Once upon a time, women who had cut their hair had to wait months and even years for it to grow back. Thanks to advancements in professional hair extensions, this isn’t the case anymore. Instead, you can add natural-looking extensions to change the length of your hair and to explore different styles. These extensions are either made of synthetic hair-like materials or natural hair. They can be styled just like your hair, and using similar tools and products.
Differences in Natural Hair Extensions & Synthetic Hair Extensions
Natural hair extensions are more common than synthetic, and there are many reasons why that’s the case. Natural hair extensions are just like your real hair – they can be straightened & curled, they look great in an updo, and they have the texture of your hair. They come in all colors & lengths, and can be straight, wavy, or curly. The options here are endless! Your natural hair extensions can become damaged just like your hair, though, so it’s important that they are properly cared for.
Tips for maintaining natural hair extensions:
- Use a deep conditioner on your extensions just like you would on your hair. This will help them maintain their softness and keep them looking good for longer. Be sure to avoid putting the deep conditioner on the spot where the extension attaches to your hair, as it can loosen the bond.
- Keep your styling products on a low heat. You should be doing this with your hair, too! Heat is one of the main causes of damage to your hair, and one of many reasons your hair may not be growing as quickly as you’d like.
- Use a good detangler on your extensions. One of the main problem people have with extensions is that they can tangle, so it’s important to use a good detangler daily, and carry a boar-bristle brush with you to comb through your hair throughout the day.
- Before bed, put your hair in a braid or braids to help it stay soft. Your hair follicles will thank you! Also, sleeping on a silk pillowcase or with a silk scarf will also protect your hair at night.
Synthetic hair extensions are a bit less common than natural hair, and for good reason. Some brands will claim you can style them just like your hair but that simply isn’t true. Synthetic extensions will tangle faster, and can burn off very easily. They also will never lose the shiney texture that is hard to match to natural hair. They are great for braids or for events, and are a less expensive alternative.
Tips for managing synthetic hair extensions:
- If you have synthetic extensions, try to not style them too frequently. They can be damaged rather quickly so it’s best to keep the styling to a minimum.
- Wash them regularly with specific synthetic hair shampoo & conditioner.
- They’re a good alternative for short time use, like for an event or for a hair show.
Just like your natural hair can become frizzy, dry and unmanageable if it is not taken care of properly, extensions can be damaged through frequent use of styling tools and improper care. Like your hair, though, they can be repaired and you can prevent further damage with the right care.
The damage that is most frequently seen in hair extensions is that they become dry and brittle due to excessive styling. Extensions that are exposed to repeated heating tangle more easily, and can even break off. Synthetic hair extensions are cheaper to replace than repair in many cases, but natural, high-quality human hair extensions can be repaired with proper care and deep conditioning treatments.
How to Wash Your Hair Extensions
The best choice for ensuring your high-quality, professional extensions have a long life is to have them washed every five to seven days at the salon. This requires a huge investment in both money and time, though. It is possible to take good care of your extensions at home, but you have to know how to properly wash and condition them.
Before you begin washing your extensions, comb them gently to remove any tangles. Start at the bottom of your hair and work your way up, don’t start brushing from the top or you can worsen the damage. From there, Dampen your hair and extensions with warm water.
Use a mild shampoo, and work it into the hair in small movements. Stay away from using any shampoo with sulfur in it, as it will really dry out your extensions. What you want to avoid is scrunching your hair together as it can cause tangles. Rinse them completely with warm water, squeeze out the excess water, and then apply a moisturizing conditioner. The ends of your extensions receive more exposure to heated styling products, apply the conditioner here first. Choose a nourishing conditioner, and massage it into the length of the extension. Make sure you rinse it completely, because residue will make the hair dull and lifeless.
After your hair and extensions have been washed, do NOT towel dry them! Towels cause excess damage to your hair by ‘roughing up’ the cuticle, which cannot easily be replaced in extensions. Instead, take a cotton material (like a t-shirt) and use it to squeeze out the excess water before drying. Even better, let your hair air dry as often as possible and only use a dryer on your roots. It’s tempting to flip your head upside down and go to town with a towel, but it needs to be avoided especially if you have extensions.
Hot Oil Treatments
One of the best deep conditioning treatments for natural hair or natural extensions is through using a hot oil treatment. This helps to cure split ends, repair damage and make the hair look healthier and shinier. Hydrated hair is healthier hair, and less likely to break.
Choosing the right hot oil treatment is simple. There are many options in any beauty supply store, or your stylist can recommend an oil treatment. The key to choosing a quality treatment is avoiding one with alcohol in it. This can dry the hair even further.
To use the oil, heat it according to the package instructions. This usually includes warming it in hot water, with your hands or in the microwave. Then, massage the oil into the extensions, and comb through it. Throw on a shower cap & let the oil absorb into your hair and extensions. Again, be sure to avoid putting the oil directly on the bonded part between your hair and extension. This could be where the bead is, the glue, or whatever method your stylist used. Leave the oil treatment on for the time indicated on the packaging. This is usually around five minutes.
Rinse the oil from the extension with warm water, and blot it gently with a towel. Be careful not to scrunch, scrub or rub the hair. Allow the extensions to air dry hanging or laying flat.
Keeping Extensions Looking Great
The easiest way to keep extensions looking healthy and natural is to prevent causing damage to them in the first place. The same things that cause damage to your natural hair also damage extensions. This means you can use the same methods to keep them healthy.
Avoiding heated styling tools such as curling irons, blow dryers and hair straighteners as much as possible can help extend the life of your extensions. Applying a heat protector when you are using these tools for styling can also help. Apply hair color to your extensions only if it is absolutely necessary. Try to get extensions that best match your natural hair, as coloring them will cause some damage.Apply a deep conditioning treatment regularly, as this will also help to keep them looking great. Avoid using a lot of product on them, as the less you wash them the longer they will last. Using a light olive oil on your hair and extensions is beneficial, just be sure to use in moderation. If you need more tips, check out our styling tips for human hair extensions.
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