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How to care for hair extensions

05 July 2022 | By Shani Tsai

Whether you opt for store-bought DIY extensions or visit your hair salon for a professional application, caring for your hair at home is an important part of your new look. 

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Most of us know the feeling … we get tired of the time and effort that goes into maintaining long hair and decide to go ahead with the big chop … only to be left longing for our locks after a few weeks. Or, you may have damaged hair that suffers from stunted growth or fine hair that lacks volume. Whatever your reason for a dramatic change, hair extensions are a quick way to switching up your hairstyle without making any drastic, permanent changes. 

If you’re worried extensions may damage your hair, Tatenda Sibanda, hair educator at Candi & Co will help ease your mind: “Extensions are one of the best protective styling methods if the installation method is correctly done”. She explains that, when styling natural hair regularly, the tension placed on the scalp and the pulling on the hair cause damage. 

Bianca Moore, Cape Town-based hairstylist and owner of Ash Vs Gold, uses tape-in extensions and says her clients never experience any hair breakage. “The extensions allow the hair to breathe as it normally would. In fact, I use the extensions to get the hair healthy again.” 

While extensions do give you what you want, the key is to remember why you’re wearing them in the first place. Extensions give you time to work on your dream hair, but while you already have it – don’t forget what’s underneath your lovely new locks! If you’re fed up with dry hair, use this time to apply regular treatments; if it’s an overbleached disaster you’re hiding from, you can easily keep the colour without further damage to your natural hair. 

What's your type?

There are many different types, styles and brands of hair extensions from readymade plaits and weaves that can be found on store shelves to high-quality human hair extensions that can be applied at a hair salon. The former are usually synthetic and contain blended fibres to imitate human hair, while human hair extensions are from another person’s head. 

Extensions come with many different types of application, including clip-ins, tape-ins, weaves and pre-bonded or fusion. The application method will depend on the extension type, your hair type as well as the look you’re going for.   

Remy human hair extensions come from a single donor and the strands are of high quality. They create a natural look and require the same amount of maintenance and care as natural hair. They haven’t been exposed to any chemical treatments.  
Replace after: 12 -24 months

Processed hair extensions refer to hair that has been exposed to chemical treatments, including bleach or dye. 
Replace after: 4-12 months

Synthetic hair extensions, unlike human hair extensions, these have a pre-set style and will not be affected by factors such as rain or humidity. However, they can be damaged by exposure to heat and the sun . So, heat styling and treatments are generally a no-no … see these extensions as an accessory instead of part of your own locks. 
Replace after: 6-12 weeks

How to care for your hair extensions

1. Washing 

“When hair extensions are applied to natural hair, washing and conditioning should be done every two weeks. On a daily basis or once every second day, a dry shampoo is recommended to remove oily residue and to refresh the extensions,” says Sibanda.

“The longevity of extensions depends on how the client treats the hair – some of my clients’ hair lasts up to two years. Some clients decide to remove and re-tape theirs every six to eight weeks, allowing time for the hair to be properly washed and treated,” explains Moore.

Moisture-based shampoos with no protein are recommended, and keep conditioner off the roots as it can cause slippage of the extensions, she explains. Jannie Van Der Westhuizen, stylist at Oxygen Hair and Beauty in Cape Town, adds that silicone-free shampoo and conditioner would also help to keep the integrity of the extensions. Try Batiste Dry Shampoo & Hydrate or African Pride Moisture Miracle Shampoo.

2. Brushing 

This is one of the most important things when it comes to caring for hair extensions. “A weave brush or Tangle Teezer is required to brush hair extensions up to several times a day to keep the hair neatly combed and avoid possible tangling. Brushing should be done from the ends, to the mid-lengths and finally the roots,” says Sibanda.

“Ensure that you wash your hair as gently as possible to avoid damaging the extensions. It is also advisable to use a specialised extension brush that will not hook or pull on the extensions,” says Van Der Westhuizen.  

3. Leave-in products  

A lightweight leave-in hydrating or moisturising conditioner is highly recommended for natural hair. “Hair extensions tend to require a lot of moisture especially in cases where heat styling tools are used, and natural hair generally requires constant hydration,” explains Sibanda.

Try BLM Naturals Leave-In Conditioner BAMBeautiful Scalp Treatment Foam, or Vida Strengthening Hair & Scalp Treatment.

4. Heat styling 

“The use of heated styling tools depends on the quality of your hair extensions. When considering synthetic hair extensions versus 100% human-quality hair, the latter would be best able to sustain the use of styling tools,” says Van Der Westhuizen. Treat your extensions in the same way you would your natural hair – apply a good-quality heat protector cream or spray before styling and a serum post-styling to added moisture, shine and to avoid split ends. 

Try Crème of Nature Argan Heat Protector, Lee Stafford Argan Oil Miracle Heat Defence Spray or Clicks Hair Rescue Split End Repair Serum.

5. Nightly care

Similar to your bedtime skincare routine, your hair needs consideration before you hit the sack. Like skin products, some hair products work better when they stay on through the night. If you’re looking to give extra moisture to dry, damaged hair, add a few drops of oil or serum to your leave-in conditioner and leave it on until the next morning.  

It’s not only what you put on your hair that matters … what you put your hair on will also determine the state it’s in come breakfast time. “When you sleep on a cotton pillow, it creates friction which essentially causes damage to the hair,” says Van Der Westhuizen. Moore agrees, saying: “Silk or satin pillowcases make a huge difference. The material prevents knotting and breakage as well as split ends. It also allows the hair to keep a blowdry for longer. I also suggest tying your hair in a plait or low pony when you sleep”.  

If you’re not keen on switching up your bedspread, opt for satin headwear instead.  “By wearing a satin scarf or using a bonnet to wrap the hair extensions in before going to bed, you’re helping to preserve moisture and prevent the hair from drying out,” explains Tatenda. 

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

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