Finally! After talking about it for so long, today I am sharing all about hair extensions: the process, the cost, the pros, the cons. I’ve personally had mine for just about two years and have tried several different methods with a couple different stylist. It really is an experiment and takes time to find the perfect match for your hair, but today I wanted to share what I’ve learned to help you make an educated decision on what is best for you should you decide to get hair extensions.
When talking hair extensions there are a few different answers to the question “What type of extensions do you have?” First, and most commonly what someone means by this question, is the method used to hold the extensions in your hair. There are tons of different processes for installing extensions: sewn in, beaded in, taped in, keratin bonded (all non-removable) as well as clip in (removable). Based on what method your hairstylist is trained in usually determines the route you take, but you can work backward decide on what method you want and find a stylist trained in that method. Personally I have tried sewn in, taped in, beaded in, and clip in extensions.
The second answer to the questions of what type is the brand of the actual hair used. This typically isn’t something that you get to pick, as your stylist usually matches you and picks a brand of hair based on the method of installation. With each method, I’ve used a different brand of hair and it hasn’t really mattered. I just make it known that I want high quality human hair. That’s a big one…haha. The hair itself will be one of the biggest costs associated with extensions.
I’ll just be frank…when it comes to cost, high quality, human hair extensions are expensive! And they aren’t something that you want to cheap out on. If you decide to go the route of getting extensions, make sure you save up and have them done right. The first appointment is the most expensive because not only do you have to purchase the hair they are going to use, but you also have to pay for the initial set up.
The initial set-up appointment cost will vary based on the type you decide on as well as a ton of other factors: stylist’s pricing, location, time it takes, color, cut, etc. My first appointment for both beaded rows and sewn in tracks has ranged from $1,000-$1,250. Move-ups (see below) cost anywhere from $100-$150.
Back to the Process…
The initial set up includes placement and measurement of each row or tape as well as the cut and color to blend the extensions perfectly into your natural hair. Tape in extensions come in a bunch of small pieces that are couple of inches long and are spaced out and placed all over the head. Keratin bonds are much smaller bundles of hair that are chemically bonded all over the head like the tape-ins, but just a ton more of them. The initial set up appointment is the longest and can take anywhere from about 4-7 hours depending on the method and the stylist.
The other methods, sewn in and beaded rows, are put down in rows (or tracks), and depending on where you need fullness and how much fullness you need will determine how many tracks you get. The tracks are generally along the back of your scalp, from ear to ear. When I had beaded rows, I had two tracks and now with sewn in extensions I have three tracks.
No matter what method of placement you have, they will have to be moved up every 5-8 weeks. Because hair grows, people! This process is significantly less expensive because all you are usually paying for is the stylist’s time, and you aren’t purchasing hair or having it matched or cut. For me, a move up consists of my stylist unbraiding the tracks I have in and then resetting the tracks. To reset the tracks, she puts a little cornrow braid across my scalp and then sews the extension into it. For my three tracks to be moved up it takes about 1.5-2 hours.
The Pros + Cons
Let’s start with the good news: hair extensions are absolutely incredible for thin hair! I have super fine, thin hair and they have been incredible to add thickness. In the beginning, I got them solely for the purpose of adding thickness and not length. After having them for a while, I decided that it would be fun to play with the length and go longer! Something to keep in mind: for thickness only, you need less hair which typically equates to an overall lower cost (less hair, and less installation). For length, you need a significant amount more of the actual hair, as well as more placements to make it blend.
Another “pro” is that they always look good in photos. As a blogger, I take photos constantly. With thin hair, I had to make sure it was always situated and positioned right so it looked pretty. With extensions, I never have to think about that.
Another pro for me, which could also be a con for some people, is that they’re always in. I can’t take them out. Which also means I don’t have to take the time to put them in every day, or multiple times a week. This could be a con if you don’t always want them in, and just want your natural hair at times. If this is you, I’d recommend getting a good set of clip-in extensions and having them cut and blended into your hair. (This route is significantly cheaper and doesn’t require the maintenance and move-ups that the other methods do).
This leads me to the cons. First, they are a lot of maintenance. The move-ups come quicker than you realize and do take quite a bit of time. And they are something you’ll have to budget for every month of two (see cost above). You can’t just not do it, because it gets pretty uncomfortable. Basically, you know when it’s time to move them up.
The other thing that I don’t love is that they take a lot longer to style. If you have thin hair, you’re probably used to a quick 5-10 minute blow-dry. I know that girls with thick hair already know this is not normal, but when it’s what you’re used to, a 15-minute blow-dry seems like an eternity. Also, in my experience, you can’t air dry extensions. They tend to get wayyy more tangled when they are dry if you didn’t blow-dry them. Trust me, it’s worth the blow-dry time…haha!
Lastly, they can be damaging. I’m not going to say that it doesn’t because that is totally not the truth, and if someone tells you otherwise…they’re lying…lol. However, there are methods that are significantly less damaging than others. The first time I got extensions was about seven years ago. I got tape in’s because that was the method my hair stylist at the time knew how to do. Three days after having them put in, I was back at the salon having them taken out because I was allergic to the glue. I was left with a red scalp and nothing to show for my huge investment.
About two years ago, I decided to try extensions again. I went with the beaded row method because it was new and encouraged, and I can’t even begin to express how damaging it was to my hair. That and the bleaching I was doing, fried my pretty natural hair that I’m still trying to get back. This is not to say that it’s a bad method. My hair was just too thin and fragile to support the tension that each bead was placing and ended up breaking. About a year ago, I switched to the braided method and slowly but surely, my hair is coming back! Finding what method is best for your specific hair is huge! Do you research and know what you’re getting yourself into.
All in all, I love my extensions. I’ve had them for about two years now and I’m not sure when I will go back. Eventually I’d love to have my natural hair again and avoid the maintenance, but we’ll see when I want to give up the “pros” for that 😉.
Please let me know if you have any questions! I would love to help answer them the best I can…or ask my stylist!
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