When clients or stylists lack the education, alternative hair sometimes gets a bad rap. Here, four experts specializing in extensions, hair pieces, systems and wigs challenge those myths with the facts.
Although hair loss can be emotionally stressful, today’s sufferers are fortunate that there are so many alternative hair solutions available to fill in their thinning areas and help them achieve the styles they desire. Many clients are unaware of alternative hair solutions or they harbor false doubts. Extensions, wigs, hairpieces and systems still aren’t part of everyday conversation because many clients are reluctant to discuss their thinning problems with friends, colleagues and family. In addition, because these specialty areas require advanced education, not every stylist is able to answer a client’s questions nor provide the service. When a void of information exists, speculation and myths develop.
To help create a foundation of understanding, MODERN SALON assembled a panel of extension, wig, and hair system experts to gather the most well-known myths regarding alternative hair and offer stylists answers based on experience and fact.
MYTH: Alternative hair will affect natural hair growth or damage existing hair.
This myth can be busted with a solid foundation of education for both you and your guest. For the stylist, this means knowing the best application method and a thorough consultation.
“If the hairstylist is educated in the whole process of adding hair to a client’s head, matching density to density, and the client is educated in good hair maintenance, the client’s natural hair will grow,” says Nanci Lee, senior design director, Great Lengths USA. As an extension expert, Lee doesn’t skimp on the consultation, even if the client has had extensions before,and she believes educating and reminding clients of basic care essentials is key.“
With each guest I go through a list of everything they need to know: first, they need to brush their extensions. Next, when they’re blow drying extensions, they need to get the hair 80% dry, and definitely the attachment portion dry, before brushing at all.
”For wigs and hair systems, the consultation is equally important, especially when it comes to keeping natural hair healthy. Frank Campanella, HairUWear designer and wig and system specialist, says clients run into issues when they don’t care for their alternative hair method or maintain it how they are supposed to. For wigs, this means: Wear a stocking cap to eliminate friction; never put a wig on fragile, damp hair; and make sure the wig is the right size so it doesn’t move around. His biggest piece of advice for systems for clients? Make sure hair is clean! Any bonding happens on a clean patch of skin, and issues arise if this is compromised.
MYTH: When it comes to alternative hair, human hair is superior to synthetic.
This just isn’t true, especially when it comes down to your client’s needs. Do they live in a hot or humid environment?Are finances a consideration? Not savvy with styling? Then synthetic hair can be a better option than human hair.
Campanella says synthetic hair weighs less, which is great news for a guest with a sensitive scalp, and can be less expensive than human hair. If the synthetic hair seems too shiny, he offers a quick tip: spray with dry shampoo.
“A lot of the time you can’t even tell the difference between synthetic and human hair,” says Christina Jones, product and education development manager, HairUWear. “Even people in the HairUWear office can’t tell sometimes!”
Additionally, there are plenty of perks to synthetic when it comes to styling, just make sure your heat settings don’t exceed 350˚F. Ideally, Jones says, the setting should be around 300˚F.
“HairUWear’s True to Life heat-friendly fiber can be styled, and stays styled,” Campanella says. “Synthetic hair is resistant to humidity, so your guest can wear it all day and the style won’t go away. Human hair has to be styled every day, just like someone’s natural hair.”
One of the biggest perks with styling synthetic hair? Once curls are set and let cooled, they are there to stay—even if your guest washes hair.
MYTH: Alternative hair takes all day to apply.
When it comes to extensions, systems and wigs, there are plenty of solutions that require less than an hour of application. Of course, once a wig is snug and fitted, it only takes minutes to put on. Similarly, systems can be the same way, and that process can be expedited with tape, as opposed to bonded.
“Tape is a great option for an active lifestyle,” Campanella says. “Clients can take it off and put it on at their leisure. Bonded, or glued, is a more permanent option.”
As for extensions, the general rule is the more temporary the extensions, the less time it takes to apply. According to Jones and Lee, tape-ins can take an hour, clip-ins take 15 minutes.
“Clips-ins take only a few minutes to apply, but should be removed every night and placed back again the next day to avoid breakage at the clip site,” Lee says. “Tape-ins and wefts take an hour to a few hours to apply and need to be moved up in 4-6 weeks where strand by strand can take many hours but can be worn for 3-5 months.”
She adds that a proper consultation will decide which type of extensions match the lifestyle and desire of the client.
MYTH: Everyone will be able to tell your client is wearing them.
Thanks to advances in technology and materials, this is absolutely not the case. Ensuring alternative hair is undetectable falls back on you, the stylist, and the consultation.
“A proper consultation for any ‘spare hair’ should take 30 to 60 minutes,” Lee says. “For a natural look, you must properly match your guest’s color with hair swatches and decide the hair placement to seamlessly blend the hair extensions to the head. The desired look and lifestyle of the client should also be addressed to decide what type of extension, hairpiece or wig will create the best result.”
“What makes a wig detectable isn’t the fiber, it’s the construction of the wig,” Campanella says. “You kind of get what you pay for.”
There are many options to make alternative hair look seamless, find out those things here.
MYTH: Extensions are used for lengthening, and should only be placed horizontally.
Extensions can be used for a multitude of reasons.
“In some cases I like to call them hair additions, which can be used for volumizing, color work, creating a new hair cut, repairing a bad hair cut, filling in hair loss from breakage oralopecia,” Lee says. “The list is endless and is only limited by the hairstylist’s imagination.”
According to Danielle Keasling, executive artistic director, Great Lengths USA, especially when adding hair to the front, placing extensions on an angle is an underutilized trick.
“Placing extensions diagonally is great for filling in around the face,” Keasling says. “In your consultation, take into consideration how your client wears her hair: Is it in a high ponytail a lot? Do they need hair to push forward? Are you creating fringe?
“Make sure to go with the natural fall of the hair,” Keasling says. “While you are placing them, pull the hair back to make sure that you can see how the hair and extensions are moving.”
Lee warns that if your guest has damage-prone hair, you may not want to go in a diagonal pattern, as it could pull where they get breakage.