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Hair Extension Methods: The Pros And Cons Of Every Kind, From Clip-Ins To Wigs

Photo of woman with long blond hair clip-ins

Twenty years ago, it was almost taboo to admit you’d enhanced your hairstyle with hair extensions. Now, everywhere you look someone is talking about the latest and greatest extension methods. While extension installation techniques have made tremendous strides over the last few decades, not all methods are created equal.

We sat down with Stephanie Nolan, model-turned-founder and CEO of XOXO Virgin Hair, to get the scoop on the pros and cons of each extension installation technique. Keep reading to find out which extensions are perfect for your hair type and lifestyle.

What’s the best hair extension method?

The best hair extension method is different for each person. The best hair extensions for you will depend on a few things, including your hair type and level of commitment. If you’re unsure which hair extensions are right for you, be sure to schedule a consultation with a trusted hairstylist.

Do hair extensions damage your real hair?

If not installed, cared for, and removed properly, hair extensions can sometimes damage your natural hair. If you are concerned about hair extensions damaging your mane, schedule a consultation with a trusted stylist to determine if hair extensions are right for you.

What are the best hair extensions for thin hair?

If you have thin hair and are looking for a hair extension method that will put as little stress on your strands as possible, consider clip-in extensions and wigs. Clip-ins are meant to be removed before you go to sleep, minimizing the amount of hours the extensions spend tugging on your roots. Alternatively, wigs allow you to keep all of your thin strands tucked up and away, and require little to no pressure on your strands.

Can you wash your hair with hair extensions?

Yes! You must wash both your hair and the extensions if you opt for a hair extension method such as sew-ins, micro links, or fusion extensions that are meant to remain in your hair for a few weeks. If you’re worried about the upkeep, fear not, caring for your extensions is a lot like caring for the hair the grows out of your head. Check out our complete guide on The Right Way To Care For Your Hair Extensions, According To A Pro.

What is the average cost of hair extensions?

The price of your hair extensions will depend on a few things including, the style of extension and type of hair. If you want to learn more about the cost of hair extensions, check out our complete guide to What Goes Into The Price Of Your Wigs and Hair Extensions.

How long can extensions stay in your hair?

How long you can keep extensions in your hair depends on which type of hair extensions you opt for. Methods like clip-in extensions and wigs should be removed every night before you go to sleep. On the other hand, methods like sew-ins, micro links, tape-ins, and fusions extensions can remain in your hair up to several weeks with the proper care.

How do you care for extensions?

Whether you wear extensions every day or only rely on them for special occasions, you’ll need to establish a proper hair care routine if you want to get the most out of them. Lucky for you, brands like Matrix have begun to create products specifically for caring for extensions, like the Total Results Length Goals range. Want to learn more? Check out our complete guide. Then, stock up on liter bottles of Total Results Length Goals Shampoo and Conditioner at our exclusive Hair.com Liter Sale.

The Best Hair Extension Methods To Try Now

Good hair day by @harry_andreou_hair.

Wigs

A wig is a hairpiece that covers your entire head made from synthetic or human hair.

Pros:

The best things about wigs is that they cause the least amount of damage to your natural hair when worn correctly, compared to other extension methods. Unlike extensions, which adhere to your actual strands, wigs sit on top of your mane while it’s in a protective hairstyle. You can even add another layer of protection by opting to wear a wig cap. Nolan recommends wigst for anyone who is concerned about finding extensions that match their natural hair color and texture.

“For tightly waved, curly, or coiled hair, wigs offer the most natural look because you don’t have to blend two different textures to achieve a seamless look,” she explains.

Wigs are fantastic for people with thin or thinning hair whose strands can’t handle the weight of traditional extensions. They’re also great for anyone who wants to try an entirely new look for a night. If you’ve always wanted pink hair but were too scared to take the plunge, take a wig for a spin! While synthetic wigs have a reasonably short shelf life, human hair wigs can last several years when cared for regularly.

Cons:

Just like a certain princess's glass slipper, you’ll have to remove your wig before the clock strikes midnight—or at least before you go to bed.


Tape-In Extensions

Tape-in extensions are wefts of synthetic or human hair attached to your natural hair with double or single-sided polyurethane tape.

Pros:

Tape-in extensions are the most seamless method of installation for people with straight to slightly wavy hair as the panels of tape lay flush to the hair. Nolan adds that tape-in extensions are a great option because they have one of the least damaging installation and removal techniques.

“You can wear tape-in extensions for several weeks and as the tape-in extensions age, they are easier to remove due to the weakening adhesive,” she says.

Cons:

Say goodbye to your beloved hair oils! Stylists warn against using oil and silicone-based hair products because they can cause the panels to slip out of place.

While tape-in extensions are relatively safe for your hair, you should be absolutely sure you’re ready to wear them for a few weeks before you head into the salon. The adhesive used to tape the extensions to your strands is made to last several weeks—even through washing and styling. If you decide to remove your extensions before the adhesive has had a chance to weaken, you may risk ripping out your strands or using harsh chemicals to loosen the glue.


Good hair day by @avhair_.

Clip-In Extensions

Clip-in extensions are wefts of hair that attach to your natural hair with pressure-sensitive hair clips.

Pros:

Clip-in extensions are by far the easiest extensions to install and remove.

“This extension method is especially great for beginners as they can be installed in the comfort of your own home in just two to three minutes without the need of professional assistance,” Nolan explains.

Much like wigs, clip-in extensions allow you to change your look from day to day. Feel free to slay long hair one day and neon blue streaks the next.

Cons:

While clip-in extensions are great for anyone who wants to switch up their look without heading to the salon, they’re not great for every hair type. Clip-in extensions are often too heavy for people with thin or thinning hair.


Sew-In Extensions

Sew-in extensions are wefts of human or synthetic hair sewed into braided natural hair.

Pros:

Sew-in extensions are ideal for anyone with very curly or coarse hair looking for a long-term extension option. When installed correctly by a professional, sew-ins cause very little damage to your natural hair as no heat or chemicals are required for proper installation.

Cons:

Most of the downsides of sew-ins have to do with what’s happening underneath your extensions rather than the extensions themselves. If your stylist braids your hair too tightly, the installation can become uncomfortable and lead to headaches or even hair loss. Neglect caring for your natural hair under the sew-in properly and face the consequences: Your hair and scalp can become dirty, smelly, and even develop mildew.


Micro Link Extensions

Micro links are rings that natural hair and extension hair are threaded through, then clamped into place.

Pros:

Micro link extensions are great for people with thin hair who are searching for long-wearing extensions that look very natural. Because they’re fused to small sections of your hair, the extensions function like your natural strands and allow you to style your hair however you please.

Cons:

The micro links can begin to slide and your installation can become visible through your hair.


Good hair day by @hairbyamybee.

Pre-Bonded Fusion Extensions

Pre-bonded fusion extensions fuse human hair with keratin at the root to your natural hair with heat.

Pros:

Pre-bonded fusion extensions are an excellent option for anyone with very thick or coarse hair who’s searching for long-wearing extensions with a very natural look. Clamping the links to small sections of hair allows you to style your hair any way you please without letting anyone in on the secret that you’re wearing extensions.

Cons:

Pre-bonded extensions are great for people who want their extensions to look like their hair, but they come at a cost. Installing the extensions requires heat, which can cause damage to your strands. It also requires a highly skilled, licensed, and experienced hair stylist to install and remove them. If you don’t take the time to research your chosen hairstylist thoroughly, it could result in significant damage to your precious locks. Making an appointment with a skilled professional is the best way to ensure a seamless installation.

Interested in customized advice about the right extension installation technique for you? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

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