Guide to Fake and Human Hair Extensions

Few of us are blessed with long, flowing locks. But now it's much easier to look like we have been. Thanks to hair extensions, we can change our hair length and style whenever we want an ordinary makeover or the perfect hair for a prom or special event. Knowing your options and how to care for fake or human hair extensions can help you go from short to long in a single salon appointment.

Find the Right Stylist
You should always consult your stylist before your actual hair extension appointment to discuss your needs and concerns. Ask to see before and after photos of extensions the stylist has worked on in the past, and ask about the method and hair quality being used for your extensions.

An extension specialist should also be able to tell you if your hair is suitable for extensions. Experts suggest choosing extensions that are no longer than twice your own hair length and to pick a texture much like your own hair because it will make styling easier.

Human Versus Synthetic Hair
Hair extensions fall into two main categories: human hair and synthetic hair. Each hair type has its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

Human Hair. With human hair, you get what you pay for. Unprocessed hairs or "virgin" hairs usually have the highest quality. These hairs have been taken right from an individual's head and still have all of the cuticles aligned in the same direction, making them easier to attach. Lower quality hairs usually have a cuticle base going in different directions, which leads to mangled hair when the hairs are attached to an individual's head.

Human hair extensions come in a variety of grades and are advertised by ethnic origin. India, China and other Asian nations are the greatest suppliers of unprocessed hair. Eastern European nations supply most hair for Caucasian women. The hair can last approximately one year if cared for properly and requires a bit more maintenance than synthetic hair.

Synthetic Hair. These man-made fibers are used to create length and are meant to blend in with human hair. Many individuals have complained that this type of hair doesn't move and look like normal human hair, so it doesn't blend as well with your own hair.

Synthetic hair lasts approximately one to three months. Since the hair has a pre-set style, it should not lose its shape in the rain as human hair tends to. When you style your hair, avoid using heat-styling tools or color-treating synthetic hair, as it will damage the extensions.

Strands Versus Wefts
Individual Strands or Bulk Hair. This method takes small amounts of hair (about 20 to 50 strands) and attaches them to your own hair by weaving, gluing and heat fusing. It's best for straight, slightly wavy, thin or fine hair and can be applied closely to the hair root to work with your own hair movement. They usually last a few months.

Wefts. A weft looks like a curtain of hair and can be machine-made or handmade. Since handmade wefts are custom-made, stylists usually prefer to use them since they blend better with an individual's own hair. They are applied by weaving or braiding hair into one track (row) rather than strand by strand.

Hair Extension Methods
Although you can choose from numerous types of hair extensions, four types are most commonly used: weaving, fusion, bonding and clip-in hair extensions. Your stylist will be able to determine the best type of hair extension for your hair type and condition.

Weaving: The stylist creates tracks or rows on the head and the extensions are sewn in using a needle. This is the most widely used method because of its natural look and lack of chemical use. Some individuals have complained of discomfort because the method pulls hair tight.

Fusion: Acrylic glue is used to attach the extension directly to the individual's hair using a tool similar to an art glue gun.

Bonding: A bonding glue is put on the weft and attached to the root of the hair. This is the simplest type of extension and temporary, as a glue remover can easily take out most extensions.

Clip-in: Simply clip in this hair extension and take it out whenever you want. Clip-in hair extensions are generally the most affordable and require the least amount of maintenance.

Care for Your Extensions
Hair extensions tend to wear out with normal wash and wear. Try to wash your hair about two to three times a week, rather than every day. Never go to sleep with your hair wet, and put your hair in a ponytail to avoid waking up with tangles.

Don't be afraid to brush your hair. Your hair extensions will not fall out from brushing, but try not to brush too harshly, as too much brushing may cause the bonds to loosen. Use a brush with soft bristles, and work your way up your hair from the bottom to the top. When you reach your scalp, always hold the extension at the root area and brush gently from the root through the ends.

If you want to straighten your hair, the heat will probably cause damage to the hair extensions. When straightening synthetic hair extensions, use a low heat setting or don't use heat-styling products at all, as the heat will cause hair to warp or burn. If you plan to use heat-styling products, some companies now make heat-safe synthetic extensions.

Visit your stylist every four to six weeks to check for damage and to replace any bonds that have loosened.

Problems With Hair Extensions
Besides costing a pretty penny, hair extensions can also damage your natural hair near the attached area, and too many extensions can cause a strain on the scalp. Swimmers should wear a swim cap as the chlorine in pools and salt water in the ocean can weaken the extension bonds.

The most important thing to remember when getting hair extensions is to choose the method and type best suited for your hair and to follow the proper care in order to maintain your long, flowing locks.

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