Hair Extension 101: From Hair Thinning to Fashion Statements
In the past several years, the hair extension, wigs and hair-piece segment of the industry has seen rapid growth, one reason it being increasingly accepted and less taboo among consumers. Clients have become less modest about the conversation surrounding hair loss and hair thinning, seeing this category as hair-fashion, as opposed to just hair-loss camouflagers.
And that uptick in the HAIR+ category is only continuing to increase. According to research conducted by MODERN SALON, 71% of extension professionals see business growing even more this year.
Extension services are fueled by fashion (trends in color and length) and function (hair loss, thinning, a desire for volume). The majority of clients get extensions for fashion, but almost as many want them due to hair loss and hair thinning concerns. If you are looking to grow your extension business, it’s essential to focus on both catalysts.
Of course, you most certainly should be looking to explore your own extension, wigs and system business! 57% of respondents in our research study see extensions as more profitable than other services they offer.
About one-third of stylists apply extensions on one or more clients per week, however, more stylists are getting involved in extensions, with 38% of professionals having offered to clients for three years or less. Earlier adopters have stayed with the segment, with 22% of stylists having more than 10 years’ experience with extensions.
So what’s stopping you? Well, according to our survey, a few things.
When salon professionals were asked “what hair-loss product categories are you most confident selling in the salon?” Only 43% of respondents said extensions. But, when asked what would set them up for success, more than half said education about their options, including brands, attachment methods, material and more.
About one-third of salon pros said they would get more involved if “more of my clients were interested or asked about hair loss products.”
We are going to deep-dive into tackling whatever is stopping you from launching a booming extension business. MODERN asked experts from more than 20 brands to share their tips and techniques from various questions or situations you may be faced with.
Armed with this knowledge, stylists can help clients achieve their dream hair through salon services or retail solutions. From the consultation, to color matching, for the best system for specific client scenarios, get ready for hair extension, wig and system 101.
THE BUSINESS OF EXTENSIONS
Why are hair-extension services so profitable for stylists and salons?
“Hair extensions are a custom specialty that is mastered over time,” says Kristina Barricelli, hair extensions expert who works with Hairdo. “Anything that is custom and a specialty specifically, there is a higher charge for a stylist’s time in the beauty industry. It's also a luxury service and clients are willing to pay a premium for that.”
What are some ways salons and stylists can market their hair extension services? How do they turn an existing client into a hair extension client?
“I found the most effective way for me is to have hair extensions on-hand in my salon,” says Beau Dieda, extension specialist and The Hair Shop Brand Ambassador. “The client can see and feel the hair that is displayed so it automatically starts the conversation without me as the stylist having to push it on them. Once my clients ask about hair extensions, it opens the door to educate them on all the benefits hair extensions can provide.
“With several types of extensions on the market, there is a solution for every woman out there. Some women have certain trouble areas, particularly on the sides of the head. I often suggest using the extensions to help fill in these trouble areas. So many women struggle with this and their faces light up when they see the difference made with just a few extensions added.
“My advice would be to take The Hair Shop’s Extension Master Class to learn all the different ways you can customize a solution for every client! Simply knowing what’s going to work and sharing this with your clients is the best way to market extension services.”
COLOR: MATCHING AND EFFECTS
Please explain to our readers the best way to color hair extensions, including tips and tricks, best practices, and how they can learn more.
“Coloring extensions is fairly easy but just takes patience and plenty of time,” says Nanci Lee, Great Lengths USA Sr. Design Team Director and National Educator. “Before you color the extensions, with your client in your chair take a small piece of the swatch hair and lay it against her head on the top and in the area you are going to lengthen. Great Lengths comes in more than 60 shades, so it is rare you will need to color the extensions. We recommend choosing two to three colors or more and alternating them in the application for a natural and seamless blend. If you still need to change the tone, pick the extensions that are closest to but slightly lighter than the desired color. Always take a test strand to make sure you are satisfied with the results. We have found with our Great Lengths Extensions that they lean on the cool side when colored. If you need an ashier tone, use a neutral color, if you need them warm, aim the color you apply slightly warmer than you want. Always over-saturate the hair, working the color in well to avoid banding on the extensions. Using semi, demi or 10 volume color on the extensions works well. To avoid damage, you don’t want to lift or bleach the extension hair. Because extension hair is treated and commonly dyed with a textile dye, it responds differently than your client’s hair.”
What is the best way to match hair extensions to a client’s existing hair color?
“A good or bad color match can make or break your extension service,” says Katherine Lewis, Bellami lead educator and stylist. “First things first, get your lighting on point! Natural lighting (but not direct) and a mixture of florescent is the best to color match in. Focus solely on the ends of the hair and not the base. The ends are what you are extending and blending. And don’t be afraid of using more than just one color—really utilize these extensions to create depth, dimension and natural contrast. This will make your work look expensive and luxe.”
How can stylists add creative color without lightening hair?
"Fashion colors are here to stay, that's for sure, but not everyone wants to lighten, or is able to lighten, their hair in order to maintain fashion colors.” says Haley Garber, Platinum Seamless Social Brand Ambassador. “This is where extensions make a great option! You get fashion color with no damage and no fading. It's a win-win situation. Another bonus is how quickly you can add fashion color to hair no matter what their natural color is! Both tape-ins and clip ins are great for this, and with Platinum Seamless you can choose either."
What hair enhancement solutions are there for clients who don’t want maintenance?
“HUW Pro Clip-ins are versatile and customizable,” says Nanci Lee, Great Lengths USA Sr. Design Team Director and National Educator. “You can volumize, lengthen or add color to your clients hair with very low maintenance. It is recommended that HUW Pro is sold as a service and not a retail item. For example, let’s say you have a client with thinning hair on the sides. Her stylist can choose the best color from our match book, custom color and cut the clip-in hair if necessary, and show the client how to place them in her hair. The client can then decide when and where she would like to wear them depending on her time.”
What hair enhancement solutions are there for clients who don’t want maintenance?
“When clients want hair enhancements that don’t require a lot of maintenance, I recommend clip-on hair pieces, such as House of European Hair Clip-On Top Piece with Bangs,” says Doris Yu, owner and head stylist for Hairart Salon in West Hollywood. “This is especially good for women who have thinning hair parts and need a little more volume on top, blended in with the rest of their hair. They clip on to existing hair with a few clips already sewn into the hair piece and then are unclipped and removed at the end of the day. It’s light and comfortable to wear. “House of European Hair clip-on pieces are all made using 100% Virgin European hair and are available in a wide variety of colors which you can customize by adding highlights, low-lights or a light body wave, then style as usual. Because it is human hair, all it would require is a regular sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, then dry using low heat and store in a zip bag or cloth pouch.”
CONSULTATION AND FIRST-TIME CLIENT
Long, beautiful hair is achievable thanks to extensions, but what if a client is looking for a versatile style? What can beauty pros tell clients who are worried about the versatility of their style when wearing extensions?
“The benefits of extensions are for length and fullness, but it can also extend into correcting color or cuts,” says Mickey Colon Jr., Lead Artist and Educator, Hotheads Hair Extensions. “We offer four different lengths for what is needed to achieve the desired look. Versatility is made achievable by proper application and education. Hotheads has a specific method and placement to allow up-styling to be an easy process. Braided styles and top knots are some of our favorites, especially with the trend is of distressed, loose looks being in style. Styling the hair in curls is one of my favorite looks, as I work a lot with naturally curly hair. I love to mimic the texture of the client’s natural hair. It is all about the size of the iron and the direction of curling as to what you will achieve.”
What makes for a successful extension consultation and a happy client?
“The key to a successful extension consultation is understanding your guest’s hair goals and determining how extensions can best fit their lifestyle,” says Marcelle Bauman, Luxia Artiss educator. “As extension stylists, we are breaking down what can often be a daunting process into a comfortable and understandable list of guidelines for extension success. Many clients wish to have the luxurious hair of their dreams but have questions about how extensions and their maintenance will fit into their everyday lifestyle. Will they be comfortable? Will they damage my natural hair? How long will they last? By laying out the groundwork and including our client in the process, our guest can rest assured that their hair is being taken care of and they can be excited about finally having the look they’ve always wanted.”
What type of client should consider wigs or hairpieces?
“Celebrating 20 years of offering the Raquel Welch Collection, I am always surprised by clients that just want an alternative look and not only get their hair colored, cut, and styled –they end up purchasing a wig,” says Anne Kelley, owner of A.K.’s Hair Studio, Grand Junction, Colorado. “It just happened this weekend, a client that has been struggling growing her hair out from an impulsive spa/salon visit on a vacation purchased a bob-length-style wig and a longer style because she wanted the look NOW! Barriers have been broken with all ages wanting certain styles and colors in an instant, and as we know strands of hair can only grow so fast and be colored from one hue to the next without compromise! I have always had wigs on display for retail and that creates an immediate sales for those fashion clients, but it also relaxes the medical need client immediately when they open the door to the salon. Medical need for hair loss solutions in the salon world unfortunately grows and grows, be it illness, medication, misuse of extensions application, color mishaps, and of course some clients have no hair so they are comforted as they enter as well.”
How can extensionists create the best experience for a first-time client?
“Extensions can totally transform your client in a way that a cut or a color sometimes can’t,” says Alex Pardo, co-owner Aesthetic Hair Co and TruMatch expert. “You can give a new client the hair of her dreams, or the hair she couldn’t grow herself, and it can totally change their life! The best way to have a client feel comfortable is to explain the process of installing, maintenance in salon and at home, and making sure you answer all of their questions to the best of your knowledge. Also, showing them your portfolio can help comfort them with the process. Once they see that you know what you’re doing, they become super comfortable with the process and trust you as a professional.”
Hair thinning is such a sensitive topic. How should stylists approach the subject of thinning hair without offending their clients?
“The first thing that comes to mind when I see this question is what are the clients thinking or feeling?” says Bernard Ory, National Director of Education for SHE Hair USA. “Are they bothered by it? Do they even realize there is a solution? Are they embarrassed to ask? Do they think getting more hair will look unnatural or old fashioned like the wigs and toupees of the past? Is it too expensive? While some are familiar with the solutions available, many clients are oblivious to the fact that they could drastically improve their appearance with just a little more hair. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it! There is an appropriate and effective way to discuss the topic with your clients.
“Start with the solution. Stylists have had tremendous success by implementing this simple, non-threatening strategy. Try asking this question to every thinning client for a week: How would you feel about making your hair a little thicker? Do it with a big smile and while nodding your head yes. After all, most people want thicker hair! Keep it simple and professional but try not to use industry terms like hair extensions or hair replacement. Instead, describe the service that you recommend. This avoids any negative prejudices that the client may have from previous misinformation. For example, if your client has thinning hair on the top of the head describe the solution this way: ‘I can apply a thin, skin like membrane that has injected hair that appears to be growing directly from your scalp once it is applied! Let me show you this short video about it.’ If the client is thin on the sides perhaps approach the solution in this way: ‘I can add just a few strands of human hair to your existing hair and that will make an incredible difference.’ The focus is to make the customer feel comfortable, focused and excited about possible solutions while minimizing the embarrassment that often accompanies hair loss.
How should stylists approach the subject of thinning hair without offending clients?
“As the fastest growing category in the professional hair care industry second only to hair color, we need to know the facts and be able to guide our guests to the best solutions for their needs,” says Tina McIntosh, International Hair Extension Educator for Hairvisions. “We learned a long time ago to never offer up a problem without offering solutions through products and services during the consultation. The same holds true in the thinning-hair market. Watch for those buying cues and listen to the descriptors your guest puts out there for you
“Vitamin D deficiency, iron deficiency and a sluggish thyroid are common reasons for hair thinning. As we are not doctors, it is our job and my commitment to communicate this to our guests and recommend options. Get them to tell you their story and always offer products addressing the problem. I make it my job not only to offer those solutions but also follow up at subsequent visits. “I often send my guests to specialty professionals. Even if your salon is not departmentalized, it’s difficult to know everything about everything. If the issue is out of your scope of knowledge, find trusted resources and partner up with them. Trichology clinics and hair replacement studios generally are so specialized in assisting people with their hair-loss needs, they are not interested in acquiring cuts and colors. It’s likely you will feed each other new business and grow together.”
How can hairpieces, wigs and extensions help clients with thinning hair or medically induced loss?
“The benefits of hair extensions, hairpieces and wigs are multifaceted,” says Hannah Burnett, American Hairlines replacement specialist and educator. “Hair extensions can be used to add length, volume or thickness to fine or thinning hair. For men or women experiencing more progressive hair loss that hair extensions will not be able to conceal, top of the head integrations, full or partial hair replacement would be a better solution for them. A wig can also be the perfect match for anyone going through chemo treatments, experiencing severe alopecia, trichotillomania or other more progressive hair loss disorders. Whether it be temporary or long term, hairpieces, wigs and hair extensions make the client look and feel their best no matter the situation they are facing. The impact is far more than just physical. It can also drastically help them with their self-esteem, confidence and mental well-being.”
CREATING VOLUME AND STYLES
How can extensions or hairpieces be used to create the illusion of layers without commitment? How can extensions be used to create volume?
“Just like Hairtalk extensions can create color effects without chemicals, we can now create layers without shears,” says Alicia Iannone, Master Educator for Hairtalk Extensions. “If your client is desiring a 21” look, you can apply that length first for a few rows, then as you work up the head, add in our 17” extensions to create seamless layers without having to cut them in. By combining multiple lengths you can create a beautifully layered illusion in no time!”
Bridal clients are a natural fit for hair extensions. Any advice on how stylists can get special-occasion clients interested in hair extensions for their big day?
“When discussing your client’s dream wedding hair style, ask them to show you some of their inspiration pictures,” says Alyssa Romero, Halocouture Master Educator. “This is a good time to point out that creating long flowing styles or complicated up-dos requires extensions to achieve the look they want. An Original HALO, Layered HALO, Fall and Tape-In Extensions are all perfect solutions.”
For more on this segment, and page after page of content and research surrounding the category, visit modernsalon.com/hairplus. And, for a full HAIR+ immersion, attend the HAIR+ Summit in Atlanta this September. Get more information at hairplussummit.com.