Hair Extensions: Not So Taboo

I have never had long hair.

Growing up, I always had short, cropped cuts, due to multiple surgeries. I had long-ish hair at one point: slightly past my shoulders. I could make a basic ponytail, but it was nothing to write home about. Braids weren't thick and pretty; they were flimsy and resembled a rat tail as they lay on my neck. Updos were "meh." My hair was almost always down, either stick straight or in waves.

Once I graduated college, I realized that my hair stopped growing completely, possibly from my birth control. I took vitamins, every hair-growth pill on the market, and even changed my diet for healthy hair to no avail. My hair was shiny and strong. But long? Nope.

When I started at POPSUGAR, I decided to use clip-in extensions. It's interesting, because extensions are a bit taboo. Some feel women are "conforming to society" if we want long hair. Or, on the flip side, we (women) don't want to admit that we want long hair but can't achieve it on our own — that we had a little help. I'm all about embracing your God-given beauty, but hey, if you want long hair, what's the big deal? Extensions make all the difference. In fact, Enzo Angeleri, the man behind Charlize Theron and a bevy of other Hollywood A-listers, applied a few to my hair for this tutorial and insisted I keep them for fullness. Extensions are the norm on red carpets and photo shoots. They can add instant length or make your hair full and voluminous — or both.

I became addicted. I wasn't just wearing them for shoots, I was wearing them every day! I loved my long hair. I could create works of art that I was never able to achieve B.E. (That's "before extensions.") But at the end of the day, they would be removed with just a clip.

Here's the thing: I didn't mind taking them out. It was nice to have versatility with my hair: shorter, Courtney Love waves one day; long, mermaid strands the next. But to keep the clip-ins in place and to help hide them, backcombing (or "teasing" to some) the hair is crucial. It did some damage to my roots and, ultimately, affected the integrity of my hair. So I stopped wearing them altogether.

Then I ventured to the mecca of hair extensions here in Los Angeles, Nine Zero One salon. Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri built this salon five years ago, bringing on a bevy of expert stylists and colorists, and have made themselves a reputation for serving A-List clientele. Some of the stars who have extensions, cuts, and color from the salon? Oh, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Julianne Hough, Emma Roberts, and even Steven Tyler, to name a few.

In a matter of an hour and a half, two extensions specialists, my girl Nicole Leal, and her partner, Shaylee Blatz, applied keratin-tipped bundles of hair to my natural hair. Sixteen inches, to be precise. Once applied, they cut and styled my new locks, and off I went, with hair I couldn't grow myself, that will last three to five months. All in less than two hours.

I have to admit that it wasn't just a "pop in and book an appointment" experience. I had been color matched for my extensions a few weeks prior — crucial to the process — then went in and had them applied. The color matching is essential, given you shouldn't color your extensions and, chances are, you'll want them to match your natural hair color.

A few things about Great Lengths hair extensions:

  1. I love them.
  2. You can't wash your hair for 48 hours after application.
  3. Once you do wash your hair, focus shampoo directly on the scalp, and conditioner at the ends of the hair. Applying conditioners directly to the bonds can loosen them up and make them slip through your hair.
  4. They're very secure, though. But when you brush your hair, be gentle.
  5. Brush your hair twice daily to avoid tangles; sleep in a loose ponytail with a ribbon tie.
  6. Sleep on a silk pillowcase if possible.
  7. Don't apply heat directly to the bonds. If you curl or straighten your hair, apply the heat a few inches away from the bond.

Update 2/3/15: I've had my Great Lengths extensions for about four months now — a little longer than recommended — and I absolutely love them. So much so, that I'm going to get them again! Over the past few months, only about 6-8 extensions have come out, which is normal. As my hair grew, they felt even more natural, and flowed beautifully onto my shoulders. I've gotten my hair cut and colored and have had plenty of blowouts with these babies, and they held up quite nicely. One thing I always get told from my stylists is that I take good care of them: they aren't tangled, dreading or look like a mess. I attribute this to brushing through my hair a few times a day and also making sure to pick apart the extensions at the root so they don't get tangled within one another.

For this segment, I received more hair than I probably would have normally gotten (for transformation purposes), but I'm glad I went extra long for my first go-around. And I can't wait to get my new "hair lingerie" in a few days! I'll let you guys know how my hair looks once I get them out.