Hair extensions are always a hot topic in Paul Edmonds’ salons and our clients are often divided in their opinions.
For some, hair extensions are profligate and excessive – a lazy route to a glamorous look using hair that is not your own, purchased from someone else, with no apparent regard to sourcing or cost.
For others, however, extensions are transformative. Just like cutting your hair into a new style, why wouldn’t you go the other way to achieve longer or thicker hair in a matter of hours? Extensions give some of us an opportunity to break free of our genetic limitations and get the look that we always wanted.
Whichever camp you sit in, it’s hard to deny that hair extensions have become big news over the past few years. This is thanks to numerous celebrity endorsements and Instagram feeds; along with the long hair trend and beach wave look that has defined the last decade.
From a stylist’s perspective, there is now a plethora of different options available in terms of length, colour, finish and material to help us give clients the look they long for. The team at Paul Edmonds London has a huge amount of expertise with hair extensions – not only with the clients in our salons but also from our film and TV work. In this blog, we give you in the inside track on going longer, or thicker, in 2020.
What are ‘hair extensions’, exactly?
Hair extensions, in the traditional sense, refer to a section of hair (either natural or synthetic) that is attached via different methods to your existing hair in order to obtain extra length or volume.
Hair extensions are completely different to a wig. The latter refers to hair that is attached to a lace or net structure that you put over the top of your existing hair. A wig can be put on and taken off whenever you choose; hair extensions are usually semi-permanent.
What are hair extensions made from?
Over the years, the market for hair extensions has evolved and we have seen many different types become available. The best options are, of course, made from human hair; but extensions can also be made from a synthetic material.
You can sometimes tell what extensions are made of by running your fingers up and down the hair. If it slips easily in both directions, it’s likely to be synthetic. Today’s technology means plastic can be manufactured to feel as fine and light as human hair, so any coarseness has been eradicated.
Human hair used in extensions (sometimes called Remi or Remy) usually has the cuticle intact. If you rub your own hair up and down, you’ll find it easier in one direction because the cuticle is like the scales on a fish – the keratin cells overlap and lie flat on top of each other, so when you rub in the opposite direction they work back against each other causing friction.
When you purchase extensions made from human hair, all the strands in a pack should lie in the same direction to give you silky smooth, tangle-free locks. If the hair you purchase does not specify this, it could include hair that is either stripped of the cuticle or lying in different directions. This compromises quality and, ultimately, the final look and longevity of your extensions.
Where do human hair extensions come from?
Debates about the ethical sourcing of human hair extensions are prevalent, and it’s important to do your research if ethical sourcing is important to you.
Look for manufacturers that ensure their entire supply chain is monitored: that hair has not been obtained under duress; that contributors have been compensated correctly; and that there is consistency in the supply chain for the long term. For manufacturers of human hair extensions to tick all the required boxes, they need to build sustainable, long-term relationships with their communities and comply with EU consumer standards.
At Paul Edmonds London, we source hair extensions from manufacturers that use hair obtained in Russia, the Indian Subcontinent and Malaysia. Buying from a range of different regions means that we can serve our varied client base. Those with fine hair might suit extensions sourced from Russia, whilst hair from the Indian Subcontinent tends to be a close match for clients with coarser, medium-to-thick hair. If you have super-straight, thick hair, Malaysian or Mongolian hair extensions are usually a good match.
How are hair extensions applied at Paul Edmonds?
At Paul Edmonds we use three main systems of application:
Layers of long pieces of hair, woven onto a string, are sewn into the existing hair. We use a tiny plastic or metal clip to gather the hair to form a structure for the weft piece to be sewn to, in a U-shape from the sides of your head.
This method is great for adding volume and length. It gives an even distribution of hair and, when colour-matched, it’s almost impossible to spot. Your extensions can be reused and as your hair grows, you simply slide up and tighten the tiny plastic or metal clips.
The downside is that, when the extensions are in place, you have to make sure you dry the hair thoroughly when you wash it. You’ll also need a good length of hair on the top of your head to ensure that the blending looks seamless. Your extensionist will gauge the right amount of sections to put into your hair so that it doesn’t look too heavy or disproportionate to your overall texture, volume and shape.
Hair is glued onto a strip (on average 4cm in length), which is glued onto the root of your existing hair. This makes the hair lie very flat with no bulging effect, plus it’s super quick and easy to complete.
The main complication with this method is the number of tapes applied, and ensuring the positions are documented ready for when you have them re-attached at a later date. Tapes tend to shed, so can only be re-used 4 to 6 times (depending on how well you look after them). Given the typical rate of hair growth (an inch every 6-8 weeks), this means you could get a year’s worth of usage.
Tapes come in varying lengths and colour finishes. With this system, it’s easier to create a really long look even if you have short hair, but remember washing and combing your hair is a challenge.
Bonds are 0.5cm wide and come in varying lengths. They can come in either metal forms (where the hair is fed through a metal loop and tightened), or with keratin bonds that mimic the colour of the hair so you can’t see them. When the keratin bond is heated up, it turns into a gel-like substance that your extensionist will mould before attaching into the roots of your hair. As the keratin cools, it hardens – making it near impossible for the extensions to come out, unless your own hair (which does naturally shed) falls out. When the keratin bond is matched to the colour of your own hair, the extension is virtually invisible.
I am concerned that my hair might be thinning. Can I have extensions?
The short answer is yes. In fact, many of our male clients, who are slowly starting to suffer from male pattern baldness, have opted for hair extensions in between medical treatments for hair regrowth.
Your extensionist will probably suggest microbonds (tiny keratin bonds) for this type of application, but there are limitations to the coverage you can achieve as, ultimately, the micro extension needs to be attached to your existing hair. If your hair is thinning, the placement of each extension needs to be carefully considered along with whether it is possible to reduce those visible signs of thinning, in order to create the volume and disguise that you want.
Which application is the most expensive?
Cost is determined by whether you opt for human or synthetic hair; the number and length of extensions you require and the time it takes to apply them.
Because of this, keratin bond hair extensions tend to be the most expensive system. This is largely due to the nature of the application: it is more delicate and, if you want a more natural look and you have fine hair, your extensionist may even halve the bonds to blend them and make them look less noticeable. Double the number of bonds means double the time.
Wefts and tapes cost about the same. Remember that a weft piece, if you look after it, can be reused and last a very long time.
What colours do they come in and can they be coloured?
Hair extensions come in an astounding range of colours and finishes, including balayage, multi-tone and ombre.
Extensions in lighter shades, such as blonde, may have been chemically processed by the supplier to lift the original colour (this is particularly true of hair sourced from the Indian Subcontinent); and some suppliers use fabric dyes to achieve a specific look. In both these cases, it is not advised to colour the extensions any further.
At Paul Edmonds, we source both virgin hair (i.e. not pre-coloured) and hair that has already been coloured. Your extensionist will advise which options can be coloured. Colour treatments are carried out after the extensions are applied.
Can I use hair treatments and wash and style my extensions?
If your extensions are made from real human hair, you can use hair treatments on them to hydrate them. Just like with your natural hair, lifestyle and environmental exposure can affect the quality of your hair extensions, so a regular trip to the salon for a hair treatment is highly recommended. Your extensionist will advise on the shampoo, conditioner and treatments that are ideal for your extensions, and then you can blow-dry and heat-style to your heart’s content!
Synthetic hair is more problematic. Heat styling is definitely off the cards, and you’ll need to wash carefully to avoid knots and tangles.
At Paul Edmonds, we generally only use synthetic hair in temporary clip-in sections for events and special occasions. We always consider environmental impact too and limit the use of synthetic hair due to its short lifespan and manufacturing considerations.
I’m thinking about having extensions. What’s the first step?
It’s imperative that you book an appointment with an extensionist for an initial consultation. They will advise on everything we have covered in this blog post, along with pricing options and an idea of on-going maintenance costs, so that you can make an informed decision.
Hair extensions require commitment, both in terms of finance and in looking after them, so take the time to decide on whether they are right for you. Be warned: many of our clients say that once you start, you can’t live without them!
Can I have extensions applied on the same day as the consultation?
Unfortunately not. We purchase the hair especially for you in order to get the best possible colour match.
There is a minimum of two to four days between consultation and application, depending on which application system you go for and which supplier we order from. The cost of the hair is due when we place the order with our supplier – which then secures your application appointment too.
Can I get a refund if I don’t like the hair once it is in?
Hair extensions are like jewellery – there is a hygiene factor to consider and once your extensions have been applied we cannot refund the cost of the hair or application.
This is why we recommend taking your time and considering the information given in your consultation very carefully.
Why not get a second opinion if you’re unsure? Ask a trusted friend or family member, and feel free to shop around – this is a big commitment, so arm yourself with as much information as you can before you make your final decision.