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  • Writer's pictureVingt Sept

The Ultimate Editor-Approved Guide to Hair Extensions


Beauty

Photography by Vera Blansh


Hair extensions we all love them but have suffered the perils of wearing them.


If you've fallen victim to traction alopecia, hair damage or even clips falling out, it's understandable why you want to avoid, avoid, avoid! However, we're no longer in the 90s and 00s, where the visible track gave the game away.


If (like us), your journey began in the early noughties; buying hair from an unknown origin, sewing cheap clips on a track, or using hideous glue, you'll today understand the guilt of realising your own unethical contribution to the hair trade, or perhaps the extensive repair process that damage from extensions can cause.


Fast forward to 2023 - there has been a hair revolution, and we're here for it! There’s more transparency, social responsibility, access, and primarily, choice. But choice often adds confusion, so buckle up for the most comprehensive guide you will read on the best mane in the game.


Before we get to the nitty gritty, we asked Hair Artist and Consultant Marcia Lee for some essential tips when using extensions. Marcia, whose clients include Jodie Turner-Smith, Naomi Campbell, Chelsea Clinton and Rashida Jones, is esteemed with many hair types and is our go-to expert for all hair-related woes. Not just an artist, she's an architect creating iconic styles and bespoke treatment regimes that restore hair health.




What is the most important thing to look for when choosing hair extensions?

The most important thing that I look for when choosing hair extensions, first and foremost, is quality, quality, quality.


The hair also needs to be 100% human hair. Not processed i.e., stripped numerous times and dyed. Not mixed with non-human fibres nor mixed with other different peoples human hair who are not genetically related. These factors greatly affect the longevity of the hair.





Although it is not a protective style - can you suggest how we can minimise damage to our hair when wearing extensions?

Extensions can actually be a protective style if done right and not abused. For instance when having a weave done it’s important to make sure that your braids aren’t too tight and that the sew-in is not super tight, as this will pull the hair from your scalp and cause traction alopecia. Make sure you wash your scalp whilst you are wearing extensions with a clarifying shampoo, otherwise you will have a build up of dead skin which is not good for your scalp or helpful with hair regrowth. I would suggest you dilute your shampoo with water in an applicator bottle with a nozzle tip to really get in between the braids. Apple cider vinegar rinses are also excellent, and conditioner. I really wouldn’t advise putting heavy oils on your scalp whilst wearing a weave as you won’t be able to evenly distribute the product properly and it will just sit on your scalp causing product build and ultimately clog your pores.


Use a silicone-free oil for your scalp, if you don’t your scalp won’t be able to breathe and this will cause irritation, itching and make you more inclined to scratch your hair more, causing abrasions to your scalp. So shampooing bi-weekly is key. Always make sure that you thoroughly dry your hair underneath your extensions. Using a diffuser is great for that or a hooded dryer. It’s also key to understand the importance of this step as damp braids can create mould causing further damage to your hair and scalp. If you have a leave out make sure to moisturise your hair too. When wearing extensions or weaves, you are most likely to have an itchy scalp due to dehydration and suffocation from your extensions, so a spritz to the scalp will help relieve this. I wouldn’t advise leaving extensions in your hair for more than 6-8 weeks if sewn in, and with regards to clips in, most definitely remove them before you sleep.



What is your top tip for keeping them in place?

If it can’t be helped, or you are needing to keep your extensions in place I would recommend using a 100% sleep with a satin scarf and pillow. This will help retain moisture and keep your extensions soft, silky and in place. If wearing curly hair, braid your hair before and place it under a silk bonnet. If wearing a straight weave, wrap it. Keep heat to a serious minimum and do not drench your extensions in products, this will cause a horrible dull, greasy build up. Yuk!


What do you look for when choosing hair extensions for clients?

When choosing hair extensions for clients I am very very meticulous. As far as I am concerned it should not look like you are wearing extensions. So the hair texture of the extensions has to match the client’s hair. The colour needs to match meticulously and if it doesn’t I will alway dye the extensions to match their natural or current hair colour, and this is the reason why quality is extremely paramount. I also take into consideration exactly what the client is looking for, whether that is with length, body or colour - these are all pertinent factors.




LUXY HAIR

The Backstory

The website boldly says that Luxy is the number 1 clip-in hair extensions brand in the world so we were intrigued to see what all of the fuss was about.


Founded by Alex Ikonn, his wife and their family in 2010, Luxy started their movement with hundreds of video tutorials and is loved by many.


Their YouTube platform boasts more than two million subscribers, and they are disrupting the hair industry with high-quality extensions and now styling tools.


What we ordered

Weighing a healthy 180g, we opted for the 20-inch off-black Halo and were surprised by the value you get for your buck. Arriving in less than four days from order with zero duties/tax to pay and speedy support, we couldn't wait to try this out.


The rich hair shade is a great match for those with natural raven hair. We were impressed with how soft and silky yet surprisingly voluminous and light it was. Unboxed, our Remy purchase (suitable for all hair types) appeared healthy, glossy and had a natural wave. So, whether you have short or long hair, Luxy has it all, with their Halo blending effortlessly.



The hair arrives with different adjustable and invisible strap lengths, ensuring a snug fit with zero movements. To further blend our natural hair, we added the additional clips provided to the front of our hair. If seeking a different colour, fear not, as there are 36 different shades options, from ice grey to balayage.


Being our first introduction to the Halo world, there was a little apprehension, but it took less than 10 seconds to fit, and then we were ready to roll.



Packaging

Arriving in a circular sleek pink box, it's a great little asset for travel. Inside is a guide with instructions, additional strap accessories for a snug fit and two clips for styling. The extra pieces have an invisible weft; there's no slippage with them lying flat upon application.


The box is perfect for storing your Halo, but we wish it arrived with a little silk/satin bag to protect the hair.


Cost

The Halo with our chosen length is £295/$265. It may be a little eye-watering, but for those avid wearers, you'll understand that the price vs the length and grams you receive is pretty surprising, particularly, as it's 100% Remy Human Hair.



The water test

Taking our Halo for a spa day, we immersed it in the water for over four hours.


The hair stayed in place throughout and was easy to place in a pony without feeling the pull you feel with clip-ins. What was more noticeable during our massage was the relief that they weren't exposed, due to it sitting a little higher, making it easier to conceal and blend with our hair.


The heat and style test

Following a day of indulgence, we washed and conditioned the hair with L'Occitane products; whilst wet, they were also easy to tame.


Styling-wise (with a little heat protector), the Halo withstood the test of a Dyson Hair Dryer and Remington straighteners on a setting of 215 degrees Celsius. We were out the door within 20 minutes - not bad from wet to dry right?




Maintenance

So far, there isn't any, and we've been wearing our Halo for weeks! What's surprising is the Luxy Halo's ability to bounce back after enduring heat from styling tools and water. There are also zero complications when deciding which products to use for maintenance. This is where extensions often become troublesome, as they tend to lose the silky soft texture you see upon unboxing; the Halo doesn't appear to do this.


Verdict?

Luxy is obviously a master of the mane, and it's understandable why they have such a loyal customer base. We would most definitely repurchase, it's a great contender to the market, and the video tutorials, aftercare and support make the process so much easier for those new to the game.


For more information, visit Luxy Hair



BEAUTY WORKS

Everyone on the planet has heard of Beauty Works (that is unless they've been hiding under a rock). The British company founded by CEO Penelope Chesire 10 years ago in her apartment is today a multi-million-pound business, garnering A-List support from Supermodel Bella Hadid and even Dame Joan Collins.


Since its launch, Penny was presented with The Queen's Award for Enterprise, so this brand is truly trailblazing the hair industry.


The Backstory

The female-founded business started to help women feel confident with luxury hair extensions and is now so trusted that they're globally supplied to professional hair salons and stylists.


They have a strong influencer presence and have collaborated with many faces, including creating a line with Molly-Mae Hague. Beauty Works also introduced a line of hair tools and care products to help maintain your new mane.



What we ordered

We opted for two types of 100% Remy clip-in extensions. A 22-inch Beach Wave Double Hair Set in Jet Black (£220.99/ $265) and, being daring, a 26-inch Double Hair Set (straight) in Jet Black (£322/$385).


So, let's start with the Beach Wave. The curls are natural and give a summer-in St Tropez vibe. The award-winning limited edition set weighs a healthy 220g and has ten wefts with clips. Made from Remy hair, they're soft and silky but easy to tame with a natural shine.



The website states that they can be washed up to 30 times and bounce back, which is fantastic considering the recommendation is to wash them every 10-20 wears.


Now onto the Kim Kardashian Double Hair Set rocking in at 26 inches. They weigh 290g, and astonishingly, there isn't any pull on the scalp when wearing them or during brushing and styling following application.


There are seven weft clips with this voluminous bad boy, and they blend effortlessly with your natural hair, no matter the length. It's a sexy set and great for a night out or for those wanting to try a catwalk look.


Both have the brand's trademarked Flat Track® system, a flat PU weft allowing a comfortable fit whilst minimising any hair damage. What's great about the weft is its ability to blend in effortlessly with your natural hair due to being incredibly flat.



Packaging

It's clear why Beauty Works are award-winners (including consecutive Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards, Marie Claire and Women and Home) as their packaging screams class and efficiency!


Both arrive in zippable vegan leather bags and a sleek wooden hanger to maintain their shape, protecting each strand. The bags are convenient for storage and travel; we just love how stylish they look either in your home or your suitcase.


Inside is a hair care manual and guide to styling. We would say Beauty Works have the best packaging out of all of the extensions we have reviewed.




Cost

Coming in a little higher than most clip-in styles, you have to weigh up the pros and cons of this purchase. The hair is of the best quality and is best aimed towards someone constantly in and out of the salon chair. We would say Beauty Works’ price point sits on a value-for-money scale, particularly with our 26-inch friend.


The water test

Although the brand has its own hair care range, we put our tresses to the test by using one of our favourites - Oribe, after a few wears.


Opting to air dry, we used our handy hanger; the Beach Wave did exactly what it said on the packaging with a quick restoration to the curl pattern following.


Again, with our straight tresses, we opted to air dry and used a detangling spray lightly before drying. The shine and texture remained, with the hair staying incredibly straight.


The heat and style test

Using GHD straighteners for the 26-inch Double Hair Set, they were surprisingly easy to style and manage. As the Beach Wave curls miraculously returned with air drying, with just a little brushing, we were ready to go!





Maintenance

Maintenance of both is low, however, it took a good 30 minutes to install and style both. Other than this, we had no concerns, but it would have been great to try the Beauty Works hair care range to see if there was a difference.


Verdict?

These are game changers suited to experts who regularly install individual clips. The PU weft is so snug, blending seamlessly with our natural hair.


Both are great for a high fashion look, and with that comes a higher price point, but the zip bags, the bounce back from air drying and the quality of the brand's Remy Hair has indeed won us over!



Irresistible Me

This NYC-based brand has been disturbing the hair market since 2012 with the widest range of hair extensions and pieces we have seen. The brand paved the way to making our additional friends fun, playful and easy whilst delivering high-quality products.


The Backstory

Irresistible Me appears to be socially conscious, giving back to many causes, including The National Breast Cancer Foundation, where recently they teamed up for an Invincible Me, Irresistible Me campaign, promoting awareness and supporting women through early detection and education.


With the aim to provide a "stress-free, risk-free and zero damage" transformation, we couldn't wait to explore their range and put their products to the test.


All Irresistible Me hair is 100% human with a variety of styles for different hair types, making them the most inclusive of the bunch we reviewed. They also have a 99% quality rating that they've maintained since 2013. Each option on the website has thousands of positive reviews, so we were very intrigued to see the results!


What we ordered

The brand has an extensive range of clip-ins and ponytails, amongst other choices, and a colour match guarantee with free returns.



We were eager to try two items, the 20-inch extra volume Classic Natural Black set and for a little versatility, the Jet Black Half Up, Half Down bundle.


Let's start with the Classic; at 20 inches and weighing 160g, this option was £246/$296 at the time of order. You'll receive eight double-weft clip-in pieces of hair, with a net/mesh volumiser for comfort on the widest weft. Clips are individually stitched to the weft using thread, a little different from expectation, although it fits securely.


Included inside the box (which can be added to your set) is a little hair sample for a colour match, so you get an additional hair extension in each pack. The hair is very natural, and with that, it doesn't have the silky texture seen in the others reviewed; it replicates human hair, so if preferring voluminous extensions, we would recommend looking at their other ranges, as the hair does feel tapered towards the ends.


Costing £390/$469 (at the time of review), we also received the Half Up Half Down, a choice we prefer over the classic option. If you want to rock a pony or an updo with a leave-out option in the back, then this is a great contender. It’s so popular it's currently sold out in our colour option.


Each set contains a snug 20-inch ponytail and a double-weft volumizer that is the same as our friend in the classic bundle. The pony is sleek and silky with a comfy band and slider as opposed to a clip. The ties are great for securing your style and are easy to conceal. There's more volume with a variety of ways to wear this combo - making it the most versatile. We tried a classic ponytail that withstood the whole day without a single slip. The process to create a style ranges from as little as two minutes for a runway ponytail to five-to-ten minutes when creating an Ariana Grande style.



Packaging

Each set arrived in colourful, recyclable tubing. The hair itself has a cute satin bag with extra clips for emergencies. There are no instructions inside the packaging, but there are many tutorials on the brand's website and socials showcasing different ways to wear your extensions.



Cost

At present, Irresistible Me is having a sale on both products making their extensions an affordable option compared to the others we've tried and tested. The Classic is available for £143/$172, and the Half Up Half Down is currently £177/$213.


Compared to the other brands reviewed, you receive fewer grams of hair for your money, plus the clips are sewn to the weft. Despite the extensions feeling strong, it does sit on the scalp slightly differently with a risk of the thread breaking.


The water test

There's a recommendation to wash the hair 'only when needed', using sulphate-free products.


We chose to wash and condition our sets (with Gisou) after five uses allowing each to air dry. The Classic did not bounce back in the way we would expect and was a little difficult to tame with a tangle teaser, so there was apprehension to use heat whilst wet. Perhaps this is due to the tapering of the hair? The Half Up Half Down was easier to manage with little to zero knots or difficulty when brushing.


There was a little shedding from both, but it wasn't too bad in the grand scheme of things and no less than what you would expect from hair extensions in general.


The colour for both remained the same before and after washing.


The heat and style test

Both were easy to style. We opted for a low-heat bouncy blow dry using DryBar's Double Shot brush (a godsend when travelling and wanting a bouncier wave) with the classic set. A little heat protector and some argan oil did help restore the shine and condition we saw upon unboxing.


For the Half Up Half Down set, we used GHD's Glide Hot Brush. A game-changing tool from the styling giant, we wanted to see if this set could endure a styling temperature of 185 degrees Celsius - and it passed the test.


As the volumiser and ponytail are thicker, it was well tolerated, with frizz eliminated upon a few brush strokes.



Maintenance

The Classic Set does require a little more TLC than we anticipated. We recommend using argan oil on the tips, ensuring any brushing starts from the ends of the hair and move upwards.


The Half Up Half Down is surprisingly the star of the show with minimal aftercare. It also has a greater heat tolerance and is easier to maintain.


Verdict?

It would have been better to test hair from Irresistible Me's other ranges as an alternative to the Classic Line, such as the Invisible Line. This range has a silicone band on the weft instead of the traditional stitch. With that said, the Classic is perfect for those starting their hair extension journey and preferring a more natural look.


The winner here is the Half Up Half Down; there are so many styles to create from this lovely duo, and the quality and volume of the hair make it easier to maintain and manage.


ZALA Hair Extensions

We stumbled across Zala surprisingly on TikTok, and they indeed have a loyal fanbase, so we couldn't wait to see our order.


The Backstory

The Australian brand launched in 2013 and received overnight success during the lockdown on TikTok. Today they've amassed the title of the most-watched hair brand on the platform. With over 8.9 million views of a single video, they're the number one hair extension brand in Australia and have since been disrupting the US market.


Zala uses 100% Remy human hair; all hair is ethically sourced, meaning they can trace every strand of hair they purchase from healthy adult donors who receive months' worth of pay in their local currency; this helps prevent exploitation in the hair trade, and we are pleased to see this level of transparency from a leading hair brand.


Priding themselves on high-quality products, Zala's wide range of extensions includes clip-ins, weft, tape, ponytails, Halo and volumizers.


What is also groundbreaking is their Zala Keratin Hair range. This vegan line is an alternative to human hair, made from keratin fibres that mimic human hair that can withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees Celsius. Pretty unique and sustainable right?


With so many choices on the chart, we couldn't wait to get stuck in this review!


What we ordered

We chose two products from Zala; the 20-inch human hair Halo in natural 1B shade and the Quad Weft clip-in extensions in the same shade and length.


Let's start with the straight-style Halo. At $179.99, it weighs 160g and is incredibly glowing and silky. Two large clips attached to the weft via velcro (a first we've seen) are visible, and it arrives with three additional Halo bands for your desired fit. It's quick to install (30 seconds) and blends in well with different hair types; it would have been great to have a few additional clips for styling; nevertheless, it is voluminous enough to be worn on its own.




The Halo is double-drawn (the removal of shorter hair), resulting in identical length hair inside and out; perhaps, this lends to its thickness.


Next up is the Quad Weft set; the quality of the hair is similar to the Halo, but the clips have been sewn individually onto a net/lace weft. Coming in a little higher, it is $279.99, but it weighs a healthy 265g, meaning it is the heaviest 20-inch set we have reviewed and a mere 35g lighter than our 26-inch friend from Beauty Works mentioned earlier in this review. There are nine pieces, and for those unfamiliar with what a Quad Weft is, it's an incredible process where four hair strips are securely attached to a weft, allowing for more volume. Surprisingly they lie incredibly flat and are comfortable. These are likely the most luxurious 20-inch clip-ins we have come across.


There is minimal shedding with both, perhaps down to the double-drawn technique and the quality of the hair.



Packaging

Both hair sets arrived in one beautifully presented box with Zala branding and their slogan 'Be Confident'. Inside the base of the box is a clever illustration with application tips for Clip-In, Tape-In, and Ponytail extensions. Another perk was mini samples from the brand's hair care range (shampoo, conditioner and Zala's 'revive me' treatment), and a manual with their product range and installation instructions. Inside there were also additional leaflets with discount codes, new product launches and links to their video tutorials.


The hair itself arrives in the traditional plastic packaging you see at many hair stores but with pretty branded Zala ribbons, a warranty seal and certification that the hair is indeed 100% human hair and laboratory tested.


The box is compact enough for storage and small enough for travel; however, like others we reviewed, it would have been nice to have a satin protective bag to store the hair instead of seeing plastic.


Cost

There is value for money with both products when it comes to how much you get (including the understanding of the brand's social responsibility). These are most likely the most affordable luxury option on the market. We were beyond impressed and appreciate why Zala is doing so well and has garnered so much support on GenZ platforms such as TikTok.


The water test

We washed and conditioned the Halo after five wears, using the samples Zala included, and it was easy to detangle when wet. With the Quad set, we chose a gentle shampoo and conditioner from the Wild Science Lab range and allowed it to air dry.


Once dry our Quad set was easy to detangle with a soft brush following a light application of argan oil. For the Halo, we used a wet-to-dry styling tool, but there was a noticeable difference in the drying time with the Quad Weft, which was quicker than anticipated for air drying.


The heat and style test

We opted to air dry the Quad Weft set, then style them using the Curve Creative Curl Wand from the GHD range, creating a bouncy curl. With a little heat protector, the hair was easy to manage and withheld the shine and volume seen on unboxing with minimal shedding.


For the Halo, (and an exclusive at HQ), we used the new GHD Duet Style. The Duet, with patented air fusion™ technology, launched this year and simultaneously dries and styles hair without causing damage.


The four low-temperature plates with an air drying chamber allows the hair to retain moisture whilst creating a pristine look. We used a heat protection spray, and the results were pretty impressive.



Maintenance

There is very little shedding or aftercare involved with either set. The brand advises minimising washing both unless they are visibly dirty and avoiding products with sulphates. We used a soft paddle brush and advise you to store your extensions in a satin bag within the box to avoid tangling and dryness.


Verdict?

Zala has impressed us with not only the quality of its products but their mission statement about ensuring transparency and maintaining ethical standards. They are probably the most honest brand we have come across, and surprisingly ensure the price points for their wide product range are fair, affordable and accessible.


Our only complaint was that the brand is doing so much in key areas that it was a shame to see the traditional plastic packaging you see in hair shops. It would have been great to see something more in line with the brand's fun and forthright nature.


When all is said and done though, we can say that we're certainly ready to join Zala's tribe.



True Indian Hair

Rihanna, Naomi, Kylie, Lil Kim, Taraji P Henson and Paris Hilton… What do they all have in common? Well, that would be True Indian Hair.


The NYC-based business (with stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens) is one of the most trusted hair institutions in the US with powerhouse CEO Ms. Karen Mitchell at the helm.


The brand has successfully filled a gap in the US market for years. It is carefully placed under the radar and successful via word-of-mouth recommendation. True Indian Hair is everywhere and as well as being featured on the world's most beautiful, it also dominates the catwalk with designers such as Dolce and Gabbana.



The Backstory

Mitchell started True Indian Hair in 2005 out of frustration from poor access to good-quality extensions. Being the first to supply and sell good quality hair, the origins began during her former career in fashion, which allowed her to travel frequently to India. After spending time in the country, she was able to source good quality hair for herself and then for close family and friends.


Fast forward and today it's NYC's most trusted place for quality hair along with a diverse clientele, so much so that she is trusted to make Sheitels for the NY Orthodox Jewish community - one of which sold for over $6,000.


What we ordered

We received a custom lace front wig made from 100% virgin human hair. Karen, with her talented team of stylists, was given a 1990s Donatella Versace reference, and our lady arrived from the states to Europe in less than 48 hours.


To ensure the colour and cut were unique, Stylist Marcia Lee created an edgy Kill Bill runway look which was later used in a high-fashion editorial for the magazine.


The hair was soft and despite having a colour treatment and dyeing, was smooth and silky.


There are two slides for this glueless lace front wig and elastic band attachments for a snug fit and comfort.


Photography by Arabella Itani for Vingt Sept Magazine hair from True Indian Hair


Packaging

Arriving in a premium satin bag with True Indian Hair branding, it screamed luxury, which is the reason we understand the demand from A-List stars and a Rolodex of hair stylists for Karen's products.

Cost

As this was a bespoke creation re-envisioned by the renowned Marcia Lee, this wig could run into the thousands. However, True Indian Hair's range consists of bundles, clips, tapes, ponies, wigs and a hair care line - all carrying the same high quality and prestige the brand holds so highly.


Ranges start from $130 upwards with estimates provided upon request.


The water test

To ensure the colour and hair were protected we used a gentle shampoo by OUAI for fine hair, however, it is recommended not to wash unless necessary.


We also ensured we rinsed the hair with cool water and left it to air dry.



The heat and style test

As the hair was straight upon drying we recreated a vintage yet catwalk look in this editorial for the magazine's Masters Issue.


The hair was easy to manipulate and worked well with styling tools and paddle brushes. When styling a low heat setting was used to minimise damage and shedding which worked perfectly when trying to create different styles.



Maintenance

According to Karen, a wig of this quality can last between two and three years if cared for appropriately. So we recommend using a sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner for blonde hair, using hair masks every so often to ensure the moisture level is maintained and always using a heat protection spray and styling tools on a low heat setting.


Verdict?

This particular A-List product is geared towards experts and those who know what the f**k they're doing when managing human hair and wigs.


If you have the money, we could not recommend anywhere other than True Indian Hair, I mean...if it's good enough for Rihanna???





The verdict is out and we hope that this (probable most comprehensive guide on the internet) helps you gain THE most unforgettable tresses for 2023!



Words by Jheanelle Feanny


















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