Working in TV, I’ve picked up a handful of ~celebrity beauty secrets~, and one of the best ones is the use of human hair extensions, specifically “tape-ins”. This method uses a medical-grade adhesive to literally “tape-in” volume and length via dozens of extensions. It’s exceedingly rare to find celebrities who don’t wear them, since they take less than an hour to put in, giving you near-instant waist-length locks, which truly look natural and amazing (for a time).
But, are tape-in extensions worth it to a mere mortal, without a Tokyo Stylez-esque hair squad budget? It depends…
I dyed my hair back to its natural noir from bleach blonde almost a year ago, because I was tired of spending $200+ every 2 months or so at the salon. Unfortunately, being blonde for four years damaged my hair a lot, and it has been taking forever to grow past a long bob. That prompted to me to explore getting extensions before my move to New York, as I was craving a more glamorous change (and my hair is still too damaged to dye back to blonde).
[A month or so before I put in extensions]
With that in mind, I first got my extensions put in while in Florida at a well-meaning but not entirely ideal salon. I spent almost $400 on 3 packs of Babe brand extensions purchased through the salon. You can find them for less online, but a lot of salons won’t put them in unless you buy them through them for a mark-up.
Additionally, I spent about $250 on a keratin treatment for my extremely curly hair, to texture match the straight extensions. I’d read online that you shouldn’t do a keratin treatment on the same day that you put in extensions, but the salon said it was fine. Of course it wasn’t fine, and the extensions kept falling out. The salon also hadn’t advised me properly in terms of color matching my hair, and there was an obvious visual delineation between my natural hair and the extensions. This meant that I had to go home and dye my hair, wait for the keratin to settle, and return to the salon at the end of the week to attempt to install the extensions again. Due to the hassle, I was able to negotiate them waiving my installation fee (essentially the cost of putting the hair in), but it’s typically $200-400. Some salons in Manhattan charge twice as much! I paid around $350 with tip the second time I had my extensions installed in Brooklyn.
When I first went to my extensions consultation in Florida, I was told they would last about 3 months. Some other sites claim they can last 3 to 6 months. Maybe this is possible if you’re laying inert in a coma, but that was far from my temporal experience.
The first time I had my extensions in, they lasted from April 10 to May 28. They probably should’ve come out a week earlier, as both my boyfriend and one of my best friends (nicely) told me they looked bad. I went a week with them out while I waited to get an appointment in Brooklyn, then had them put back in on June 3. I ended up taking them all out again on July 4, just a month later, as the majority had already come out and it was starting to have ~rat-tail vibes~ unless I wore my hair in a carefully crafted low ponytail.
Once they start falling out, which begins happening around week 3, it looks progressively more obvious that you’re wearing extensions. At least one extension is almost always visible to a shrewd eye when you wear your hair up, and the more weeks that go by, the more evident they become as they grow out and move past the root. Often you could see weird half melted medical adhesive providing a “Something About Mary” moment on my scalp, or the still hardened yet alien tape-in pieces at my root. Now that I know what to look for, I even noticed a plastic-y piece sticking out on Bethenny Frankel’s head when she bent over on a recent episode. Though a good extensionist will know how to hide them for the most part, it’s something which becomes nearly impossible to fully conceal as weeks pass. Honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but I could see how some people would find it weird or embarrassing and why celebrities with tons of $$$ getting paparazzi-ed every day would have people on their pay roll solely to deal with their sundry extension woes.
It does take somewhat of a strong constitution and sense of humor to wear extensions, unless you’re a millionaire with tons of time, and can get them reinstalled every 2-3 weeks before any fall out. It’s disconcerting for both parties when a romantic partner runs their hands through your hair, only to feel the plastic-y edge of a freshly applied extension, or worse, gets their finger ensnared in the gooey near-death splatter of one about to fall out. I never had one fall out in my boyfriend’s hand, though it wouldn’t have been that shocking. I had an extension fall out during a business meeting, and I had to artfully sweep it into my handbag (pretty sure no one noticed though!) They’ve fallen out as I was leaving a workout class, and on a number of dates (though surprisingly, never during an ~intimate activity~). Recently, one fell out en route to brunch and I got a generous amount of curious stares as I Instagrammed it flying against the wind.
[They look so much better on one’s head vs. the sidewalk]
The first time I got my extensions put in, I took the most judicious care of them. I only used the recommended sulfate-free shampoo (meaning I couldn’t use any of the Equinox hair products, nor anything with coconut oil, which makes them fall out instantaneously). I assiduously avoided the sauna and the beach, and I was extra delicate with toweling/drying my wet hair. The second time around I followed the above rules, but allowed myself to enjoy a post-spin class sauna regularly, and wasn’t quite as maniacal about the drying process. Subsequently, they came out a couple of weeks sooner, but it’s also hard to determine if it’s really an apples-to-apples comparison as this month, I opted to take the remainder out when about 2/3 of them had come out versus the first time, when I waited until like 3/4 were out to remove the rest.
Overall, I am glad I tried out tape-in extensions, and I would recommend it, if you have the space in your budget for near-monthly maintenance. I absolutely loved the way they look and felt for the first few weeks, and they always photographed well even when they looked imperfect in person. It’s only been a few days since I removed them, and I hate how my hair went from lush Barbie locks to a short, frizzy lob. But given my current budget limitations as well as my desire to enjoy various outdoor adventures without fretting about the integrity of my fake hair, I am probably not going to put them back in for the rest of the summer. That said, if my hair appears to triple its length over night on Instagram, you’ll know that my financial resolve weakened and I couldn’t resist Rapunzel-ing one more time.
[Already missing that ~fresh extensions~ feel]