Whether you’re thinking about them or you already have them, how to look after your hair extensions is one of the most important considerations. This guide aims to tell you everything you need to know about taking care of your extensions. The aim is to keep them looking their best for as long as possible.
As you’re no doubt aware, there are many different types of hair extension. Many are made from human hair, some are synthetic. Some are very temporary, intended to be put in and out regularly. Then there are those that are semi-permanent, designed to be left in your hair for months at a time, such as nano-ring extensions. No matter which type you have, or are thinking of getting, they’re probably quite an investment. You’ll want to look after them as well as you can, so this guide should help.
What’s the most important thing I need to do?
By far the most important thing to take the time to do is to separate out your extensions to avoid tangling and matting. Once extensions become matted, it’s extremely difficult to repair them back to their intended state. If the matting gets bad enough then it’s entirely possible that they might have to be removed altogether.
Tangling and matting can easily happen. Sleeping, styling, general day-to-day living and the natural loss of your own hair all contribute. It’s therefore important that you give your extensions regular attention to avoid this happening as much as possible.
Separating out your extensions is relatively simple. This is especially true if you have clip-in or other temporary extensions. Separating out the bonds is much easier if they’re right in front of you, and you can see any tangles too.
If, however, you have extensions fixed in, here’s what you do. When you have some time, every day if possible, work your fingers into your hair to find the bond of each extension. Then very gently work it free from any other extension, and remove any tangles it may have got caught up in with your natural hair. Try not to pull on the extension or you might cause damage or loosening.
Try and work from one part of your head to another systematically. This will help ensure you don’t miss any, and you’ll get into a routine which will make it easier to do it as often as possible. Once you’ve separated them all out, a good brush should be next.
How do I brush my extensions?
Brushing extensions takes more care than brushing your natural hair. Any breakage is not going to grow back, and you need to avoid damaging any bonds or they’ll be unusable. Consider getting a brush that’s designed for use with hair extensions. Chances are it’ll be cushioned, and have bristles that have just the right flexibility to pull through the hair without damaging it.
A good tip for all brushing all types of hair, whether it’s your own natural hair or extensions, is to start at the bottom and work up. Work the brush gently and slowly through the hair, moving the brush higher gradually, until you’re just below the bond. Hold the bond all the time you’re brushing, to avoid any tugging and damage.
When you’ve brushed through all your hair, then it might be time to wash it!
How do I wash my hair extensions?
Not that often, basically! Obviously, this is much easier if you have clip-in or other types of removable extensions. Remember, your hair extensions are not getting nutrients and hydrating oils from your scalp like your own hair is. So every time you wash them, you’re drying them out further.
There are a number of products available that are designed specifically to help you care for hair extensions. For instance, Additional Lengths do a range of products designed to help you cleanse and care for your extensions. Your choice of product should also be influenced by what type of extensions you have, i.e. natural or synthetic, and the manufacturer’s instructions.
Whichever products you choose, you should make sure that they are not alcohol-based. Alcohol-based products will dry out the hair and make it dull, which is exactly what you want to avoid. If you have synthetic hair extensions, there are specific products for those too, such as these.
Position is all-important. If you like to hang your head over the sink or the bath when you wash your hair, you might want to rethink that. That’s a great way to encourage tangles! Standing up in the shower with your head angled backwards allows your hair to hang in a natural way and the water to flow smoothly over it.
Apply your chosen shampoo generously, (you have more hair now!), but don’t rub it in. That circular motion that you might be used to employing is now your enemy. Work the shampoo gently down the lengths of your hair, being careful not to snag any bonds and tug your extensions. Rinse it out, probably giving it longer than you normally would. Shampoo suds may get caught around the bonds of the extensions, and you really don’t want any left in as it will make your hair more likely to tangle and matt.
Apply conditioner, only to the mid-lengths and ends though. Avoid the area around the bonds as you don’t want to loosen them in any way or make them more “slippy”. Rinse out thoroughly. If you have removable extensions, consider leaving them soaking in conditioner for an hour or so to really give them a conditioning boost.
Every so often, think about using an intensive conditioning treatment. Remember, your extensions will be far more likely to degrade in condition than your natural hair – they need all the help they can get.
When you’re done, resist the urge to wrap your hair in a towel turban. That’s a good way to encourage tangles. Instead, pat and squeeze your extensions until they’re no longer dripping wet. If you have removable extensions try laying them flat on a towel, wrapping it over them and placing them somewhere warm to dry slowly. Once they’re just damp, apply some leave-in conditioner.
How do I style my hair extensions?
As little as possible. All heat styling can potentially damage hair extensions. This is especially true of synthetic ones. It’s important to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers of synthetic extensions will recommend that you use heat very carefully, if at all. You may be ok with something like low-heat rollers, but it’s best to check.
It’s probably wise to steer clear of excessive products too. Some, like mousses or hairsprays, could cause hair to stick together and tangle. However, some products can be real life-savers, such as a heat protection spray if you’re going to style your hair using heat.
When using any type of heat-producing tool, try and stay away from the bonds of your extensions or you might melt them. Try to control the flow of air from your hairdryer to avoid too much flying around and tangling – a narrow nozzle should help you to direct the flow.
What else can you tell me about how to look after hair extensions?
The second most important thing to do when maintaining your extensions is to never, ever, sleep in them when they’re anything other than bone-dry. You will definitely cause them to tangle and matt, and they will have a much shorter life.
There are a couple of things to do with your leave-in extensions when you’re sleeping. Either tie them into a plait (using a non-snag hair tie – definitely no elastic bands, please!) or up into a scarf. Or perhaps both to be sure! Consider getting pillow cases made of a smooth fabric (such as satin) to reduce the friction of your hair moving against it.
Tying up your hair extensions is good advice when you’re doing something like playing sports too. You don’t really want them getting all sweaty or swinging around all over the place. Get them out of the way!
And speaking of sports, swimming is definitely not great for your extensions. Regardless of whether you’re in the sea or the pool, or whether you have human hair or synthetic hair extensions, it isn’t a good idea. Salt and chlorine will both damage the condition of your extensions and chlorine will potentially alter the colour of them too.
If you can’t avoid this, either wear a cap or try and keep your head out of the water as much as possible. And if you can’t do that, wash the salt or chlorine out as soon as possible afterwards. Get a de-chlorinating shampoo to do the best clean-up job you can.
If you’re on holiday, bear in mind that sitting in the sun might affect your extensions too. Sun exposure may bleach or change the colour, and might even melt your bonds. It’s also probably best to avoid getting sun protection products on them too.
And what about longer-term?
If you had your extensions fitted by a professional stylist, they probably recommended that you have regular appointments to maintain them, right? Well if you thought that they only said that to try and get some more money out of you, you’d be wrong.
If you’ve spent some reasonable money already then you’d be crazy not to use a professional to help get the best out of your extensions going forwards. Your stylist will make sure that any tangling or matting that you’ve not managed to keep at bay is dealt with. They will also ensure that any stray ends are trimmed, and that your extensions are perfectly placed. All this is well worth it to ensure they look their best.
And that’s about it!
If you follow all the advice in this guide then you should get the best out of your hair extensions, whichever type you have. If you had any questions about how to look after hair extensions then hopefully this guide will have answered them. Then you’ll be well on your way to a long-term love-affair with your hair!