Hair extensions are a great way to add length and volume to hair—a well-installed set can totally transform your look. However, when you start to feel like you're pushing them to the limit, it may be time to take a break. If you want to remove your tape-in extensions but can’t seem to get an appointment (or don't want to wait any longer), don’t panic because it's possible to remove them in the comfort of your own home.
If you want to be extension-free within minutes, then keep reading, as we've consulted trichologists for some expert tips on how to safely remove your tape-in extensions like a pro. It’s no secret that removing any protective style at home saves time and money, but if you're struggling to take out your hair extensions at home, it's a good idea to seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Meet the Expert
Below, see the full rundown on how to remove tape-in hair extensions at home.
Section Your Hair
If you're taking out tape-in extensions at home, it’s important not to rush the process. By sectioning the hair and removing one extension at a time, you'll be more able to minimize hair damage. "Working in small sections will aid successful removal, as this will allow you to control each hair extension by ensuring enough product is applied in order to dissolve the glue and aid removal," trichologist Sara Alkazraji tells Byrdie.
Something else that determines the first step you take is the type of extensions you have installed. "This step isn’t applicable to sew-ins or any single-strand extension installation techniques," says trichologist and invisibobble task force member Bridgette Hill.
Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, you may find it beneficial to use an extension brush or wide tooth comb to fully separate the hair fibers from the weft and the extension-free hair. Hill also recommends parting hair so the full weft is exposed, as well as using a duckbill clip to secure your natural hair and ensure it's not touching the weft. Alternatively, invisibobble's Sprunchies are great for protecting hair. The satin-like finish helps to minimize additional mechanical damage to the hair fiber.
Carefully Inspect the Piece You're Removing
Once you’ve decided which extension piece you want to remove first, gently lift the weft carefully so not to place any unnecessary tension on the hair fibers. "This step minimizes hairs from being overly manipulated or broken," Hill explains.
Nobody wants to damage their natural hair while removing tape-in extensions, so be sure to double (and even triple) check that your natural hair isn’t stuck to any adhesive surrounding the entire length and width of the weft. "This step can be achieved by using a wide tooth comb or a pintail comb to create a clean section and remove any natural hair that is intertwined with the weft," Hill says. If your natural hair appears twisted and tangled within the weft, seek professional help to avoid damaging your hair. If you regularly struggle with this when removing extensions, "comb and gently detangle hair every day to facilitate the removal process," Alkazraji advises.
Loosen the Glue
Each step of the tape-in extension removal process requires time, care, and patience. Once you’ve separated your natural hair from the weft, apply adhesive remover onto the scalp along the parting, where you can see the separation between the weft and free hair. "This ensures that any areas of the scalp that still contain adhesive traces can also be removed," Hill says.
Once you've applied the adhesive remover, gently use your fingers to massage it into the length and width of the weft as well as the top and underside. Hill recommends layering castor or shea oil on top of the remover that's been applied to the scalp. "These oils assist in breaking down the binding properties of the adhesive," she says. "They also aid in protecting the hair’s natural fibers and serve as an excellent pre-moisturizing treatment." Using natural oils as part of the extension removal process is beneficial to both the scalp and the hair fibers.
Before you start to remove the weft, ensure the treatment has dissolved the glue enough to loosen the hair—waiting at least a few minutes is key. "Pulling the hair too soon whilst the glue is still intact could cause damage or breakage to the hair shaft," Alkazraji says. "Your hair should feel loose before you start to separate it from the glue!"
Gently Remove the Extension
At this point of the process, the extension weft should easily slide down the hair shaft. Hill and Alkazraji both warn against pulling or aggressively lifting the weft from the parted section. "The hair is fragile, and unnecessary tension could result in hair breakage and scalp irritation," Hill says.
Both experts also highlight the importance of using your hands and fingers during this stage. "Use the thumb and forefinger of one hand to massage whilst supporting the root area of hair with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand," Alkazraji explains. If any areas surrounding the weft still feel like glue is attached, don’t be afraid to apply more detox treatment. Alkazraji adds that pulling hair away while glue is still in the weft could result "in hair removal from the root or causing breakage." Before you move on, your hair should be free of adhesive.
Separate Any Stuck Extensions
Depending on how your hair is responding to the oil and/or adhesive remover, Hill recommends using your hands to separate any extensions that are stuck together. If you must use a comb, Alkazraji recommends using a plastic pintail comb "as this will be less damaging than using a metal pintail comb." Gently tease the hair until it separates. If the glue just won’t budge, Alkazraji advises against combing through it while it's stuck to strands. "This is likely to cause damage to the hair’s shaft," she says.
If your adhesive remover isn’t strong enough to remove your tape-in extensions at home, you may consider opting for an oil-based remover instead. Oil-based removers like coconut oil and argan oil can work wonders after you've removed the wefts. "Apply a hair treatment oil of your choice all over the head, from scalp to ends, and comb through with a wide tooth comb," Hill explains. Instead of combing the hair in one go, run your fingers through each section so you can determine whether there's any remaining adhesive, residue, or buildup.
To safely secure your hair while minimizing tension, Hill recommends using the invisibobble Sprunchies to "maximize the properties of the treatment oil." As with some of the other steps, this one involves double-checking to ensure any adhesive has been completely removed from the hair fiber. "Use the fine teeth of a pintail comb first and then do a final comb through with a wide tooth comb," Hill says.
Shampoo and Condition
Once your extensions are out and you're certain no residue remains, the next step is shampooing and conditioning your hair. For thorough cleansing, Hill recommends a bottle with a nozzle applicator. "Transfer the shampoo into the bottle and apply it directly. Use the applicator bottle to move the nozzle against the scalp, applying shampoo throughout the entire head," Hill says. For best results, massage shampoo into the scalp and let it sit for five minutes, then add water to emulsify and shampoo the hair fibers.
Even if you've seamlessly removed your hair extensions at home, always repeat the cleansing and conditioning process (Hill recommends up to three times) to ensure your scalp and hair are free of any oils or adhesive residue. "Shampooing and conditioning your hair after removing extensions helps replace moisture," Alkazraji says.
If you're a pro at taking out tape-in hair extensions at home and you’d like to try something different, you may want to consider an apple cider vinegar rinse, such as the one below from dpHue. This rinse will neutralize and clarify "while nourishing the scalp’s microbiome without stripping the hair," Hill explains, adding that it's important to use discretion based on your hair type and texture. Finer hair textures may benefit from applying an additional light shampoo after this step.
Finish with a Treatment
It’s no secret that hair needs moisture and protein in order to flourish. Extensions can prevent hair from retaining nourishment, so it's great to focus on hydrating and strengthening your strands after removing the wefts. "To regain moisture, I would recommend using protein treatments for up to three weeks after removing your extensions to aid in binding strengthening properties to the hair fiber," Hill says.
Extensions can dry out the scalp and hair, affecting its elasticity in the process. Fatty acids, lipids, and humectants need reinforcement immediately after you take out your tape-in extensions. In simpler terms, be sure to give your hair more moisture than you usually would, as its health depends on it. Alkazraji recommends a good conditioning treatment, as this can also "help put back moisture and shine as well as smooth the cuticle scales, which may have been damaged by the glue."
The Final Takeaway
It's totally possible to remove tape-in hair extensions in the comfort of your own home, but it's important to know the risks. As with most protective styles, caution is necessary here, especially if it's your first time removing hair extensions. Alkazraji recommends speaking to the person who applied them, as they "will know more about the fixture or glue preparation and how best to remove them to avoid any damage." She adds that this removal method is not for all types of hair extensions. Also, if someone at home can help you with the removal process, definitely ask. "An extra pair of hands and eyes are definitely helpful," Hill says. If no one is around to help, Hill recommends using a freestanding vanity or hand mirror to help you see what you're working with more clearly.
Once you’ve taken out your tape-in extensions, don’t rush to put them back in, as wearing them without taking a break will put strain on the hair follicle, which can result in damage. You'll also want to get your extensions fitted by an experienced professional, as Alkazraji says "poorly fitted extensions can cause permanent hair loss caused by traction."
Both Hill and Alkazraji highly recommend using removal liquid formulated by the company that made your tape-in extensions, as adhesives can have varying binding properties so it's best to pick the one that matches best. Lastly, don’t be alarmed if a fair amount of your natural hair strands come out with your extensions, as we lose 50-100 hairs each day due to the hair’s natural cycle. "Hair which has shed during the time of having the extensions might have got caught in the weft. It might look like a lot of hair has come away, but this is normal and likely to be seen," Alkazraji explains.