Today we're going to talk about something I surprisingly probably get more e-mails and inquiries about than my wardrobe choices - and that is my hair extensions. Ever since I mentioned that I have them, I have been receiving a steady stream of all kinds of questions: What kind do I wear? How much do they cost? Where in LA do I get them done? So I wanted to address all of these questions today, and hopefully shed some light on the situation for ya.
I think it's safe to say that these days it's become a lot more common for ladies to wear a bit of extra hair on their heads. Sure, there are plenty of women who were blessed with impressive manes, but it's no secret that a lot of the luscious hair we see in the media has a little (or a lot) of help from locks that didn't naturally grow there. I got kind of unlucky with the thinnest, puniest hair imaginable, and growing up it was always an insecurity for me. Now it's a treat to be able to have that hair I always wished I had, even if it's in kind of a roundabout way and I can't imagine going back to my regular hair anytime soon. Keep in mind that I am in no way an expert in hair extensions or hair in general for that matter, so definitely talk to your extensions stylist (don't worry, I recommend some below) for more information. I'm just simply sharing what I've learned from my three years of experience wearing them...
What kind of extensions do you have, and what kind do you recommend? There are lots of different types of extension methods out there - wefts, individuals, clip-in, tape-in, etc. Every method has its pros and cons and what's best for you is totally based on personal preference and your specific hair. I have tried 3 different methods - clip-ins (for my wedding), sew-in wefts, and beaded wefts. The "wefts" are rows of hair sewn together in a line at the top which connect to a row of your hair at the root. So, kind of like clip-ins but they stay in permanently - well at least until you take them out. I have worn anywhere from two to four rows at one given time. The beaded wefts are like the sewn-in but they connect only with beads that clamp them to the hair at the root with no thread woven throughout, which makes them quicker to do but less secure, less thorough, and more stressful on the hair (not great if you have thin or weak hair like me). The sew-in's are my favorite because they are very safe on the hair, chemical-free, and very natural looking. I have never tried the individual (like mirco links or keratin tips) because I personally think they can look wormy/stringy when not styled properly, and I've heard that the tape ones aren't very secure and can fall out. Clip-ins were great to have for a special occasion and to see how I felt wearing extensions without committing to a longer term method, but I didn't find them to be practical for everyday use.
What's it like wearing them? Do you have to do anything special to care for them? I'm not going to lie, it took some getting used to. The first couple of nights my scalp was sensitive and I felt like I had little rocks stuck to my head. But just like anything, I got used to it really fast and after awhile hardly even noticed they were there. You do have to work around it when washing and styling it - you can't just fully run your fingers through it which can feel weird. Certain hairstyles can be harder to do - a tight top knot, for example, doesn't really happen for me. I can still put it up - just a bit more loosely and with careful placement. I also needed to buy different hair products than I was used to, like a heavier conditioner (I love the Macadamia Oil Deep Repair Masque), and a serum for the ends (Kerastase Exilir Ultime is my favorite right now). The best thing is that my blowouts last longer with extensions. I used to have to wash my hair everyday but now I'll do it every three days or so, which is perfect because I hate showering. Ugh, it's so boring.
How much do extensions cost? You're looking at spending a minimum of $300 for your first appointment, and can spend up to $1,000 or more, depending on where you go (see below) and the quality of the hair. Maintenance appointments can cost anywhere from from $30 all the way up to $500+. Maintenance (tightening) happens every 5 to 10 weeks. I know that's a wide range but it seems to depend on your hair, the method you're using, and how secure/good of a job they do.
Where do you recommend in LA for hair extensions? Lots of salons offer hair extensions, but you do have to do your research to find one that's in your price range, offers GOOD hair, and the method you want. I can give you two strong recommendations from personal experience of where to go in LA, for two different price ranges. I'm sorry this part leaves out anyone outside of LA, but I have only been to places where I live...
Kacey at Jonathan and George Salon - Kacey is the creme de la creme of hair extension experts in LA. She does her own sew-in method that's very particular, secure, always perfect, and completely natural. The quality of hair she provides is top of the line (it's angel hair I tell you) and she does gorgeous Pin-worthy color as well. There's nothing you need to worry about with her because her work and product are the best of the best. She is priced accordingly, so if the money isn't an issue then I highly recommend her. Call Jonathan & George salon for more information and pricing.
Just Extensions - If you are on a budget or are looking to try extensions for the first time without making an investment, then I definitely recommend this place. It's an extensions-only hair salon that just opened on La Brea, and it's where I got my extensions most recently (the ones you see in these photos). It's the Dry Bar of hair extensions. Extensions are all they do there, and the place has an open, fresh vibe very similar to DryBar (champagne included). They offer all the different methods of extensions, and will do a great job matching your hair's color and texture. Their prices range from around $100 to $400 for your first appointment, and $75 for maintenance appointments. I am very happy with my extensions from them - they are very good quality for the price point, not to mention a great match to my natural hair. The application is very secure, and the salon is a pleasant fun place to go have your hair done. Riqua the owner is very passionate and knowledgeable about extensions, and she will educate you on the process and get you all set up with some great hair.
A few more tips on how to avoid making some mistakes I made...
When you go to a new place for extensions... I recommend going in first for a consultation to discuss which method is right for you, get a price quote (since it can range drastically), and get your hair matched. Tell them all about your natural hair's texture and tendencies so you can be sure to get as close of a match as possible. If you have naturally curly hair, then you won't want stick straight extension hair, etc. After you have your extensions put in, you'll probably want to go to your usual hair stylist for a more thorough or specific cut, and any highlights or any color you might want to do.
Keep in mind that there are no guarantees with hair that's not your own. I did have one bad experience with a salon in Orange County where I spent hundreds of dollars and ended up with a horrid tangled mess of hair that I couldn't get a brush through and had to remove completely within two months. Always strive to get the best quality of hair that you possibly can and ask questions. You can't always tell by looking at it if it's going to be good or not. My bad round of hair was gorgeously silky at first because it had been treated with chemicals to make it appear perfect. Have your extensions stylist fill you in on the details of where the hair comes from and make sure they can tell you why you can expect good quality from the hair you are getting from them. You don't know exactly what the hair's history is. So if you decide to highlight your hair, it may lift to a different tone than your natural hair. Nothing a good colorist can't handle, but certainly something to keep in mind.
So I hope this was helpful for those of you who have been curious about hair extensions. Like I said, I'm no expert but I've definitely had my fair share of time with them now and am happy to share my experience in hopes of helping anyone who might be considering giving them a try.
Disclaimer: Just Extensions provided me with these extensions gratis so I could try out their service, and I am only telling you about them because I'm genuinely happy with the hair and do really recommend them. I would never rave about a product, brand, or service that I didn't love.
Photos by Ian Sheppard