You may not have been born with the hair of your dreams, but in 2018 you can absolutely buy it. From wigs and sew-ins to clip-in extensions, you can slay a pixie cut today and princess-length locks tomorrow. As much as we encourage women to switch up their look by playing around with extensions, however, we think it’s just as important to know how to properly care for your extensions as it is to know how to flawlessly install them.
If you have no idea how to care for hair extensions, you’re in luck. Stephanie Nolan, the CEO of XOXO Virgin Hair, is breaking down everything you need to know about how to properly care for extensions, including how to wash and store them.
Human Vs. Synthetic Extensions
You can purchase extensions in a variety of colors, lengths, and textures. However, they are only made from one of two things: human or synthetic hair. While it is perfectly acceptable to wear both synthetic and human hair, you can’t care for them the same way.
Synthetic hair has a much shorter lifespan than human hair, typically remaining wearable for six to eight weeks with proper care. To prolong the life of your synthetic extensions, Nolan recommends using products that are specially formulated for synthetic locks on them. Using the appropriate products will help prevent unsightly tangles and significant shedding.
Human hair is a bit easier to care for because you can use the products that are already in your bathroom. Extensions are meant to make your natural strands appear longer or fuller, so the chances are good that your extensions will be the same texture as your natural hair. Feel free to use the same shampoo, conditioner, and styling products that work on your strands on your human hair extensions.
From the L'Oréal portfolio of products, we recommend Redken’s Clean Maniac Micellar Clean-Touch Shampoo and Conditioner. Wash away pollution, daily grit, and excess sebum with Redken Clean Maniac Micellar Clean-Touch Shampoo. Formulated with a chelator, anti-oxidant and UV filter, the silicone and sulfate-free shampoo gently washes away build-up for a clean feeling with respect for the hair.
How often should you wash extensions?
If it wasn’t already evident, you have to wash your extensions. Just because your extensions are not the hair that grows out of your head doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for them.
If you have human hair extensions and wear them often, you should plan to wash your extensions about as often as you wash your hair. Just like the strands on your head, your human hair extensions can experience severe dirt and product buildup.
If you don’t properly clean your extensions, it can affect the way the hair looks, feels, and how long it lasts. If you only plan on wearing your extensions for special occasions, be sure to properly clean them before you pack them away for the next event.
Synthetic hair is typically resistant to styling, so Nolan does not recommend applying styling products or heat to synthetic strands. While you don’t have to worry about product buildup with synthetic strands, dirt, dust, and other environmental pollutants can make them smell and look dull. If you wear your synthetic extensions often, we suggest washing them about once a week.
Whether you have human hair or synthetic extensions, it is imperative that you detangle them gently. It should go without saying that your extensions won’t grow back if they excessively shed. Begin detangling from the ends and work your way up to gently and effectively detangle your strands.
What is the best way to store extensions?
Now that your extensions are clean and detangled, you need the perfect storage space to ensure they remain clean and detangled until the next time you’d like to wear them. Lucky for you, you don’t need a fancy vanity to store your extensions—all you need is a resealable plastic bag or a hanger.
“There are a few ways you can store extensions. Some can actually be hung using pant hangers, and can also be stored in Ziploc bags if storing away long term,” Nolan says.
What products should someone who owns extensions always have on hand?
In addition to shampoo and conditioner, there is one product Nolan says everyone who has human hair extensions should have on hand: A heat protectant product. Just because they’re extensions doesn’t mean they’re immune from heat damage.
“Heat protectant prevents heat damage, and also premature split ends that can occur due to frequent heat styling.”
What tools should someone who owns extensions always have on hand?
If you think correctly caring for your extensions requires a hefty trip to the beauty supply store, think again! Nolan says you probably already own most of the tools you need.
“The best tools for maintaining hair extensions are a paddle brush for keeping the hair smooth, wide tooth comb for detangling, and a styling comb.”
Now you know everything you need to know to keep your extensions in tip-top shape for as long as possible.
Interested in personalized advice about extensions? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.