Hair extensions : definitions & trends
Hair extensions are sections of hair, either real or synthetic, that are integrated into one's natural hair. They can alter the hair’s appearance for long or short periods of time and are used to add volume, length and/or color. Extensions come in two forms: human hair collected from a donor, usually from Asian countries like India and China, and synthetic hair, made from fine plastic strands (usually acrylic) that are manufactured to look like human hair. The strands are then laced or tied into extensions.
The first documented use of hair extensions dates back several thousand years to Ancient Egypt. Wigs, hairpieces and braids were applied to the head using resin and beeswax. In more recent history, wigs were worn by kings and America’s founding fathers to indicate wealth and status. Women at that time also wore wigs, and portraits frequently depicted them with large, elaborate beehive-shaped weaves. Over time, hairpieces and extensions continued to spread to the general public but were mainly worn by celebrities. As their cost decreased, the general public started to adopt them on a wide-scale basis, and their popularity exploded in the 1990s as their quality improved.
The different ways to apply hair extensions
The strand-by-strand method, which uses 20-40 strands of hair joined together at one end and then attached to the hair close to the root with a glue bond or a small bead. Volume extensions use up to 150 separate strands, while length extensions can require as many as 300 strands. The exact number depends on the amount and length of the wearer’s own hair as well as the desired look and length of the finished product.
Wefted panels, which are sections of hair attached at one end and applied to the head using tape, clips, glue or are sewn in (usually into hair that’s braided close to the scalp). There are three types of wefts available: machine-made, hand-tied and injection-molded. They come in various widths ranging from approximately one inch (applied at the temples) to as much as ten inches (applied to the back of the head).
Due to its duration, hair extensions belongs to the family of at-home haircuts and services.
Maintenance of hair extensions is important in extending their life and can be achieved by :
- washing with a sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoo;
- brushing gently with a brush made specifically for extensions, starting at the bottom and continuing upwards toward the root;
- keeping the use of products to a minimum;
- avoiding heat as much as possible.
Be careful, hair loss can occur from wearing extensions for a prolonged period of time (known as traction alopecia), so it’s good to give your hair a break once in a while.
Trends for 2021 in hair extensions styles :
- Slicked back, high ponytail (also called a snatched pony)
- Big, natural curls
- Hair extensions in a rainbow of colors
- Ultra-long extensions (Brazilian wefts come in lengths up to 40 inches, though a 20-inch extension is considered quite long, reaching the small of one's back.)
No matter the type, hair extensions are a fun and easy way to experiment with hair in terms of length, color and volume.