Whether you’re waiting for your hair to grow out, want a change-up from your regular ‘do, or looking to experiment with Rapunzel-esque lengths, you can turn to the various different types of hair extensions that exist. All work to give you instant length and fullness without the long-term commitment. And these faux lengths have been skyrocketing in popularity: According to trend data aggregation platform Spate, there are 1.2 million monthly searches for hair extensions in the U.S. — which goes to show it’s not just A-listers who are wearing them.
While extensions may be having a modern-day renaissance, their history is longer than any hairpiece one could wear. “Wigs have been here since the beginning of the time — think of the white wigs back in the 17th Century,” LilyBeth Vargas, hairstylist at The Parlor in New York City, points out as one early example. But the very first wigs have been traced back to Ancient Egypt. More recent examples are the weave extensions that came out in the 1950s and then the Great Lengths extensions that rose to prominence in the ’90s.
Today, there are hundreds of extension variations on the market, Stephanie Angelone, master stylist at RPZL Extensions Bar, tells Bustle. “But the most popular are clip-ins, tape extensions, keratin-bonded extensions, and hand-tied extensions,” she says. All of these differ in cost, application time and technique, and durability.
Need help discerning between all the options out there? Read on for the answers to all your hair extension FAQs, as explained by hair pros.
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Different Types Of Hair Extensions
What Are Clip-In Extensions?
Clip-in extensions are exactly what they sound like, and are by and large the most common due to their versatility. They’re an ideal option for those who prefer additional length or volume for specific events as opposed to everyday use since they’re only supposed to be worn for one day.
How Long Do Clip-Ins Last?
This variety is the least long-lasting of the bunch. “Clip-in extensions are also known as temporary extensions,” Angelone tells Bustle. “These can come in one big piece or in multiple smaller pieces, usually in packs of eight,” she says, explaining that these pieces are called wefts. “There are clips sewn onto these wefts, and these clips get clipped in and out of your own hair,” she explains. This means you have to take them out every night, then re-apply and style them the next day or for the next event you’re looking to wear them.
Clip-In Pros & Cons
You can choose from countless kinds of clip-in extensions, including braids, ponies, and bangs, all of which range by length, texture, and color — meaning you can have a whole collection to pick from depending on your mood. That’s also why they’re great for quick style switch-ups since you literally clip them in yourself rather than hit up a specialist for them to be installed.
If you take good care of them — never sleep with them clipped in, brush them out regularly — Angelone says clip-ins can last for years. Plus, this is the only type of hair extension that is truly 100% damage-free, as it only impacts your hair as much as a regular clip would.
The only downside? They’re not at all permanent, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for something longer-term.
How Much Do Clip-Ins Cost?
Clip-in extensions can range from $25 to $500, depending on the type of hair used and where you purchase them from.
What Are Tape-In Extensions?
Tape-ins are also just what they sound like: Both Vargas and Angelone describe the process as “sandwiching” one’s natural hair between two adhesives. “Tape extensions are two little strips of tape with hair attached to them that you then put your natural hair in between,” Vargas says. According to Justine Marjan, celebrity hairstylist and Great Lengths ambassador, the application is quick and takes about 90 minutes.
How Long Do Tape-Ins Last?
Tape-in extensions last between six and eight weeks, making them an ideal option for weddings, vacations, and other long-lasting events, says Marjan.
Tape-In Pros & Cons
According to Angelone, tapes are weightless, invisible, and comfortable, and applied to your natural hair without using direct heat. Tapes also allow you to reuse the same set of extensions two to three times, meaning you don’t have to re-purchase hair for each application, as long as you wash, blow dry, and brush the hair between each appointment. Removal is also an easy process — your stylist simply adds a solution to loosen the adhesives.
As for the cons? According to Vargas, tape-ins can start losing their stickiness quickly and slip out. “They grow out and slip out,” she says. Another downside is that they’re more visible, so these aren’t the best if you are always rocking high ponytails.
How Much Do Tape-Ins Cost?
Tape extensions can range from $200 to $500, depending on the type of hair used and where you’re located.
Keratin Bond Extensions
What Are Keratin Bond Extensions?
Keratin bonds, also known as fusion extensions, are the most high-tech variety of faux lengths. “Small pieces of hair — with the same keratin your hair is made of — are attached to small pieces of natural hair just off the root,” Marjan explains. These bonds are then fused with your natural hair (hence the nickname “fusion” extensions) with ultrasound waves and friction, adds celebrity hairstylist Marc Mena.
How Long Do Keratin Bonds Last?
According to Mena, keratin bond extensions last about three to four months and don’t require additional tweaks in between appointments. “Some people go to six months, but they shouldn’t wait that long because it starts to damage the hair by weighing it down,” he says.
Keratin Bond Pros & Cons
Both Marjan and Mena cite keratin bonds as their most trusted type of extension. “When done with great skill and quality, they blend seamlessly with natural hair for an undetectable finish,” Marjan tells Bustle, adding that they’re comfortable and tend to look most “natural” because they’re so customizable. Full-size bonds can be cut into half, thirds, or fourths of their original sizes to match your actual hair width and texture, which helps them last longer while maintaining their full thickness, adds Mena. Therefore, these are an ideal option for those who love super long lengths, want longer-term wear, and/or are adding highlights or lowlights to their color.
Because the application is so tedious, however, keratin bonds can take anywhere from three to six hours to apply. And, according to Vargas, the hair that’s attached to the keratin bond will slowly start to fall out — as all hair naturally does — and it being attached to a keratin bond could lead to potential breakage and possible bald spots down the line. The hair also cannot be reused, and repurchasing every few months can be costly. To get keratin bonds removed, a pro uses acetone or alcohol to break apart the bond, which is then removed with pliers, says Mena.
How Much Do Keratin Bonds Cost?
Keratin bonds range from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the type of hair used and how much length and/or volume you prefer.
What Are Hand-Tied Extensions?
Hand-tied extensions are one of the newer options offered, which Angelone defines as the ultimate customization experience. “They’re seamless and preferred by our stylists, as they require no tape, glue, or heat for application,” she tells Bustle.
Dafina Smith, founder and CEO of extension brand Covet & Mane, echoes how personalized the method is. She notes that when applying hand-tied extensions, stylists tie 10 to 15 strands of human hair at a time with a loom (aka a weaving device). These extensions are tied to beads attached to your hair, and it’s done without many connection points of friction. “There is no lace or thick piece of fabric traditionally known as a weft, so this allows for a durable yet weightless distribution of hair,” Smith explains.
Hand-Tied Extensions Pros & Cons
As noted above, hand-tied extensions are the most customizable option on the market. “They’re flexible and adaptable to suit a variety of textures and density,” notes Smith. “Stylists can tailor extensions to the shape and size of their client's hair without having the hair unravel when they cut it. This way, no glue is required to seal it.” Stylists add anywhere from three to six wefts of different tones, colors, and textures so that clients can have a seamless-looking finish. But the best part, Smith says, is how delicate the removal process is, as it requires no acetone, alcohol, or hash tools that could dry or weaken the hair (as seen in tapes and keratin bonds). “The removal does not involve anything other than opening the beads and releasing the hair from the foundation,” she adds. And this is done in a matter of minutes.
Cons are harder to pin down because the process is so new, though Smith does note that if clients are looking for a dramatic change or a departure from their natural color and/or texture — think, you have curly hair but want straight extensions — a wig or full sew-in would be a more suitable choice.
How Long Do Hand-Tied Extensions Last?
These can last anywhere from nine months to a year, though need to adjustment on your hair every six to nine weeks, Angelone tells Bustle.
How Much Do Hand-Tied Extensions Cost?
Hand-tied extensions range from $200 to $2,000, depending on the type of hair used and the look and volume you go with.
How To Care For Hair Extensions
Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner
After having extensions installed, experts advise switching to sulfate and silicone-free hair products, as silicone contributes to bonds loosening prematurely. For that same reason, pros advise against using conditioner and styling products at the root near bonds or where the hair is tied, as this can cause them to soften and prompt extensions to fall out.
Blow Dry With Caution
According to experts, you should never leave extensions soaking wet, as the weight of the water will pull on and therefore weaken the bonds. Thus, Marjan suggests always blow drying hair immediately after washing.
At the same time, be sure to practice caution when blow drying. “Towel dry your extensions and blow dry the roots without getting too close to the bond,” advises Angelone, who suggests using a diffuser attachment when you need to get close to the scalp. And, of course, always use heat protection when styling (just not directly on the roots).
Brush Regularly — But Gently
While it’s imperative to brush extensions consistently to avoid tangles, how you brush them matters, too. “Always brush hair [while] holding onto the hair on the mid-lengths so there isn’t tugging at the roots,” Marjan suggests. Angelone echoes this, adding you also shouldn’t brush your hair upside down as this may jeopardize the application and pull extensions out.
Angelone recommends brushing hair at least two to three times a day — aka every morning and night — and using a double bristle brush with boar bristles, as hair is less likely to get stuck, she notes. There are also brushes specifically designed for extensions, such as the those by RPZL and Great Lengths.
Protect Your Hair At Night
Always protect your extensions from tangling or matting overnight: Knots damage bonds, and brushing them out can cause extensions to become loose. Vargas and Mena suggest always sleeping with your hair in braids or a tight bun. Marjan recommends tying your hair with silk elastics or scrunchies because they’re gentle on the hair, though you can also wrap your hair in a cap or bonnet if you find it easier.
Finally, Mena also suggests switching to a satin pillowcase, as it can help prevent fiction, breakage, and tangles.
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