Ever since I was 17 years old I’ve worn hair extensions. I started by adding tracks of Remi Yaki extensions with black bonding glue, which after 2 years completely ruined my hair. It used to fall out in clumps every time I tried to wash the glue out. My hair became weak, fragile, different lengths, a receding hairline, and unfortunately I then became reliant on wearing extensions.
I started researching the best solution to combat this and after finding an afro Caribbean hairdresser in Leeds city centre, where I lived with my mum at the time, I had my first full head weave. It felt heavy compared what I was used to but I soon learnt how to manage it and look after both my natural hair and my hair extensions.
A weave is created by making rows of fine plaits from a middle parting, down the front of the hairline, then around the crown of the head, and down towards the back and nape of the neck. The finer the plaits are, the flatter and more natural the weave will sit. A small amount of hair is left out at the top of the head which is then used to blend over the weave once its completed. Once the plaits are finished, the tails are tucked under and sewn away so you have a perfect base for the wefts of extensions to be sewn on top.
Choosing the right hair is the biggest and most curial part of creating the perfect end result. When I first started wearing extensions, there was only Brazilian hair on the market that was affordable, now there is a whole range to choose from. I buy my hair extensions from online retailer Uber Hairs, who have a great variety of colours, textures and lengths to choose from.
There are more and more celebrities wearing hair extensions and weaves. The quality of the hair and the techniques used to create polished, natural masterpieces are not too difficult to achieve yourself.
My top 5 tips for buying the perfect hair extensions are;
There are a variety of different textures available, such as straight, body wave or curly. A straight texture will dry poker straight after being washed, but if its curled with a wand or iron, the curls won’t tend to last as long. A body wave has a slight kinky wave after being washed and can be perfectly straighten and curls tend to stay in better as this hair is slightly corser. A curly texture will naturally stay curly when both wet and dry and will be very difficult to keep straight if blow dried.
This is measured in weight, for example one bundle of hair usually weights 100 grams. The more grams in the bundle, the thicker it will feel. It’s also the best way to determine the price of what you’re paying, all types of hair will differ in price, but if your bundle weights less than 100 grams, make sure you’re paying less for it. For a full head weave 300 grams will give you a thick, full bodied look. For those who opt for a European weave – which is just 4-5 plaits in between layers of their natural hair, one bundle of 100 grams sewn onto the plaits will add length and thickness to give a more natural look.
Origin of hair
Always aim to buy virgin hair which means that is hasn’t been chemically treated. Sometimes when buying coloured or bleached hair, the chemicals used on the hair will affect the quality and shorten its life span. For African or black Caribbean women, Brazilian hair is the most natural texture to afro hair, so when your natural hair is relaxed and left out on top, it will blend perfectly. For Caucasian or Asian women, the best hair on the market is Cambodian, Malaysian, Russian and Peruvian. They all have similar densities, but all come in a variety of textures. I tend to use Malaysian hair, as it soft, thick and poker straight. I like to curl the extensions every now and again, but over 2-3 days they drop into a tousled wave which mixes it up a bit.
The colour of the hair is down to personal preference, but always buy virgin hair and get a qualified hair stylist to dye the hair for you, as many of them use products that hold less chemicals. Hair extensions can be dyed jet black to bleach white blonde. Purchase a natural virgin hair colour as close to the shade you want and then strip it or darken to your desired shade. Dying hair can be risky, so make sure you use a qualified stylist. I tend to buy my extensions in a colour 1B which is a natural dark brown and the closest shade to my natural hair colour.
When buying extensions, you’re essentially paying for the density and the length, so make sure you choose the length your desire wisely. The length is measured in inches and start from 10 inches which is a long bob, to 32 inches which is past the buttocks! A slight trim to get rid of any wispy bits or uneven ends is fine, but never trim more than half an inch off, otherwise it’s a waste.
Once all the weave has been fitted, its super important to make sure you look after the hair to make it lasts as long as possible so you can reuse the hair for a good 9-12 months. I would always advise never to cut your bundles up into tracks to individually stitch into the plaits, that is how hair malts and becomes thin. Ask your hair stylist to sew the bundles in rows by stitching left to right continuously until the bundle is all fully sewn in. Using this technique to fold the weft back to stich the opposite way is a skill, as you must make sure there are no lumps where the folds are. The weft must be sewn as flat to the plaits as possible so that there are no tell-tale signs of bumps or sewing. If using the European technique the weft must be cut to sew onto the plait for the layer on natural hair to fall on top, but again, the extensions will be likely to malt.
Invest in buying great quality hair products to protect and cleanse the hair. Always use a heat projecting spray before curling or straighten the extensions. This will avoid split ends. I use Treseme Heat Protecting spray, which I leave in to dry naturally before styling it. There are also some great hair serums in retail outlets too, I use a pea size drop, or one pump of John Frieda Frizz Ease on the ends of the extension to stop them from looking dry, and then gently rub the residue over the top on my head to the ends to give it a polished shiny look. Never use oil bases products on hair extensions, such as Moroccan oil, unless your using it as a pre conditioning treatment which washes out. Your shampoo and condition should also be oil free. I change my shampoo every 8 weeks, but always use Aussie 3 Minute Miracle conditioner which leaves my hair feeling super soft and smelling delicious!
Once you’ve mastered these top tips, I can guarantee you will have luscious, healthy, natural looking locks that will stay maintained from month to month.