First Time Hair Extension Wearer? Don't Fret! Follow These Easy Tips to Pick the Right Set For You!

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If you’ve ever seen a celebrity sporting a long bob one week and rocking waist-length tresses a few weeks later, you’ve witnessed the magic of hair extensions. You too, can channel your inner Rapunzel and add inches and volume to your locks without the hassle (and heaps of patience) that come with growing it out. To help you decide which type of hair extension is right for you, we spoke with Riqua Hailes, owner and founder of Just Extensions salon in Los Angeles. She gave us the full lowdown on extensions and breakdown of the six techniques most requested in her salon.

Extensions 101: Advice for First-Timers

If you’re a first-time extension wearer, Hailes recommends you invest in high-quality, virgin human hair. “It may be expensive, but it’s worth it because it lasts longer and typically doesn’t tangle or mat,” she says. But be certain on the length you want before you buy; the longer the hair extension, the more expensive.

As for caring for extensions, Hailes explains that you don’t need to wash them daily. Instead, lather up only when you need to. “The more you wash the extensions with everyday shampoos, the faster they'll dry out,” she says. Hailes recommends using a shampoo and conditioner specifically designed for hair extensions, such as KeraCare Gentle Cleansing Shampoo. After you wash your hair, run a wide-tooth comb through your tresses to prevent tangles. It's also best to let extensions to air dry whenever possible. The less heat and styling products you use, the longer the shelf life of your extensions. To prevent matting, Hailes advises you avoid sleeping in wet extensions, and braid your hair or wear a bonnet at night.

Cost Key
$ = less than $100
$$ = between $100–$200
$$$ = more than $200

Note: this is for application only and does not include purchase of actual hair extension; prices vary by salon.

Six Popular Application Techniques 


Skin Weft

How it works: your natural hair is sandwiched between the extensions and sealed together with a flat iron
How long it lasts: about 4–6 weeks before it’ll need to be removed and/or reapplied
The perks: easy to apply, lies flat, and feels natural to the touch
The drawbacks: not as flexible as other types of hair extensions
Best for: Thin, fine, or short hair
Average cost: $$ + hair extension

Micro-Link, I-Tip, or Cold Fusion

How it works: a stylist applies the hair extensions strand by strand; the extensions are attached to your natural hair via micro-cylinders (they look like tiny beads)
How long it lasts: about 8–10 weeks before it needs to be tightened to prevent breakage
The perks: easy to add highlighted extensions (without dying your real hair), very flexible, and doesn’t require heat, glue, or chemicals so it’s easier on natural hair
Best for: anyone
Average cost: $$$ + hair extension

Keratin, U-Tip, or Hot Fusion

How it works: the stylist applies the hair extensions strand by strand, and uses a heating tool to melt your natural hair and the extension together
How long it lasts: up to 6 months, but should be removed in 8–10 weeks to prevent breakage, matting, or stress on your new hair
The perks: very flexible and blends easily with your natural hair
The drawbacks: the glue can damage natural hair if the extensions are not properly removed
Best for: anyone
Average cost: $$$

Braided Sew-In or Hair Weave

How it works: the stylist weaves your natural hair into tiny braids against your scalp, and then sews the extensions into the braids with a needle and thread. A partial sew-in means only some of your natural hair is woven into braids; some is left out. A full sew-in means that all of your natural hair is braided.
How long it lasts: about 8 weeks
The perks: if you do a full sew-in, your natural hair is protected from heat damage and daily maintenance; with a partial sew-in, you may still need to blow dry or flat iron the part of your hair that is left out of the braid, in order for it to blend with the hair extension
Best for: coarse or textured hair
Average cost: $$ + hair extension

Beaded or Braidless Sew-In

How it works: the stylist loops each strand of natural hair through microcylinder beads (which are lined with silicone designed to cushion the lock of hair) in order to create a base against the scalp. The extensions are then sewn into the beads.
How long it lasts: about 4–6 weeks before it needs to be tightened
The perks: lays very flat, looks natural, allows for more flexibility in movement, and can be done in an hour
Best for: those with medium to long hair who want to add volume or length; or those whose natural hair does not require relaxers, or excessive heat to straighten
Average cost: $$ + hair extension

Clip-In Extensions

How it works: you clip in the hairpiece to add volume or length to your natural hair and remove whenever you like
How long it lasts: with proper care, human hair clip-in extensions can last up to a year
The perks: easy to install and take out, adds volume and length to flat, thin, or short hair, and human hair clip-ins can be colored and curled
Best for: first-timers and those who are unsure of the length or color they want
Average cost: $

Hailes' Final Tip

Unless you’re using clip-in hair extensions, leave the installation and removal process to the professionals. Otherwise, you might damage your extension—or worse, your natural hair.