Do you go to great lengths for your signature hair look? We mean "great lengths" in the literal sense. If so, you're not alone. Hair extensions have become more mainstream in recent years because of how easy they can be to install and manage. There are all kinds of extension types on the market. "Most notably, there are keratin tip extensions, wefts, tape-in, and i-tip or micro bead extensions," celebrity hairstylist Linh Phan explains.
When choosing the right type for you, consider not only your aesthetic but also the type of maintenance required to keep extensions looking fresh. The key to getting the most out of your extensions is to care for them properly—and we have tips for you. Ahead, we've tapped celebrity hair stylists for their best tips on how to get the most out of your hair extensions.
Meet the Expert
- Zachary Morad is a celebrity hairstylist who works in fashion, beauty, and television. He specializes in red carpet looks, editorial, and wigs.
- Linh Phan, is a celebrity hairstylist and founder of PhanHaus.
- Michelle Sultan is a celebrity hairstylist with over 20 years experience. She was awarded Afro Hair Stylist of the Year the prestigious British Hairdressing awards and is a regular judge for the L’Oréal Colour Trophy. She is a brand ambassador for Imbue.
Frequently Brush Them
All of our experts agree that brushing your extensions frequently is critical to their longevity. "It's essential to have a good quality detangling brush with you at all times," says Sultan, who favors the Tangle Teezer.
When brushing, be sure to brush through the entirety of your extensions, all the way up to your scalp. Phan suggests a technique where you "start at the ends and work your way up."
Morad is also an advocate of frequent brushing. He favors a brush with flexible bristles that are strong enough for extensions but won't tear through them. He suggests you always keep a brush with you, especially when on the go. He likes The Knot Dr. Pro Mini for on-the-go styling.
Choose the Right Type of Extension for Your Lifestyle
Sultan notes that different types of extensions require different maintenance levels, something to consider when choosing the kind of extension you go with. "Clip-ins are only temporary and can be put in and taken out on the same day. However, micro bonds can last for up to three months," she says. "The LA weave method requires tightening at six to eight weeks and sometimes sooner depending on how quickly your hair grows. Tape-ins typically need to be refitted at two to three months."
"A major factor when choosing the right method for a client is how often they are available for maintenance because some people don't have the time to come in every four to six weeks, so they do better with options that don't require follow-up appointments," adds Morad. "My favorite type of extensions to use are individual keratin bond extensions. I find that they're the most versatile and last the longest. I also love tape-in extensions because they are easy to install and remove."
Sleep With a Braid or Low Ponytail
One of the cardinal rules of extension care is never to go to sleep with your hair down. This can cause tangles. "Always wear your extensions in a braid or a low ponytail to sleep," says Morad. Phan also favors this approach, adding that you must keep your braid or ponytail loose to prevent "excessive pulling on the scalp."
Sleep On Silk Pillowcases
Silk pillowcases are a must-have for people wearing extensions as they help reduce friction. "Silk pillowcases may seem like a luxury, but they are more of a necessity if you have extensions," Morad notes. "The friction between your head and the pillow can cause tangling and knots."
Sleep with Bantu Knots
If you have textured hair, styling your hair in Bantu knots is a great way to extend the life of your extensions. "It works well to preserve the length and curls of a good blowout on extensions and natural hair," says Sultan.
To execute, Sultan says you should divide your hair into three sections, two up top and one at the back. "Apply a minimal amount of Imbue Curl Worshipping Shine Oil towards the ends of the hair, and twist the hair gently until it curls back on itself to resemble a loose Bantu knot," she explains. "Then, gently secure the hair in place using a silk or satin scrunchie. Keep the knots toward the top middle of the head, so it's easier to sleep in. In the morning, use a dry shampoo (not powdery) on the root to awaken hair and give sexy volume."
Care for Your Scalp
Regular scalp care is essential to preserving the integrity of hair extensions and preventing build-up. Phan notes that you'll need to use a different type of shampoo to care for your scalp than your extensions. "Use a gentle but thoroughly cleansing shampoo like Solu from Davines on the scalp," he says.
Morad adds that your scalp care should include a special brushing technique. "Brushing the area of your scalp where the extensions are applied will help to separate any hair you've naturally shed from your new hair growth which will prevent any tangling from occurring at the scalp which can be extremely damaging."
Cleanse With Sulfate-Free Shampoo
A gentle, salon-grade formula is the way to go when washing your extensions. "Using a gentle cleansing sulfate-free shampoo will rid the hair of [oil and dirt] without stripping the quality and color away from the hair," says Sultan.
Condition the Ends
To keep extensions shiny, you'll have to condition them but only treat your ends. "Try a moisturizing conditioner like Melu from Davines on the ends of the hair only," says Sultan. "Avoid any conditioners or oils at the roots that may cause premature slippage of the extensions."
Air or Pre-Dry Extensions Before Heat Sytling
Keep damage at bay by pre-drying extensions before styling. "Get your extensions 80 to 90 percent dry by air drying or with a blow dryer before using a round or flat brush to smooth them," explains Morad. "Your extensions don’t need to be soaking wet to style them. Pre-drying them will keep you from working too hard, reduce the amount of pulling on your extensions, and reduce the amount of direct heat you’re applying to your hair."
Always Dry the Roots
You'll also need to make sure you keep the roots of your extensions dry. "Hair extensions should always be blow-dried at the root to keep the extensions lasting as long as possible and prevent excess tension on the natural hair," explains Phan. He adds, "Hair is most fragile when wet, so it is important to dry your hair after washing." He also notes that keeping the roots of extensions dry can "prevent molding, premature slippage, or matting."
Use Professional-Grade Styling Tools
Professional-grade tools will help keep damage in check when you style your extensions. Phan is a fan of Bioprogramming's products. "Bioprogramming has developed one-of-a-kind technology to help your hair while styling," he says. "As extensions are not attached to the body, they don't get the same oils and nourishment from your scalp, so using gentle styling tools at low temperatures will extend their life."
Be Diligent About Maintenance Appointments
Be sure to adhere to a salon schedule for maintenance and proper removal. "Ensure you stick to your maintenance appointments to keep your natural hair as healthy as possible during the wear of your extensions," says Phan.