Hair extensions have a reputation for being high-maintenance, damaging, and an extravagance best left to people who frequent the red carpet. But I've tested a lot of them over the years, and I'm a convert to tape-in hair extensions. Simply put, they give me longer, thicker, shinier hair. Here's why you should try them:
1. They don't look fake. Tape-in extensions really do look like your own natural head of hair. My proof? The bonds lie completely flat against the head and are so comfortable, You often forget about them completely—that is, until you catch a glimpse of your long, thick ponytail in the mirror (yup, you can even wear a ponytail). But keep in mind that not all hair is created equal. Matching hair density, texture, thickness, and color is critical to pulling off a seamless look. When shopping for a new head of hair, look for 100 percent human hair, either European virgin or Remy. In technical terms, this means that the hair cuticle is intact and facing in the same direction. What that means to you is that you can style, dry, and iron the extensions just as you would your natural hair without fear of excessive tangles and matting. My ultimate favorite is Invisi-tab Virgin European Hair Extensions.
2. Getting them put in—and taken out—is easy. Seriously. It takes an hour and a half tops, no longer than a head of highlights. And that’s for a whole head. The extension hair is bonded to inch-long supersticky strips. The stylist peels off the cover (just like a sticker), revealing the adhesive, and sandwiches small sections of natural hair between two of these strips. It sounds easy enough for DIY, but the placement is critical to the overall look, so leave it to a trained stylist. As for the removal, that’s even faster. The stylist drenches the tape bonds in a solute that loosens the adhesive, then gently wiggles the extensions off. Then all you need is a couple of shampoos to remove all of the solution. Beware of extensions that require a remover containing acetone or alcohol, which can be harsh and drying if left on the hair for too long. (Again, my favorite, Invisi-tab Virgin European Hair Extensions, has its own organic remover formulated with citrus oil, a much gentler option for hair and skin.) I stick to a schedule of removal and/or reapplication every eight to ten weeks. As your hair grows out, the bond inches farther away from the root, and the farther the bond is from the root, the more likely it is twist and tangle—and possibly reveal your well-kept secret.
3. They're easy to care for. Wash, blow-dry, flatiron, curl, scrunch, braid—I treat my extension hair just as I would my own natural hair. Which is to say, as gently as possible. Like natural hair, extensions (specifically the adhesive bonds) are most fragile when wet. I like to blast my roots and bonds with a blow-dryer before gently combing through to detangle. This helps prevent any tugging on the wet bonds. I also always sleep with my hair in a loose braid. It not only helps prevent any tangling during the night but also results in the world's easiest waves. My extension hair actually holds hairstyles better than my natural hair.
4. They don't cause damage. Really. We’ve all heard the traumatic stories of celebrities who ended up with giant bald patches or tons of breakage because of extensions. In my experience, if applied correctly and treated with care, tape-in extensions pose no threat to the overall health of your natural hair. I actually turned to hair extensions after experiencing post-coloring damage. I had been trying to grow my hair out for almost two years when I decided to speed up the process a bit and extend it myself. Now my natural hair looks and feels as healthy as it did pre-color damage. Here's my only warning: I've found extensions completely addicting! It's hard to accept your shoulder-length, pinkie-thin ponytail knowing waist-long red-carpet-worthy waves are completely attainable.