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Extensions 101: Everything You Need to Know About Hair Extensions

Want instant length, volume, or a pop of color? It may be time to try extensions!

Whether you want to reach longer lengths or pump up your hair's volume, extensions may be just the solution you're after if you want immediate results. To learn more about hair extensions-from the different types of extensions to which ones are best for your hair-we spoke with expert and L'Oréal Professionnel Artist Pepper Pastor. Want to learn more about hair extensions? Keep reading!

The Different Types of Hair Extensions

Contrary to popular belief, hair extensions are not one size fits all. In fact, there are five main types of hair extensions that you can choose from-whether you're purchasing from the salon or on your own. They include:

  • Clip-in extensions: Wefts of hair sewn securely onto clips which are placed strategically throughout the hair for temporary use.
  • Beaded extensions: Extensions and your natural hair are clamped together between a small bead.
  • Bonded extensions: Keratin bonds at the end of the extensions are heated and fused to the hair.
  • Tape-in extensions: Skin weft extensions that are applied used a single- or double-sided tape close to the scalp.
  • Sewn-in or braided extensions: Hair is braided at the scalp and extensions are sewn into those braids.

In addition to these different application methods Pastor explains that there are two types of hair that you would choose from when you buy your hair extensions:

  • European hair: ideal for fine hair types
  • Indian hair: ideal for thicker, darker hair

Picking the Right Extensions

While Pastor recommends picking extensions based on your hair type and texture primarily, she says you'll also want to take a look at your activity level. "Tape-in extensions may be good if you're not going a lot of sweating and you don't exercise a ton," she explains. "But bonded with the little joints are better for someone who exercises often."

The Benefits of Extensions

While most people think extensions are only good to add length to the hair, that's a misnomer. Pastor shares that while hair extensions are great for adding long lengths, they are also ideal if you want to hide a bad haircut! "If you feel like you cut too many layers around your face and aren't thrilled with the look, you can literally have two tape-in extensions put in to frame your face and fill in those sections. In two months you can take them out and your hair will have grown back in," she says.

You can also use extensions to add thickness to thin-looking hair or use them to try out a color you're not ready to commit to. Want to give a few hot pink strands a whirl but don't want to lighten your dark locks prior to going pink? Pastor explains that this is a great scenario to try out extensions instead!

"Everyone is suited for extensions," she says, "You just need the right type of extension for the scenario!"

What to Expect from Your Appointment

Pastor explains that most of the time you should expect your hair extension appointment to actually be two visits to the salon. Your first visit will be a full consultation. "Your hairdresser will find out if you want a pop of color, to add thickness, or if you want a full makeover," she says. "From there we'll put a plan in place and then freshly color your hair-unless you have virgin hair-because you'll want your extensions to match your fresh color."

Next, Pastor will talk about maintenance with her client. "I don't put extensions on someone if I don't think they can take care of them," she says. This is because when not taken care of properly extensions can potentially damage your natural hair and simply won't look great.

After this consultation the hair is ordered and color-matched. Note, that since the hair is being ordered especially for you, you will likely have to put down a deposit. When it's ready you'll come in and your hairdresser will attach the hair extensions to your natural hair. A pro knows the right width of section to attach the extension to. Too thin and the thick new hair will tug and pull at your natural strands (causing breakage and a headache!) too thick and it won't blend well.

Why You Should Always Get Extensions Put in by a Pro

Sure you can find beautiful hair extensions online these days-and usually for a great price-but putting them in yourself isn't always the best option. "This is a biggie," Pastor says. "The expertise a person has when putting in extensions can make or break the final look. This doesn't mean you have to commit to your stylist to get the hair extensions. You can buy them on your own, but bring them in to have them layered and blended to your hair as well as color matched." Often your stylist will even label the wefts of your clip-ins so you know which weft goes where for a truly natural-looking finish.

How to Care for Extensions

With extensions, maintenance is actually more minimal than you'd expect. Pastor recommends sleeping with your longer hair in a loose braid or a low ponytail instead of letting it go wild and free. "You need to contain the length so it doesn't tangle," she explains. She also recommends carrying a small hairbrush in your purse and brushing your hair from the ends up three times a day.

"If you don't care for your hair extensions you can cause knotting close to the root where your hair joins to the extensions which can cause breakage in your own hair," Pastor shares. This is often the reason many women complain that extensions caused their hair to break off or fall out but Pastor assures that it's actually from a lack of proper care or if you're too rough.

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