This article will take a deeper dive into what hair extensions are.
Hair extensions – the wonderful, magical things that we use to improve, augment and completely change what nature gave us! They are instant access to bigger, longer, lighter, darker, curlier, or straighter hair.
My name is Bianca, and I adore hair extensions. I started my big hair journey in 2006 by getting my first set of clip-ins, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
From a modest start with clip-ins, I have weaved-in, sewn-in, taped-in, glued-in, linked-in, and attached hair to my head in various formats. I feel more than capable of writing an article deep diving into what extensions actually are.
Ready to start unpacking this question? Let’s get started!
What Are Hair Extensions?
Hair extensions in their most basic form are either natural or synthetic hair that you attach to your own head. There are a variety of systems and methods for attaching hair as well as different types of hair that can be attached.
Human hair extensions come in different grades.
Virgin hair is hair that has never been chemically treated or processed in any way. It is usually collected from one donor by putting the hair into a ponytail and cutting the hair just above the shoulders.
Indian hair is popular as Virgin hair as their hair is considered sacred, and so they never chemically treat their long, thick beautiful hair. Three other popular Virgin hair options for dark hair are Brazilian, Indian and Peruvian.
Virgin hair that is lighter in color is popular from Eastern European countries such as Slovakia and is arguably the most expensive type of hair.
Virgin hair is popular as you can bleach it, dye it and style it as you would your own hair. It is also usually very healthy and thick to the ends.
The next grade that you get is Remy hair, which is a high value-to-money option. Remy hair has been treated with both physical and chemical process to make sure all the hair cuticles are intact and face the same way. This stops it from tangling and makes the hair long-lasting.
Remy hair can be dyed darker but should not be dyed lighter or bleached as it has already been color processed. Any further bleaching will leave you with a dry, damaged, tangled mess either immediately or after a few washes.
The next type of hair is just ‘Human Hair”. This type of hair is usually harvested from donors in a warehouse where hair is piled up on the floor. Cuticles face in all different directions, making it very prone to tangling and bunching.
This hair usually goes through chemical processing to have the cuticle burnt off, and then it also goes through color processing. This type of hair is cheap, but it has a very short lifespan due to the excessive processing it goes through.
Human hair, also known as non-Remy hair, are the lowest grade of human hair, these hairs are treated heavily with chemicals and all the hair cuticles are removed to prevent tangling when sold. However, once the protection layers on
The last type of hair is synthetic hair. You get high heat resistant synthetic fibers and low heat resistant synthetic fibers.
All synthetic hair is basically plastic, and it helps if you think about it like that, as how you treat it will make sense, if you do.
High-heat synthetic hair needs a higher heat to make it malleable to restyle it. You can use straighteners and heat styling tools on this type of hair. And it is always a good idea to blast the fibers with cool air to help them “set” once your desired style is achieved.
Low-heat synthetic hair needs only a low heat to restyle it, and usually burns or melts when subjected to the high heat of regular straighteners and curling tongs. You can usually dip this type of hair in hot water to set it if you are styling braids or twists in.
What Are The Different Types of Hair Extensions?
Depending on your needs, there is a whole world of extension methods out there for you to try.
Clip ins – Clips in are extensions that literally clip in and clip out of your hair. It is a weft of hair with clips attached. They take about 3 minutes to install a whole head and the same again to take out. These lovely hair extensions can be human hair or synthetic hair.
Halos – This is similar to clip ins but is one long weft with a fishing line attached to either end to make a “halo” that goes around your head. You can add clips to the ends for extra stability and comfort.
Halos can be either human hair or synthetic hair.
Tape-Ins – Tape ins are wefts of hair with a keratin glue strip at one end. Two pieces of keratin are pushed together, with a thin line of your natural hair “sandwiched” in between. This forms a watertight bond which can last up to 8 weeks (although I never leave mine in for more than 5 as my hair grows quickly, and they start to flap around).
Tape ins are USUALLY always human hair, but always best to check.
Wefts – Wefts are machine-bound hair, usually with lace and thread as the anchor. Wefts can either be glued in or sewn in if you have your hair braided to form tracks.
Glued wefts last 4 – 8 weeks, whereas sewn in wefts last 8 – 12 weeks.
Keratin Bonds – Micro links, micro rings, nano rings, and I-Tips all fall under this category.
These are small keratin fused beads of hair that are attached to your natural hair either with cold fusion (links or rings), or hot fusion (keratin beads heated up, fused, and cooled).
Keratin bonds last up to 4 months but depending on your hair growth with have to be moved around the 2-3 month mark as otherwise they will begin to be visible.
Are Hair Extensions Damaging to Your Hair?
Yes and No. Allow me to clarify.
Yes, they are damaging if you don’t manage them properly.
- If they are installed incorrectly and tug on your natural hair and scalp, they can leave you with bald spots.
- If you leave them in too long, your natural hair can start to matte up underneath.
- If you take them out by yanking, tugging and without the proper tools and products you can take a LOT of your natural hair out with them.
- If you over process your natural hair so it cannot take the extra weight of extensions.
No, they are not damaging:
- If they are installed correctly and are maintained well.
- If they are taken out in a timely manner (within the time frames I mentioned above is well within a healthy range).
- If they are taken out by a professional who does not yank, tug or pull on your natural hair.
- If you give your natural hair a little break between installations.
If you keep your natural hair strong and healthy, and do not put excessive weight on it.
So, you see, if you make informed decisions and educate yourself on how to maintain your hair properly, and then do that, hair extensions are not damaging to your own hair.
So there you have it! A little educational article on hair extensions, what they are, how they are made, and what forms they come in.
If you are considering getting hair extensions for the first time, my advice would be to start with clip ins, so you can see the style and length you would like. Take those to a hairstylist who can assist you in putting them in, teach you how to put them in, and style them for you.
Once you are comfortable with the look you want, then decide to commit to a more permanent hair extension method.
Do you have a question about hair extensions you would like me to answer? Let me know in the comments below!