We’re always talking about Ariana Grande’s signature high pony and Jennifer Lopez’s luscious locks, but what’s the secret to their flowing manes? Why it's the magic of hair extensions, folks. These installments give our favorite celebrities the illusion of fuller and longer hair. Whether you have short, curly or blonde locks, extensions give everyone an opportunity to switch things up. The only question you need to ask yourself is which one is the right style for you?
The 6 Different Types of Hair Extensions You Can Get for a Lengthier Mane
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How To Choose The Right Hair Extensions
Hair extensions come in many forms and styles. When deciding between them, you’ll want to consider their longevity, the type of hair used (aka human or synthetic), the cost and the installment process. As you take these four factors into account, you can start to narrow down the best hair service for you.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REAL HUMAN HAIR EXTENSIONS VS SYNTHETIC HAIR EXTENSIONS?
Before picking a style, it’s important to understand the differences between human and synthetic hair beyond the obvious (human hair comes from, well, humans and synthetic hair is created using plastic fibers).
- For human hair extensions: They’re often the most popular pick because they’re smooth and silky to touch. You can also style the extensions however you want without worrying about damaging the strands. Overall, human hair extensions blend in more seamlessly, giving off the illusion that you naturally have a fuller, longer mane.
- For synthetic hair extensions: Their main selling point is the price. Synthetic hair is more affordable than human hair because of its material. Some synthetic extensions closely mimic human hair, but it’ll feel slightly coarser and thicker. It’s recommended not to apply any heat or chemicals to style them, as it can cause damage to the extensions. In sum, if you’re looking for a more temporary (and cost-efficient) look, synthetic hair is the way to go.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HAIR EXTENSIONS
Once you figure out the type of hair you want, you can move on to selecting the form, length and color of your extensions next. Check out the six different types of hair extensions below (and get ready to unleash your inner Rapunzel):
Clip-in extensions are wefts that are clipped into your natural hair. This type of extension is considered the easiest, quickest and safest of the bunch. If you’re looking for a temporary style change, clip-ins are the best choice, as they’re low-maintenance and commitment-free. “Clip-ins can change your look in a matter of minutes, with zero damage to your real hair,” says Paul Rus, a stylist partner at Irresistible Me Hair Extensions.
Rus suggests adding four clips in the back (for volume) and two to three smaller clips on the sides to create the perfect blend. This service only takes a few minutes and can be done right at home—no professional needed. Since you can do it yourself, it’s also the most affordable option, ranging between $100 to $300. You can rock clip-in extensions about 15 to 20 times and you can easily wash and style them without worrying about heat or chemical damage.
Tape-in extensions are adhesive strips placed at the roots using heated glue. “Tape-ins work in ’sandwiches,’ meaning that you place a thin strand of hair between two pieces of extensions, and they all get glued together at the root,” explains Rus. “The strand of hair you're sandwiching needs to be very thin, about 1⁄8 inch, so the adhesive on both sides can bind together through the hair. If you pinch two fingers together and can feel them through the hair, you’re good to go.”
It can take between 40 minutes to an hour to complete the application process. As a result, the price tag can be a bit higher and typically starts at around $200+. However, tape-ins are the easiest to manage and have the quickest installation time of all the semi-permanent hair extensions. To best care for them, you should wash and style them delicately. Rus recommends avoiding sulfate or oil-based products to keep the adhesive from loosening or drying out the extensions themselves (because no one wants a hair extension slipping off at an event). Tape-ins can last for 8 to 12 weeks before they need to be removed (using solvent spray).
Sew-ins (or weaves) are the most popular hair extensions, especially for thicker hair. First, your natural hair is braided into cornrows and then, the extension is weaved into the braids using a needle and some thread. The installation takes around two (or more) hours depending on the number of rows needed. Since it’s a long process, sew-ins can cost around $250+. The extra secure fit makes it the most permanent and longest-lasting service of the six options, so you never have to worry about your extensions falling out prematurely. You can expect to enjoy them for up to 8 to 10 weeks before it’s time for removal. A great tip for maintaining their health is to add moisturizing products (like deep conditioner and protein-based masks) into your routine.
Microbead (or i-Tips) extensions use tiny beads and pliers to clamp the extensions in place. These beads are usually matched to your hair color, making it easy to blend them in seamlessly with your natural strands. There’s no heat or glue involved and it takes around 2 to 4 hours to complete the look. You can rock the installment for up to four months before getting it redone. To keep them in top shape throughout that duration, you'll want to be gentle when styling, brushing and washing your hair.
5. Fusion Bonds
Fusion bonds are special keratin tips that are applied directly over your natural hair. This process uses a heated clamp to melt the glue and keep the extension in place. Similar to microbead extensions, it takes around 2 to 4 hours to complete the entire process. While they can be styled as you please, fusion bonds also come with a few challenges. For starters, they feature numerous chemicals that can cause hair loss, breakage and even scalp irritation for some people. It’s also a super expensive process, as you’ll have to reapply them every two to three months when new hair grows in. However, if you want a stronger and longer hold, and you have naturally fine hair, they’re a great choice.
Some people forget that hairpieces—wigs, buns and ponytail clippings—are a form of hair extensions. These accessories add fullness and length just like other extensions, while letting you switch up your look. When it comes to lengthening your ponytail, it only takes a few steps to rock the look: “Start by putting your hair up in a ponytail. Then, place the ponytail extension over it, with the comb inserted on top of the hair tie for a stronger grip. Once the pony is in place, use the textile bands to secure it. You can then use a strand of hair to cover the textile base for a perfect blending,” says Rus.
He adds, “They look perfectly natural and feel very secure thanks to the comb and ties, so you can move around as much as you want without the fear of the pony sliding off.” Depending on whether you get human or synthetic hair, the prices can vary from $50 to $300. The same goes for wigs. Overall, these are all quick and temporary styles you can try on your own.