What It's Really Like to Get Hair Extensions
When RPZL, a new hair extension and blowout bar in New York, offered to let me try a new type of hair extensions, I jumped at the chance. I've had long hair in the past, but I'm currently in the process of growing out a pixie cut, and it is trying my patience.
So I opted for RPZL Next, which uses ultrasonic waves to bond keratin attachments to your actual hair. Like heat-applied keratin extensions, RPZL Next lasts at least three months, but unlike tape extensions, they're attached via individual wefts rather than in strips.
If you, too, are having growing-out woes, or if you just want to add body to already-long locks, you might want keratin-bonded extensions. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of what you can expect from the process.
The RPZL bar
RPZL looks like a blowout bar, but in addition to the usual blowouts and styling, it also does hair extensions.
Long hair, don't care
Women looking for instantly longer locks have many options; RPZL offers clip-ins, tape extensions, and RPZL Next, which is what I got ($850 for a full set). The salon also stocks its hair in house, so you can pick out your hair and get it applied that day.
The before shot
Here's a good shot of my bob before the extensions.
Here, my stylist evaluates the needs of my bobbed hair. She says as long as your hair is long enough to go into a ponytail, you can get extensions.
The first step is matching the extensions to your hair. For me, RPZL used two shades of brown in order to blend in with my naturally highlighted virgin brown hair.
What the extensions look like
Here are the hair "wefts," before application. RPZL uses 100 percent Virgin Remy Hair, which is actual human hair. It is bonded to your own hair with tips of keratin, which look and feel just like flat pieces of plastic but are made from a natural hair protein.
My hair was divided into sections, with the extensions first applied to the bottom layer. I got four rows of extensions; the top row started just a few inches south of the top of my head. The process of attaching them took about an hour and a half.
Attaching the wefts
Though four rows of extensions were attached to my real hair, the top layer of my hair had to be my shorter real hair. You need real hair on top, because if you attached the keratin bonds to the top layer, you would be able to see the tips.
Rather than bond the keratin tips with heat, RPZL uses a special ultrasonic wave gun. So there was no heat and no pain, just a quick "click" from the gun as each piece was attached.
Trimming the ends
RPZL offers extensions in two lengths, 16 inches and 18 inches. I got the 16-inch hair, and because my real hair was so short, my stylist trimmed the extensions a bit to blend them more with my actual hair.
The difference between the two lengths was still pretty dramatic, so I ended up getting another haircut after a month to blend the hair even more.
Special hair products
You cannot wash your hair for 48 hours after getting extensions, and when you do, extensions take a little bit of extra care: focus shampoo directly on the scalp and conditioner at the ends of the hair. You should also use only sulfate-free shampoo; RPZL carries the Leonor Greyl line, which it says is optimal for extensions.
My stylist blow-dried my hair and then flat-ironed it, since my natural hair was wavier than the extensions. With extensions, you can style your hair as usual; just make sure not to apply heat directly to the bonds.
The hair felt incredibly light and natural right away, and even with it ironed flat, I couldn't see the keratin bonds. But the next time I got a blowout, I got big, voluminous curls, which made the extensions less obvious.
Me and my stylist
As you can see, I was very happy with the results. The hair color blended perfectly, and my hair (both real and fake) looked healthy and shiny. On day one, I was very aware of the hair and each little place where it was attached, but by day two, I didn't even think about the fact that the longer hair wasn't mine.
RPZL sent me home with instructions on how to care for my extensions, including the heat-styling and sulfate-shampoo prohibitions. I was informed: never go to bed with wet hair, and before sleeping, put your hair in a loose braid or a low bun.
Also, since the natural oils from my scalp weren't migrating all the way down, the ends often got very dry. RPZL recommended a deep-conditioning mask, applied to my hair before bed on nights when I planned to wash my hair the next morning. This made a huge difference.
The biggest challenge was that the extensions tangled more easily than my real hair, so I found myself brushing my hair as much as five times a day. Just like a real mermaid.