for me, by cutting the stiches that attached the extensions to my own cornrowed hair. It was easy and painless to remove, no glue involved, and neither my own hair or the extensions were not damaged. I still have the hair extensions, and plan on attaching them to clips so I can use them on a less permanent basis.

  • i keep coming back to ABM for hair tips and tricks and this was the first one after a long time. thanks so much!! xo- M

  • my hair grows very slow also and i bought some real human hair extensions a couple years ago. i bought mine at sally’s, had them dyed to match my color and i absolutely positively loved them!!!!! i would wear them every day! and they curled much better than my own hair so i always had the perfect beachy waves!! mine were about $100 bc i bought the longest ones, but it was worth it.

  • Thanks for this super informative post! My hair takes forever to grow and I’ve thought about hair extensions but they’re so expensive. I’ve never dyed my hair (and don’t ever plan on it) so now I’m thinking this might be a good investment! My hair is super dark brown… I usually describe it as “the shade before black.” Because of this it will be really hard to find extensions that are my hair color. So my question for you is, should I buy some extensions and take them to my stylist to dye them my hair color? I don’t know anything about dying hair but because I don’t dye my hair I wonder if she’d actually be able to dye them to match my natural hair color. Let me know when you get a chance, thanks!

  • I’ve been waiting for this post from both of you! I recently had extensions with the bond/glue. TERRIBLE experience. It took forever to get the glue out of my hair. I’ve been wanting to order some new ones, and this post, along with the Q&A comments, definitely helped!
    Thanks so much for sharing this!!

    Jana πŸ™‚

  • I’m so happy you did this post! I always thought you red velvet had naturally long and thick hair and I admit I was (a tad) jealous of that πŸ˜‰ I have blonde hair dyed red just like katie so I found her perspective super helpful! Especially the bit about red changing over the course of a month, too true!

    x missdottidee.blogspot.com

  • Oooh I love this post, thanks for all the tips! I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a wig to wear, but now I think extensions might be a nice intermediate step.

    I would love a follow-up post on how to put your hair up with extensions – for example, do you need to clip them in a different place to do a bun or braids? If so, pictures!!

    ~Sasha
    http://www.hotsytotsyvintage.com

  • This article was great! I’ve always wondered about this, my hair is taking sooo long to grow out this time around.. I may have to get some extensions! I do have a question about these clip on ones – how often do you keep them in? Do you sleep & shower with them in?

  • Q: I do have a question about these clip on ones – how often do you keep them in? Do you sleep & shower with them in?
    A: The cool thing about clip ins is that you don’t have to wear them to bed or in the shower. This makes them last longer & stay in better shape. They are also easier to care for.

  • This is a really great article, I’ve been wanting extensions for years, but I have really fine hair and I’m worried DIY clip-in extensions will pull out my hair. Should I go to a hairdresser and get it done there?

  • Julia,
    Clip on extensions should not pull your hair at all. I do recommend working with your stylist, though, they can cut/dye them for you and teach you to style and care for them! πŸ™‚

  • Elsie,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog daily for the past few years but unfortunately I am disheartened by this post.

    Along with a couple previous commenters, I too am very concerned about the controversy surrounding sales of human hair. From my understanding, much of the human hair extensions sold in the U.S. come from developing countries. In Russia and Vietnam, poor women are paid very small amounts to cut off their hair. The largest source of human hair is India, where women cut their hair as a sacrifice for prayer. There have even been reports of violence in some countries when women were attacked for their hair so it could be sold to international markets.

    I hope you take this opportunity to educate readers. Maybe you could test out some different synthetic extension brands and recommend a more ethical alternative to human hair.

  • I have the straightest, thinnest hair ever. Do you think the clip on hair will still work with very thin hair? Or do you think that the clips will end up showing or creating a bump?
    Thanks!

  • I just recently watched a few YouTube videos about hair extensions & very curious about them! I cut my hair above my shoulders last April & have kept it that short since then. I also miss my longer hair & thought it would be fun to have extensions to fill that void! I am worried about a line of where my hair is to how long I would like the extensions. I will have to talk to my stylist & visit Sally’s. Thanks for posting this! Jana

  • I truly love your blog and admire you almost more than I can write in words. I read your share every day, and find you truly unique and special in a way I have never seen with anyone else. The things you make and do and just your way of spreading love is beautiful. You inspire me and fill me up with joy and happiness, and you give my mind and heart and soul some hope in my everyday-life! I think you are absolutely amazing. But, this post makes me both sad and disappointed. I understand that everyone has freedom to do as they please, and that I under no circumstances am in a position to judge people around me, which I do not do. But, I do not understand how the ugly truth of the hair extension industry is to be justified and applauded for in any way at all, or by anyone. This is a very selfish and unethical way of supporting an industry suppressing innocent and poor women, and taking advantage of their difficult situation..

  • My daughter is just beginning to find her sense of style. This would be an awesome way to encourage her creativity and give her a new style after she finishes growing it to donate for the second time. Thanks for a cool giveaway!

  • I got my extensions done at Sensa Salon in Seattle and they were sweet enough to answer all of my questions before I took the plunge! I don’t know why, but having something attached to my hair like that made me a little nervous t first. I know you’re supposed to play them off like they’re your real hair, but I’ve pretty much been bragging about them all over πŸ™‚ http://www.sensasalon.com

  • Thanks for sharing your tips I now have an idea on types, style and setting up of hair extensions. BTW love your hair extensions at the 2nd picture, you look wonderful :).

    xx
    Hair Salons Miami

  • Ya backcombing a little helps a ton! I’ve tried all kinds of hair extensions and I like clip-ins cause you can take them out. But if you’re looking for permanent extensions, Great Lengths is the best I’ve ever used. The hair is natural and looks so good…and there’s a special brush that allows you to brush your hair all the way to the scalp, which is SO nice with extensions!
    xx Maddie
    http://www.welliestyle.com