6 Essential Steps in Care for Your Hair Extensions
Updated: Jan 30
This article is covering all the basics of a proper hair extension care routine for all permanent hair extension types (fusion, tapes, nano-bad, micro-bead and bio extensions)
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Regardless of whether you've been wearing hair extensions for years, or thinking about investing into them for the very first time, you may find this article useful. I've compiled a series of tips and advice for my clients on how to best care for hair extensions. The scope of this series is to educate beginners on the essential steps in proper hair extension care; as well as to broaden the knowledge of those with prior experience in these matters. Despite the commonly held opinion, it isn't that difficult to care for hair extensions. In fact, the procedure I’m about to describe differs very little from the routine followed by those who take meticulous and diligent care of their own natural hair. You may already be familiar with many of the steps I have outlined, though you may have been under the impression that most were unnecessary. But since you’ve made the decision to invest into a product as expensive as hair extensions, you might as well learn how to keep them looking great for as long as possible. Trust me, these simple rules are so easy to follow they’ll become second nature before you know it. An extra perk you may observe while practicing them is the gradual improvement of your natural hair. It will grow faster and recover from any damage quicker than it may have done before. And when you’ll see just how silky, smooth and lustrous it has become as a result of you following this guide, you’ll never want to give up this routine. Let’s start from the question I’m most frequently asked by the newbies:
1. How to Brush Hair Extensions?
In order to brush hair extensions safely and efficiently, you may need a special brush with two layers of fibers: nylon and boar bristles. A regular massage brush won’t do the trick. Its bristles are way too coarse and may pull on the extension bonds, potentially damaging them in the process. If your goal is to thoroughly comb the root area, avoid these at all cost! However, what you should most certainly NOT avoid is the procedure of brushing your roots. Infrequent brushing of the root area may lead to tangling of hair near the bonds, so it is crucial that you do not skip this step. I’ve written a post where I review various types of brushes, their uses and compatibility with hair extensions. The boar bristle brush is simply ideal for the task. It will help you get your hair extensions in order, while your scalp will enjoy an awesome massage!
When combing your hair, gently brush the ends of your extensions first, then work your way toward the bonds. Always brush in a downward motion.
Separate your hair in two sections at the nape. Brush each section from the nape to the tips, to better tackle the tangles in the root area.
Make sure you take a hold of your hair closer to the scalp, and by hair in this case I mean the section being brushed. This will help you avoid unnecessary pulling on your roots in case the ends have tangled.
Please don’t rush. A couple of hasty comb-throughs won’t unravel all the tangles and knots. Ensure your root area gets enough time and attention.
A proper brushing procedure should take you about 3-4 minutes tops. Enjoy the scalp massage!
Always brush your hair before bedtime and first thing in the morning.
Straight hair extensions: Frequent brushing throughout the day will reduce those nasty tangles, and improve the overall appearance of your hair extensions. Curly/wavy hair extensions: You should repeat this procedure once or twice a day only. In the morning you may want to follow the curl refreshing routine.
2. What Is the Best Shampoo for Hair Extensions?
So, you’ve fitted the hair extensions of your dreams and learned how to brush them properly; but now it’s time for a wash. What kind of products would be the best fit for your awesome new mane? Well, the best shampoo for hair extensions (and conditioner, too) must be sulphate-free. Ideally, it should be suitable for colour treated hair as well. Have a look on your shower shelf - you may already own the right stuff. Didn’t find what you need? Is the variety of hair care products at your local store making your head spin? No worries! In my blog, I review the best shampoo and conditioner types for hair extensions in greater detail, so be sure to check it out once you’ve finished reading this article.
3. Which Other Hair Care Products Are Suitable for Hair Extensions?
Your hair care product kit should include much more than just a bottle of shampoo and a tube of conditioner. Both your natural locks, as well as your hair extensions require additional nutrition. This is very important. Exclusive use of the standard shampoo + conditioner pair puts your mane at risk of overdrying. Unfortunately, if this were to happen, you’d only notice it once the extensions are removed. And you don’t want to wait that long! You should pay special attention to the maintenance of hair extensions if you have blonde, highlighted or dry and damaged hair. If you fit any of the above-mentioned profiles, your locks are definitely in need of extra love and nourishment. Otherwise, you may face critical over-drying and breakage of your natural hair. The good news is that this worst-case scenario is completely avoidable. If you are looking to speed up growth and regeneration of your natural strands while keeping your extensions silky and smooth, here are a few more treatment products to incorporate into your routine:
Hair Masks are a great way to hydrate, tame and soften your locks, restoring them inside-out. Masks are able to penetrate hair strands much deeper than a regular conditioner; so these two types of treatment are not interchangeable.
Leave-in Conditioners will turn your hair gentler, and help you untangle those rebellious hair tips.
In case you make extensive use of blow-dryers or hot styling tools such as curling or straightening irons, a heat protectant is an absolute must for you. This product will shield your natural hair and extensions from over-drying, as well as from damage induced by high temperatures. Even if hot tools aren’t part of your everyday routine, a heat protectant must be included in any proper hair care arsenal.
With time, you may also feel the need for a moisturizing oil to prevent the formation of split ends. Using smoothing oil on tips of your hair extensions will keep them nice and soft.
You can use hairspray to secure your favourite hairstyle.
Dry shampoo will add volume at the roots, and help keep excessive natural scalp oil secretion under control in-between washes.
Just in case you were wondering, the last three products on this list are optional. Are your hair extensions curly or wavy? You may require a few additional hair care products:
A curling serum that will aid you in creating those kinks and coils, and give your curly hair extensions more definition.
To retain those perfect curling results and avoid frizz, you will need a styling gel or mousse.
IMPORTANT TIP: Please keep in mind that extension bonds are incredibly capricious creatures. Be extra careful to NOT get any oil-based or silicone-containing products on them!
4. How to Wash Hair Extensions?
Apply some shampoo to your scalp. Lather it gently and distribute it evenly throughout your hair extensions. Try to avoid aggressively rubbing your extensions, but wash thoroughly enough to remove the buildup of any leave-in hair care or styling products you may have previously used.
Rinse well, especially at the root area.
Distribute conditioner throughout the strand lengths only.
Make sure to avoid getting the conditioner on the bonds, as it may weaken them upon direct contact. This will inevitably cause shedding and quick deterioration of your extensions.
Finally, wash the product out of your hair completely. For this step, proceed as you would during a regular wash.
TIP #1: Keep in mind that fewer washes result in a longer hair extension life. Ideally, you should try to limit your washes to 1 or 2 times per week. If you need to quell oil secretion, dry shampoo will work well for this purpose. Though if you opt for this product, make sure you rinse your scalp thoroughly during your washes. Dry shampoo residue is often the culprit behind skin irritation and itching. TIP #2: If you are using purple shampoo, be especially cautious to keep it away from the extension bonds. I cannot stress this enough. Purple shampoo can seriously damage the bonds, causing them to break down and unravel much faster. Do not leave such shampoo in your hair for too long, either, as your extension strands may turn too gray, dull and dry. TIP #3: If air-drying is your method of choice, you should first blow-dry your root area until your scalp is completely dampness-free. Keeping your hair wet overnight (or your bonds damp for an extended period of time) is the main reason behind matting, especially when it comes to bonded hair extensions.
5. Can You Style Hair Extensions with Hot Tools?
Hair extensions can be styled, permed with a curling iron or straightened with hair tongs, just like your natural strands. That being said, there are a few rules and restrictions in the case of the former that you should follow religiously.
Whatever you do, make sure that your hot tool DOES NOT touch the extension bonds! Also, it is imperative that you do not overheat your root area with the blow dryer. Both scenarios are extremely harmful to your bonds and may cause your hair to tangle, leading to matting.
Before beginning the procedure of turning your hair extensions curly or straightening them out, first double-check that they are 100% dry. Your hot tool will quite literally boil moist hair upon contact, even if the strands are damp only slightly, and even if you’ve applied heat protectant.
Always use heat protectant when you style hair extensions by blow-drying, straightening or perming your hair.
Go easy on those high heat settings! Remember to never overheat your locks. It’s no big secret that high temperatures are detrimental to our manes. Well, the harmful habit of regularly overheating and overdrying your hair can cause great damage to your hair extensions as well.
And if you wish to style natural curls, add volume or preserve definition, then you may be interested in taking a peek at this video on styling curly hair extensions.
6. How to Sleep with Hair Extensions In?
Permanent hair extensions should be tied back for bedtime. This will prevent needless tugging and pulling while you sleep. As I have already mentioned, NEVER go to bed with wet hair, as this will cause matting. You may try one of the following 3 very simple types of hairdos to get your hair bedtime-ready:
The low ponytail
The pineapple ponytail
The loose braid
Scalp feeling itchy? Don’t worry! As your scalp is adapting to a sudden increase in the amount of hair on your head, it is normal to experience a certain degree of dryness and itchiness for the first week or two. But this unpleasant sensation should lessen with time.
Sleeping with hair extensions in your locks may feel a bit strange at first. But you should grow accustomed to this after a few nights or so.
It may sometimes happen that an extension piece or two will shed off. Nothing to panic about. Be sure to keep these, and they will be re-installed along with the rest of the strands at your next maintenance appointment.
Don’t forget to bookmark this page for quick access. I recommend you revisit this post in a week or so, to keep these tips fresh in your mind. I hope this article proved to be a useful read. But if you still have questions left, please feel free to reach out and ask them in the comments. If your hair extensions are causing you more than just slight discomfort, be sure to contact me, and I’ll try to resolve any issues. I’m here to help you and ensure your full satisfaction with your new mane.