Hair extensions might seem like a new invention but in reality hair additions have been around as far back as the Egyptian times when both men and women work wigs. Since then hair pieces have been in and out of fashion ever since.
In 1800 fake hair was frowned upon and women left their hair to be natural until the Romantic era was in full swing when women wore elaborate Apollo knots. Come the mid Victorian era and hair pieces were used a lot more extensively. Then strangely in the early 20th century Edwardian women wore false hair additions to create the pompadour hairstyle which looked like a woman was wearing a teapot on her head. How that became fashionable I don’t really know!
Around the 1920’s less hair was the big thing so hair pieces took a dive around that time and it wasn’t until the 1940s when long hair came back into fashion and women starting indulging again. Then in the 1960’s big hair was back with a vengeance. Coils were the in thing or the updo as better known to us were seen of many women, this was created by very extravagant human hair pieces. Kinglake West Wigs made from real or fake hair were commonly worn around this time too and carried on into the early 70’s. Come the 80’s and big hair was in but only natural hair. Famous singers wore wigs but that was about it.
The quality of hair that you receive within a set of extensions will play a major part in the difference between a good and a bad set of hair extensions.
We all know just how popular extensions have become throughout the world and, with the demand for them getting more and more everyday, the extension market is becoming very saturated, rapidly.
More and more manufacturers are skimping on quality, as the price of natural human hair rises. With new competitors appearing throughout the market everyday, all retailers are feeling the pressure to perform.
As with anything, the price that you pay for your extensions will generally reflect in the quality of product that you receive, however the extension market is renowned for being a highly unregulated, so this cannot be taken as gospel.
This series of articles is designed to educate you as a consumer, so you can make an informed decision about the type of hair extensions that will choose to transform your look.
Origins have nothing more to do with the quality of extensions that you will receive other than the texture; however this still plays an important part in how our hair extensions look. We must also understand that companies will sometimes treat the hair using chemicals to change the texture, which can also affect the quality.
Everybody's natural hair texture is different and, although not imperative, it is a good idea to look at the type of extension origin in relation to the texture of your natural hair, before buying.
Lets look firstly at probably the cheapest and most readily available; Chinese hair. This has a very coarse/ thick texture and comes in dark colours, mainly black. With Chinese hair you have much more chance of it being put through a chemical process; manufacturers know that extensions are very popular for people with that of Caucasian hair so they will strip down the cuticle to make the hair resemble this texture.
Next we have to remember that with Chinese hair, any extension colour other than black, will have to go through some kind of colour stripping process to reach its desired colour. This normally means some kind bleach product will be used, so again, especially with the lighter colours quality will be affected.
It has such a coarse texture, it is not well matched to the majority of Caucasian types of hair. It is personal preference as to whether you are happy wearing this hair. To give you an example; my hair is quite fine with lots of layers and, as I prefer a thicker, coarser look and my hair extension stylist is very good at blending I do not see much of a problem using Chinese Extensions. I reiterate that personal preference is key!
So then we move up the scale to Indian hair. Texture wise this is a much similar texture to Caucasian hair but will still have the same issues colouring wise as naturally it is found in very dark colours and blacks.
Indian Temple hair is hair that is sacrificed in temples throughout India. It can be seen as a very good type of hair to use as long as it is not over processed. Good Indian Temple Hair will cost a bit more to buy, but will be worth the investment.
Then we move on to European hair. This can mean it is collected from countries within the EU; a massive area with a lot of countries in it. However not many where people cut their hair off and sell it! Consequently we are narrowing down the availability already. Again texture wise this is much more suited to Caucasian hair, however you will find that countries where hair is available from for example Spain will also be in the majority of dark colours. We need to also bear in mind that companies will label their extensions as e.g. 'Spanish Hair' when actually the hair has been sourced from China, but processed in Spain, giving its apparent 'Spanish' origin!
Russian Hair is another origin of hair where supply is extremely limited and consequently cost is high. This is because a lot of time and money has to be spent travelling through isolated Russian villages finding hair donors. Russian hair is classed as the finest best quality hair suited to Caucasian hair that money can buy. Please note the last section of this sentence; this is hair is from one of the most expensive origins. Russian hair comes in a variety of natural colours meaning the need for dying and bleaching is limited if not non existent. It is also renown for being soft and silky to touch therefore doesn't really need any processing so there are no problems with drying or matting after washing.
Again we must watch for these companies that will use only a percentage of Russian Hair in their extensions and sell as Russian hair and companies claiming their hair is Russian, when actually it has just been processed in Russia and nothing else.
So, to conclude, the second statement in our Hair Extension Article Series; What Do You Know About Hair Quality? Chapter 2 is; 'The texture best suited to Caucasian Hair, regarding hair origin is Russian Hair. This hair is very expensive and hard to find. Buy using a good hair Extensions Technician, we can use blending techniques to disguise the texture of other coarser hairs e.g. Chinese. Textures and Hair Origins are all to do with personal preference and must be analysed carefully. '
Please read my other Articles within the Hair Extension Article Series; What Do You Know About Hair Quality? To start piecing together the whole story about what to look for in Hair Extension Qualities.
The History of Kinglake West
As a Hairdresser and specializing in the Trading of Hair and Application of Extensions, I found that hair quality and the origin of donors is of the utmost of importance to determine quality. The quality of your hair extension hair will determine whether or not they look real, and how long the hair lasts. Please note, the following regions detail the process used to match hair extensions for people of Caucasian origin.
There are a large number of hair extension artists claiming to use virgin Russian hair for many hundreds even thousands of dollars, when in actual fact they are selling good quality European hair sourced from donors with origins in South America, Italy, Eurasian etc . This hairs cuticle has been harshly processed to strip out the very thick texture and dark colour pigments. To mimic western hair (Caucasian), the hair is re-tinted using fabric colours not hair colours to achieve the desired shade.
Hair sourced from donors of Indian, Asian and Chinese donors is a very course hair strand and grows naturally very dark and very straight. The hair is processed using the same method as European hair only more harshly. The pigments are stripped back to nothing then a short lasting silicon coating is added for a more realistic texture. For this reason Asian hair is usually the cheapest and most unnatural looking hair available on the market only lasting for the short term.
Raw Virgin Russian Hair
Raw virgin Russian hair has NEVER been chemically treated and is Caucasian hair so the cuticle is not processed and stripped unlike Asian and European hair. The hair reacts beautifully to salon products and remains silky even after lighting and colouring. Raw virgin Russian hair is widely known as the "creme de la creme" of hair and of the finest quality. The hair not only looks the most natural but also last for years not months. Russian hair is softer, finer and more compatible with western hair allowing the hair move naturally with more volume which means less extensions and less potential damage to your own hair.
Due to the scarce nature of sourcing raw virgin Russian hair the initial cost can be significantly more than European and Asian hair. People only compare prices directly, however volume and durability should also be an important consideration. You may find that over the long term you can purchase raw virgin Russian hair for the same price as Asian or European hair when allowing for how long the hair will last and how many extensions you need. Chemically treated hair is flat and lifeless needing more hair to produce the same affect as non treated hair. In addition to volume, raw virgin Russian hair will last for years not months so the only cost is the cost a hair extension artist will charge for uplifting the extensions. Many well known brands do not offer uplifting due to the poor quality and durability of the product they use. If hair extension artists or salons claim to offer raw virgin Russian hair but can only guarantee the product for less than six months it is more than likely a false claim.
Quick Facts: Asian/European hair extensions
- Hair only last in original condition for a short period
- Not recommended to colour as hair becomes even more porous
- Does not look real
- Not recommended to swim
- Frequently tangles
- Maintenance is very high
- Needs to be styled often
- Looks natural Can be coloured
- Swimming causes no damage
- Hair does not tangle
- Maintenance is very low
- Hair can be left to dry naturally
- Last for years if well cared for
- Need less as hair has more volume
Clip in Hair Extensions
Hair extensions started being used in the 1980s, but because of poor results and high expense, were abandoned until about 5 years ago. Their popularity has been boosted by all the celebrities who now use them.
What are hair extensions?
Hair extensions are hairpieces that can be attached to your natural hair or scalp; they enhance the thickness of your hair or the length. There are several kinds, but the most popular ones are
· Strands, small clusters of about 30 pieces of hair
· Wefts, slightly larger curtains of hair, joined at the top and free flowing at the ends. The best wefts are hand-made, not machine-made.
· Braids and dreadlocks, which are pre-wound.
Some are synthetic and some are made of human hair. The natural hair of Caucasians is different from that of Asians or Afro-Caribbeans and you should choose an extension that will match your own hair.
They come in many varieties and can be pre-colored, pre-highlighted or pre-permed with curls or a body wave. Depending on how it was attached, you may need to have your hair extension re-done after 6 or 8 weeks, or it might last up to 4 months. Re-attaching will always be periodically necessary because our natural hair continues to grow, the bonding agent becomes loose, life happens, and you'll need to re-adjust and refresh your hair's appearance.
How are hair extensions attached?
· Strands are woven, glued, or clipped to your natural hair. If they're clipped, you can take them off easily any time. If they're glued, various bonding agents may be used and care must be taken to protect your scalp and natural hair.
· For wefts, your stylist will make a small corn row or weave in your natural hair, and sew the weft to this weave. This method uses no chemicals.
· Braids are usually woven in with your own hair and again no chemicals are used.
What kind of hair extension would best suit me?
That's a very personal matter and should be decided between you and your stylist. There are extensions for every kind of hair, even thin and baby-fine hair. Your stylist will assess your hair type, discuss how you would like to look and whether it's possible given your particular circumstances and hair status, and explain alternatives. When an extension is decided upon, she will personally customize it to match your hair, will attach it, explain how she's doing it, and give you information on how to care for it.
How do I care for my hair extension?
· Hair extensions can be shampooed, styled and brushed the same as your natural hair, but don't try to alter their color. This should be professionally done.
· The most important thing is to be gentle with it so as to preserve the bond attaching it.
· Use a soft bristle brush and brush out tangles from the bottom ends up towards your head.
· At night, to avoid matting, tie it up or braid it if it's fairly long, and never sleep with wet or damp hair.
· Avoid using any silicone-based products or conditioners on the extension where it is bonded to your natural hair, as this will make the extension slip off.
Does it hurt to get a hair extension?
No, not when it's properly done. In the first day or two it will feel a little heavy perhaps, and this added weight on your head may feel slightly uncomfortable until you get used to it. The process of attaching it should not hurt at all. If it does, something isn't right. Sometimes if the cornrow method is being used, the weaving might be done too tightly, pulling too hard on your scalp. This can even cause headaches. But you should not accept this. The weaving doesn't have to be so tight that it's painful.
You may come across stories of how a person's hair was broken, burned, or otherwise damaged by their hair extension. The odds are that this person had it done by an untrained stylist, or one with little experience.
Do your homework
Since the demand for hair extensions is growing, more varieties will become available and research will give us more methods of creating and using them. The hair styling industry is not regulated, so do some checking and reading. Many websites recount personal experiences and have Frequently Asked Question pages.
Choose a stylist with training specifically in hair extensions, and with plenty of experience using them. Ask to speak to other clients who have purchased hair extensions, to hear what their experiences were like.