In this edition of our in-depth series on hair treatments, we’re looking at hair extensions. In the film ‘New York, I love you’ an Indian diamond merchant tells his Yiddish customer, “For all I know, you could be wearing my wife’s hair right now. Most human hair in America comes from our temples in India, where women offer their long locks to God.” An ideal setting, it does quite some up what hair extensions are all about. There are few examples of global commerce and cultural differences as amusing. Like with floods and droughts, occurrence of a head full of hair is distributed unevenly. Millions of pious Indians tonsure their heads at holy places and on religious occasions. This in turn feeds the global demand for hair to be used in wigs and extensions. So your barber and temple have more revenue streams than you would think.
Hair Extensions Basics
These are tracks of hair that can be harnessed to one’s head for aesthetic effect. Hair extensions may be natural as mentioned above or artificial fibers. Among these, several grades exist from African and European hair to the uncomfortably named, virgin hair. Natural hair is dyed and treated to make it suitable for this use. More recently, feathers have become trendy as hair extensions. Yes, feathers, of Roosters! The effect is pretty dramatic and thus far, carries a novelty value.
Though primarily associated with cosmetics, people with thinning hair also find hair extensions useful. With varied colors, textures and volume, hair extensions may be used to add color, direction and thickness. The more adventurous can try feathers and other brightly colored extensions. It beats hair streaks any day.
Tracks of artificial or natural hair are harnessed to the persons existing hair by various means. These include bonding resins, adhesives or a simple ring. Alternately, tracks of hair may be sewn into your natural hair, popularly known as weaving.
The extensions with rings for attachment are very popular as they can be worn like any accessory. These can be managed at home with mediocre results. But for all other types of hair extensions, visiting a trusted and experienced hair stylist is a must. This is because the extensions need to blend into your natural hair in terms of texture and direction. Else, the results can be disastrous.
Cost for Hair Extensions
Prices vary greatly and so do the results. Clip on hair extensions with rings cost Rs. 500 and upwards. One would need at least 5 such extensions for a visible change. The best and also the most expensive option is natural hair flowing in the same direction with its cuticles intact. This can start at Rs. 5000 and up including salon fees. Artificial hair extensions would cost lesser but do not last as long. Even for human hair, the salon look does not last more four months.
Maintenance and Precautions
Besides the high cost, a lot goes into maintaining hair extensions. All the normal things you do with your hair; viz, shampooing, oiling, combing etc can be done with the extensions on. But one needs to be a lot more careful. Your stylist may even suggest a milder shampoo. The adhesives used can cause itching and allergies. Sensitivity to adhesive and/or the base net of the extension must be tested prior to administration.
Chances of your hair being damaged are high. Hair is damaged at the site of attachment due to the heat treatment and chemicals used. Another concern is traction alopecia. If the extensions are tied in too tightly, it can cause hair from the attached area to fall out. If extensions are braided into your natural hair, make sure the stitching is not so tight that it makes you feel a tug. Change the extensions every few months and give your hair and scalp rest when you can.
Considering the risks involved, the precautions required and high cost, use of extensions should be moderated. For people with thin or thinning hair, extensions can do wonders. The clip on variety should be preferred as they do the trick on social occasions and save your hair the stress for the rest of the day. The premium paid for high quality hair extensions and salon services are worth the amount. Do-it-yourself extensions can readily end up in a fashion faux pas. It would be better to go bald then to look like there is a dead animal on your head!
– Punit Pania