When I wore my hair straight during my twenties, I discovered clip-ins thanks to a stylist on the set of one of my first print jobs for Hype Hair magazine. I have never enjoyed sew-ins because, for me, sew-ins were heavy, and much of the time, the hair used didn't blend with my hair texture. But, with clip-ins, I had a completely different experience, and when I wanted them out, I could unclip them in seconds as opposed to having to take the time to uninstall a sew-in.
Though I haven't given clip-ins a try since going natural, I am happy to report that there are many Black and women-owned brands that have developed lines that cater to natural girls. Now, if you haven't given curl extensions a go yet, I went to the experts to get the details on maintaining the health of your hair with clip-ins, how to find the right options for your hair type, and how to color them to get the perfect match to your hair color.
Hair Health Comes First
Like any hairstyle you try, celebrity-stylist Ursula Stephen—who is well-known for slaying the hair of her famous clients like Rihanna (who can forget the Badgal's Good Girl Gone Bad hair era), Zendaya, and Laverne Cox—says maintaining the integrity of your own hair is paramount. "Clip-ins are nice because they are easy to place in the hair, but, having a clean base is very important."
She continues, "Properly prepping your hair before any type of style is the key to keeping it healthy and making sure the style comes out just the way you want it to. The process for clip-ins is pretty much the same—you should wash, moisturize, seal, and dry thoroughly," says Stephen.
She also notes that while clip-ins can be worn daily, "they should not be abused," adding, "if installed correctly, removed, and cared for properly, clip-in hair extensions won't cause any damage to your hair." One more tip the celeb hair guru offered, which I think is essential, is that you should remove clip-ins before going to sleep at night. Tension on any hair type can create long-lasting damage and breakage that can often take months and even years to correct.
Now that we've got the details on how to care for our hair pre and post-clip-in, where should we be looking to find curly clip-ins for a variety of hair types? Believe it or not, the internet is a great place to start. Now, I know you may be giving me a firm side-eye, but hear me out. I understand that finding the perfect hair can take some trial and error, and seeing the hair up close and personal can take out some of that guesswork. But Black-owned hair companies like Kinkistry offer a texture match service to ensure you're able to get the correct match without any hiccups.
Kinkistry founder Angela Fite' tells us, "If customers are unsure about which texture will match their hair, they can upload a picture of their natural hair to Kinkistry's certified texture match service. Once the picture is uploaded, the image will go through a process of analysis to determine which clip-ins are best for your hair match results."
Pretty cool, right? However, one thing to keep in mind when making your purchases from an online hair retailer is its return or exchange policy, as those seem to vary from company to company.
How Many Sets of Clip-ins Will I Need?
Many brands offer at least six to seven clip-ins per set. Depending on how you plan to wear them, you could work with one set or purchase more. With Kinkistry's clip-ins, Fite' says one set can be used to achieve length or volume for certain styles. However, if you're planning to use your clip-ins as a protective styling option, she recommends purchasing two sets to achieve full coverage around the head and for protective styling purposes.
If a full head of clip-ins isn't your thing but you're curious about curly hair extensions, try a curly ponytail. Heat Free Hair's drawstring ponytails are a fan favorite.
Don't Be Afraid to Customize
Generally, most virgin extensions will come in "natural Black," but that doesn't mean you'll get your perfect color match. DIYing may be the first idea that comes to mind, as it can be a budget-friendly alternative to visiting a pro, but New York-based celebrity hair colorist and curl specialist, Jaxcee says, "Your best bet is to bring the bundles to a colorist so that they can properly match your hair."
This step, she insists, is especially valuable for those with professional, intricate color like balayage, ombré, or traditional foil highlighting. If you fall within these categories, Jaxcee says you should bring your extensions to the colorist that did your hair.
If you still want to try to color-match your extension at home, Jaxcee has a pro tip for you: "It's best to keep DIY situations within the neutral brunette spectrum. Find a demi-permanent color in 3N or 2N like Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color by Wella," she recommends.
And no matter what your inner beautician tries to tell you, Jaxcee says, "Never use level 1 unless your hair is colored black or blue-black. You'll end up with opaque and way-too-dark extensions. Formulating hair color is a mix of science and art. It's a lot more complex than it's given credit for. It's best not to waste your time and money trying to DIY an art form that takes the best colorists years to master."
Installing Made Easy
Installing clip-ins is a relatively easy and painless process, but Frite' offers up a few tips: "One of the most popular ways [to install the hair] is to cornrow your own hair and leave minimal leave-out around the perimeter of your head for blending purposes."
She adds, "Another popular blending technique is to make a half-up/half-down style, then create a top knot and add a few clip-in pieces. Next, braid down your hair or add the clip-ins throughout your loose hair in the back for more volume and length."
Both Fite' and Jaxcee recommend co-washing in cold water, with Jaxcee emphasizing using a lightweight conditioner like Redken Color Extend Magnetics Conditioner on color-treated extensions.
Like your own coils, detangling and adding a leave-in conditioner is essential to ensuring clip-ins last for up to a year. As for styling, Jaxcee says, "Foams and mousse [ed. note: Hair Rules Wavy Mousse is her personal favorite] work best on curly hair extensions because they won't weigh down its curl pattern or leave the hair looking flat and greasy."